Bookstores love to support local authors, especially independent stores, which can put extra effort into promoting an author and hand-selling books to readers. In this article, we discuss ways to work with independent bookstores when promoting your book.
Just as every book or every author is different, every independent bookstore is different. What works well at one store may not work as well at another, so your first stop for “all things indie” is a discussion with your publicity and marketing team, well before publication. Here are a few examples of things that are currently working for many of our authors.
Add Store Buy Links Wherever You Post
This low-effort step is one of the highest-impact ways you can support your local independent bookstore(s). Along with links to other retailers, your website should include direct buy links from the store’s online retail site, as well as a link to Indiebound.org. Additionally, consider sharing independent bookstore links alongside larger retailer links on your social media profiles.
Providing a variety of links allows the reader to purchase your books from their preferred retailer. You can also share links from Bookshop.org and Libro.fm, two retail sites whose proceeds directly benefit an independent bookstore of the buyer’s choice.
For a lot of readers, signed copies are desirable and unique—especially when they know the author is part of their local community! So signing your books at a local independent bookstore can help them really fly off the shelves.
Your first step is to reach out to your publicity or marketing contact, who will know the best way to plan for signed stock and signed bookplates across all accounts. Your publicist or marketer can also contact the store and discuss stock, their signing policies during COVID times, and more.
Some tips for signing stock in indies (once you have coordinated with your publishing team):
- When setting up your visit, be respectful of the store’s time and avoid its busiest hours when possible.
- Make sure the book is in stock (ideally before arriving) and find your book on shelves before approaching a bookseller. This saves the bookseller the time of scanning shelves to find the book for you. Note: if your publicist sets up a scheduled signing time, the booksellers may pull the books in advance.
- Remember that each bookstore has a slightly different process—the bookseller may have to get a store manager, or may ask for your ID. Just be patient and go with the flow!
- Bring your own Sharpie or other preferred signing pen. Many stores have their own on hand, but if you already have a good pen at home, bringing it with you can save time—for you and the bookseller. (This is especially important in situations where the signing page is dark and you need a special metallic pen or marker to sign it.)
- Take photos and share! Whether it’s a selfie of you holding the book in the store, a shot of you signing the book, or just a photo of something that catches your eye (bookstore cat, anyone?), sharing your experience on social media and tagging the store can reach more readers in your area and beyond. You can have that signed copy fly off shelves in no time!
Support Local Events (Even Virtually!)
Local bookstores, independent or otherwise, really benefit from events. While we don’t know when in-person events will resume, there’s still plenty you can do to support book events in your community.
If you’re appearing in an upcoming event at an independent bookstore, share the images and links sent to you by the bookstore or your publicity team across all social media, your website, and email newsletters. Having a huge virtual turnout can be great not only for sales, but for word of mouth for the bookstore who put on the event. Do you have an idea for an event or conversation you’d like to be a part of? Reach out to your publicity team for guidance.
While it’s critical to promote book events that you’re a part of, make sure to promote and attend events for other authors too. Are you on your local indie’s mailing list? If not, sign up! There are likely plenty of events for you to attend. Increasing visibility for your local indie helps support their business and helps connect you to your local author community.
Include Indies in Upcoming Book Promotion
From the start, your marketing or publicity team may ask you what bookstores are near you. Your publishing teams can help in a variety of ways: making sure your book is in stock locally, setting up events and book signings, and possibly more.
Of course, not every campaign is right for every store, so if you have ideas on how to work with independent bookstores for an upcoming book, reach out to your marketing and publicity teams for advice and guidance.
Thank Your Local
We get so much positive feedback from independent bookstores about local authors. We know many of you are already doing the little things that mean so much: sending a thank-you email after a great event; doing your personal and gift shopping at your local independent; dropping off cookies during the busy holiday rush. These are just a few of the many wonderful ways to build and strengthen your relationship with your local bookstore.
Phil Stamper-Halpin is Associate Director, Author Development for Penguin Random House.