Category Archives: Networking

Indie Bookstores: The Untapped Resourse

A lot of the indie authors I know distribute online and only online. And why shouldn’t they? It’s easy, it’s cheap, and that’s where a large percentage of the market is. However, that still leaves the rest of the book-buying market. Where are they purchasing? Well, most of that remaining section of the market shops at brick and mortar stores and while this seems like it’s an insignificant portion of the market, when done right, it can become your largest market. However, it can be difficult to get into the brick-and-morter market. Chains like Barnes and Noble or Powell’s can be tricky to get into. B&N requires indies to jump through a lot of hoops and at Powell’s you pretty much have to know someone on the inside to get them to stock an indie title. But indie bookstores are usually a lot more approachable and using them to reach more readers can get you access to almost all of the book buying market.

Before I go into the how, I want to apologize because this is a topic I could write pages and pages about so it’s going to be more of an overview because I don’t have the space on this forum to really go in depth. Hopefully in the future I can talk more about the specifics. It’s also going to focus on the small, single location indie bookstores since the big chains can be problematic. I also want to acknowledge that not every indie author will see this route as a good option for them. It is more work — and it is work that takes you away from creating the next masterpiece — and there are a few hoops to jump through. If you’re making a considerable amount from online sales the extra work may not be worth it to you. For me, it has been worth it. For every book (both digital and print) I sell online, I sell three print copies in indie bookstores. Seriously. My sales ratio really is 3:1. Now granted, I’ve been working at an indie bookstore for twenty years so I do have an advantage in getting my books on local store shelves but it’s not hard for everyone else to do it too.

The first, and probably most important, is to have a relationship with the store’s staff. If you shop there, and the staff know your face, they will be more willing to take on your book — even if it’s a genre that they normally don’t sell. It’s easier to justify taking a risk on a book from someone you know, than a complete stranger. If there isn’t an indie store near you, I do realize that this may not be possible. But if there is, it’s worth the time investment to go every once and a while to browse and develop that relationship.

The second is to know your book’s primary genre and gear your pitch and promotional materials (sell sheet, bookmarks, etc.) toward that. Say that your book is historical fiction with a touch of fantasy and mystery and your back copy emphasizes all genre elements of all three. That makes it impossible for staff to know where to shelve it or what kind of readers to suggest it to, which makes it nearly impossible to sell. If you focus on the single most prevalent genre for your back copy, branding, and promotional materials it’s going to make it a lot more appealing to the store and a lot easier to sell. Another thing to be aware of and use to your advantage is popular authors who have similar title and your alsobots. One of the indie titles my store carries is a historical novel in the same vein of Jane Kirkpatrick — one of our top selling authors. I put a note on the cover encouraging Jane Kirkpatrick fans to check out this indie title and it’s been flying off the shelf ever since.

When you’re ready to ask them about carrying your book there’s a lot of information you need them to give you. Do they buy the book directly from you or consign? A lot of stores won’t order from Createspace and Ingram isn’t very good about accurately displaying information for Sparks titles so don’t be surprised if they want you to be the distributor. You also need to know for what length of time they’ll carry it. If they consign, what is the payment percentage? Do they pay 40% of the list price? 50%? More? When do they pay you for sold copies? Will they contact you if they restock and when will that happen? When the last copy sells or at the end of the consignment period? Will they let you reclaim unsold stock? Do they require you to pay a consignment/stocking fee? Who is the main contact person? Do they do in-store book signings and/or readings? All of these things are going to vary from store to store so if they have a print out of their policy be sure to get one for your records so you can keep track.

Be sure to promote on your website and social media that the store is carrying your book. If you’re doing a signing/reading, promote that too. Don’t do it just once either. Post reminders during the holidays that your book makes a great gift and they can buy it online AND at the local bookstore. Let it gradually sink into the public’s mind that they don’t have to wait a day or five for the Amazon Fairy to deliver a print copy. They can buy it at the local store and read it now!

Once all of that is done you can usually kick back, relax, and resume writing the next tome. Some stores might require a little more follow through and some periodical check ins but the hard, laborious, slightly scary part is over. Even if indie stores turn out to be only a small portion of your overall sales, it never hurts to have your books in another part of the market. The more people you reach, the more you can sell.

SPFBO

One of the best things about the writing community is when an established author devotes some of their valuable time to helping out those of us who are still up-and-comers, particularly indie authors. You’ve heard about that sort of thing a million times over on this site via Superstars Writing Seminar, but today I’m going to talk about author Mark Lawrence‘s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (or SPFBO for short).

For the past three years running, Mark has coordinated a contest with ten blog reviewers per year (even more generous with their time) where self-published fantasy authors can submit their work and have it compete. The books are divided up equally among the bloggers, who then read each of their entries and select their favorite to advance. There were three-hundred entrants the year Unwilling Souls was in the mix, working out to thirty books per blogger, so as I said above, this was a significant time investment on the part of these reviewers.

