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.)
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.
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.