Want To See Your Novel In A Bookstore? The Five Things Every Author Must Do.

Every author, from Stephen King to, all the way to the writers in the shallow end of the pool (me), get a rush seeing their book on the shelves of an honest to God bookstore. (Please note that this is likely the only time that Stephen King and I will be mentioned in the same place – ever.)

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Depending on what corner of the tent you poke your snout beneath, you’re going to hear how the e-book world is swallowing up the traditional print market. Borders – gone. The foundations of the large national chain book are crumbling. But, amidst the smoke and rubble of the book market wars, the independent bookstore is making a resurgence.

This week, I had the opportunity to talk with Tina Ferguson, owner of the Face In A Book Bookstore, in El Dorado Hills, California, for her views on books, bookstores and what authors need to do to help get their book on a bookstore shelf.

Face In A Book thrives in a time when e-books flood the market because of the bookstore’s personal connection to readers. Tina insists that store employees have a passion for books and that core value is apparent when you walk in the bookstore. You won’t get that Border’s experience here when you look for the latest Hugh Howey book. You know the blank look, and the “I dunno, let me get someone who knows what that is.”  Face In A Book will find what you’re looking for and have a list of suggested similar books you might enjoy.

The bookstore is a place where readers gather and connect with other book people. Tina reports the Book Clubs at Face In A Book are increasing in participation. (Writers are you listening? Readers lurk in bookstores.) While e-books are here to stay, the simple act of opening the cover of a book, is a relaxing disconnect from staring at a screen.

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Tina listens to her customers and listed off the genres that attract readers at her store. In the fiction realm, mystery and Young Adult titles draw readers and much to my surprise, we haven’t seen the end of vampires, yet. Fantasy, particularly in Y.A. story lines remain a strong draw.

Tina offers advice for authors who want to see their book featured at a local independent bookstore.

1. Make the bookstore your store. Patronize and participate. Most independent bookstores have events and gatherings. You should make an effort to join, belong and partake. If you show up at an unfamiliar bookstore and ask them to cary your book, how is that different than endlessly spamming your novel on the Twitterspere? It’s not.

2. Don’t be a Primadonna. You’ve authored a book and while that is an accomplishment to be proud of, leave your ego outside. The bookstore is doing you a service by taking on your book, so don’t come off like your are a celebrity and make demands like a Diva.

3. Write a good book. I know this one seems like a given, but bookstores get flooded with requests from authors with work that is of questionable quality. The author-publisher takes the brunt of the blame here. Just because you can hit the publish button, doesn’t mean you should. Make certain you have the best product going out the door. Unlike and e-book, you won’t be able to upload a new version if you find a glaring issue with your bookstore copy.

4. Engage. If you are able to hold a book release or other author event at the store, remember to engage with people. The bookstore is providing you a venue, it’s up to you to make it an event. Have a theme, engage with people and help them become readers of your work. Invite other book people and have them invite people in their circles.

5. Promote and market your work. Shelf space in an independent bookstore is precious. Work to keep it. Booksellers must make room for new titles and if something isn’t moving, they may pull yours and replace it with 50 Shades of Whatever. Keep the traffic and buzz going about your book.

An independent bookstore is more than a sales point. Face In A Book is a gathering place in the community for book people to share new discoveries and get reacquainted with an old classic. If you’re in the Sacramento area, make a trip to Face In A Book to feed your bookish urges. If you’re elsewhere, go seek out an independent bookstore and start making that connection.

If you hope to see your work proudly displayed on a bookstore shelf, follow Tina’s guidelines and who knows, you may be able to share space with Stephen King.

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8 comments

  1. stephanie710 · · Reply

    Great post (as always) and great tips for authors. Although I have quite a collection of e-books, I must admit that I do prefer the feel of the print copy. I agree that there is something to be said for the bookstore experience, and by that I mean, a real bookstore. There is a lovely independent store by me that I much prefer to the big chains, and nothing would make me happier than to see my book on their shelves. Thanks for sharing these important tips, and I am sure Mr. King would agree with your findings. 🙂 Now go put your swimmies on, you have more books to write.

    1. I am lucky to have found a great local store like Face In a Book. They make you feel at ease and you’re able to relax and enjoy the books. They do several activities with kids including reading to the dogs with Tanner and Emma. Now, excuse me while I got dog out my swimmies and get to work.

  2. Hi James–
    Great advice for authors. Since your last name begins with an “L” there is a very good chance you could share shelf space with Stephen King. The “K” isn’t too far away 🙂
    Victoria–

    1. Thanks Victoria! Yes! I have the alphabet working for me. Things dreams are made of.

  3. This is heartening. I’m going to make it a point to go browse in my local independent bookstore this weekend. I would love to talk to someone who could give me recommendations as to what i can continue to read with my mother to keep her mind active.

    1. Keeping their minds active is really important. My mom had dementia in her later years and I watched those around her falter without something to keep the thinking. Best of luck to you and mom.

  4. Face in a Book is my local bookstore and I love them! I’ve been to several signings there and had great conversations with the authors, and with other excited readers while we wait for our turn to get an autograph. I’ve also worked with Tina in the bookstore at our SCBWI conference and she’s a crackup. So when I’ve started planning an event for my debut YA novel next year, I thought of FiaB first!

    1. Hi, Angelica! Isn’t Face In A Book a great place? There is always something going on there for book people like us. Tina is wonderful to work with and your upcoming event will be awesome there. Let me know when you set it up and I’ll try my hardest to come out and support your book release next year.

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