The ten favorites would then advance to a final round, where all ten bloggers would read all ten entries and then vote on the best, which is declared the winner. But this isn’t like the Super Bowl, where only one team goes home happy. Each step of this process is a chance to increase the number of reviewers who have been exposed to your work and, if they like it, who may tell others about it. Unwilling Souls didn’t win its heat of thirty books, but it did runner-up. Mark kindly held online interviews with each of the runners-up of their respective heats, a chance to give a little extra exposure to books that had just missed the final-round cut. In addition, the contest put me in touch with several authors and bloggers increasing the number of cool people I know as well as the size of my networks that are critical for an indie author.

The SPFBO is just one example of the community of authors and reviewers working together to spread the word about great books that don’t have the kind of exposure you’d see with a traditional bestseller. It’s a community indie authors in particular need to get plugged into. I’m not sure if there will be a 2018 SPFBO or not, but even if the contest is put to bed, my larger point stands: get out there, find people who are enthusiastic about reviewing indie author’s books, and get in touch with them. The main tool indie authors have at their disposal is word of mouth, but that requires a lot of upfront work on our part, spreading the word until hopefully, one day,

About the Author:

Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. He is the author of the Unwilling Souls series, as well as stories in the A Game of Horns, Dragon Writers, and Undercurrents anthologies. He writes the kind of stories he likes to read, fantasy and science fiction tales featuring vivid worlds, strong characters, and smart action all surrounding a core of mystery. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his twitter (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Using Conventions & Appearances to Build Your Base

One of the toughest things an author has to do besides cranking out a sizable body of incredible work is to get those works in front of reader’s noses. Jim Butcher, Stephen King, and all of the other household names don’t have to do that since the world is ready to drive like a maniac to the bookstore to get their next novel. When our latest work comes out, few of those same rabid readers notice. It’s possible the only being that is waiting to read your book is your dog, who has been loyal and supportive for all those years of toiling behind a keyboard.

The problem is to get your name and novel to the readers, which means they have to connect your name to your book. One way to do that is to go to genre conventions as a panelist and find other appearance opportunities to garner some name recognition.

If people remember that you were funny, smart, or even just nice and friendly, they’re going to connect your name to positive thoughts. “Oh, yeah, that person who was on the panel at BigCon who kept making me laugh.” If they remember enjoying your humor, they might pick up a book to re-experience the fun. If they can recall how nice you were to them as you signed a free bookmark and not trying to guilt them into buying a book, they’re more apt to plunk down a few bucks to make up for running out of money because they bought a ten dollar hot dog and a five dollar soda.

There are several Fictorian posts about getting into conventions, so I’ll just give you this link if you want to find out more.

The other thing you can do to get your name out there is to look for other interesting opportunities. A good example happens to be tomorrow’s Free Comic Book Day, a worldwide event that happens the first Saturday in May. There are readers who will be converging on one location in your neighborhood, so why not be there to smile and to offer them something. Tonya and I will be at Freedom Comics in Lebanon, Missouri tomorrow. Tonya is a professional cosplayer and an author, so she thought it would be a good idea to go to the event dressed up as a comic book character. The shop is advertising us and will allow us to sell books and prints. We’re going to be bringing some copies of my graphic novel to give away in exchange for an email address for our list. Afterwards, there will be a slew of new potential readers who happen to be local. Now that they know who we are, we can send them some information when the next book comes out.

You can create your own event if you want. Do a “Meet the Author” at your local library. Visit some colleges or even high schools to talk to some classes about writing professionally. Bring books and set up an impromptu display at your local Starbucks while you eat your bagel and sip some expensive coffee, poking at your keyboard on your next blockbuster. The idea is to be accessible and to build some recognition. If you don’t try, it will be hard to accomplish your goals.

If you’re gifted with a very high midichlorian count, you can always use today’s reference to assist:

May the Fourth be with you.


 


About the Author:
DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
His latest novel, Solar Singularity, co-written with Josh Vogt and Peter Wacks, is a finalist for the 2018 Scribe Awards from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. The winners will be announced at San Diego ComicCon.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

We Don’t Write in a Vacuum

Writing in a vacuumSome writers write as a hobby, and don’t really expect anyone else to read their stories. Some people put pen to paper to record their memoirs, or to produce a work for close family and friends. Some literary writers seek to push the boundaries of the written word, without the weight of commercial sales holding them back.

We are not those writers.

Professional writers write with the goal of producing stories that people want to read. Hopefully lots of people. We develop craft and work with relentless determination to give our readers stories that entertain, instruct, and explore weighty matters of human existence.

To succeed as a professional writer, we need to sell enough books to support our work. So we need to develop, expand, and preserve our fan base.

How do we do that?

For new authors, it means starting at the beginning. That might include starting our own blogs, creating a newsletter, and deciding what content people want to see.

As our fan bases grow along with our story counts, what channels do we utilize to deliver those products? What marketing efforts work, and which ones flop?

This month, the Fictorians will explore these and other aspects of building our fan bases. I know I’m looking forward to a lot of great content.