All bookstores love to support local authors, including independent stores, who can put extra effort into promoting an author and hand-selling books to readers. So your team at Penguin Random House works hard to ensure indies learn about your book.You can help these efforts by developing a relationship with your local bookseller. Be sure to let your publishing team know that you’re going to reach out, and then share your conversation afterward so you can work together on a plan. We’ve asked sales, marketing, and publicity experts to suggest things you can do to set that plan in motion.
Show Your Support
Support your local indie by shopping in the store well before your book is published.
In addition to your local store, you may frequent favorite booksellers in other cities. Do stop by those stores when you’re in town and introduce yourself as an author—don’t necessarily ask for anything, but mention your personal appreciation of the store, thank them for the great work they’re doing on behalf of authors and books, and promise to let them know when your new book is coming out.
Make sure your website includes links to your local bookstore and/or indiebound.org, the retail portal of the American Bookseller Association—an organization of independent bookstores all across the country.
Become familiar with your local store’s social media presence. Notice what is going on day to day and comment about it. Don’t forget to “tag” the bookstore if they’re on the same platform as you.
Use your own social media platforms to promote your upcoming event, and share the results. For example, if you design any social media squares to use online, offer them to the bookstore too.
Do Your Homework
Attend another author’s event. In fact, go to several! You can learn a lot about what to do—and what not to do—by observing other authors in action.
Learn if the bookstore has a book club. If your book would be a good fit, get an advance copy into the hands of the book club coordinator.
Reach Out Early
Reach out at least six months before your book lands in stores to let your local bookseller know you have a book coming. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help them promote it.
If you’re a regular customer, share the good news as soon as you sign your contract—they’ll be excited for you!
Time Your Visit
Be respectful of their time. Dropping in on a quiet Tuesday morning may yield a more productive conversation than swinging by at the height of Saturday-afternoon madness.
If you see the store is crowded and there’s a line at the cash register, try to find another time. Instead of trying to speak with someone, you can drop off an extra galley with your contact information written inside or a business card attached.
Perfect Your Pitch
Be prepared to sum up your book in a few short sentences, and to describe your reader and specific genre. After all, you’ll be talking to a retailer who pitches books to readers for a living.
Let them know up front what publisher and what imprint will be bringing out your book. This will help open doors—and will speak volumes to a professional bookseller about how your book will be edited, designed, printed, distributed, marketed, and sold.
In many bookstores, the buyers and marketing staff work behind the scenes—not on the selling floor. In addition to introducing yourself to the floor manager, feel free to email the buying and marketing staff—these are the people who will decide how many copies of your book are ordered and how it is promoted.
Share Your Enthusiasm
Get your local bookseller excited about your book. Make it clear that you are a flexible, charming, fun-to-work-with author who is eager to help them sell books! And express your interest in signing stock when the book comes out.
Let them know if you have a local network of friends and family you plan to send to the store. Also, think of ways to promote to others in the area who might be interested. Work with your publicist on a strategy for targeting appropriate local media outlets, such as your hometown newspaper, and ask the store’s event coordinator to share local media suggestions.
Come up with creative ways to make your event memorable—a trivia contest, a raffle, a musical guest; anything that ties in with your book is fair game.
Never underestimate the power of a handwritten note—you’d be surprised how happy a note makes booksellers!
Tweet your thanks to the bookstore the morning after your event or share a photo from the event on Instagram—not only are you continuing to promote your book, but you’re also adding to your growing relationship with the store.
By Craig Burke, VP, Executive Publicity Director, Berkley Publishing Group; Heather Connor, Associate Publicity Director, Berkley Publishing Group; and Ruth Liebmann, Vice President, Account Marketing, Penguin Random House with additional contributions from Penguin Random House publicity and marketing teams.