Sunday, October 2, 2022

Wanna Buy a Book, Lady?

The latest wisdom is that trekking to bookstores with your new book isn’t the best use of time in today’s market. So, what do you think works to promote sales and get to the place where you’re receiving royalties?

Brenda at the keyboard.

If I had the answer to this question - the best way to make sales and ergo a bestseller - I'd be on easy street. Rich beyond my wildest dreams. Invited to all the big book conferences. Recognized in swank locales.

Instead, I'm slogging it out to get my books into the hands of readers like everyone else, except maybe for the select few authors with massive publicity machines behind them. Perhaps I should direct this question to the likes of James Patterson or Michael Connelly or Louise Penny.

Having sat in on a few of Louise's talks, I know that she trekked around to bookshops with her first novel Still Life. As a result, many of the store owners and staff hand sold her books, and we all know how that turned out:-) Louise went on to win every award going the following year, and I don't think it was simply a coincidence. I'm therefore not convinced that dropping personal visits to bookstores should be in an author's marketing plan. There's still nothing like the personal touch to make connections and to get salespeople interested in one's book.

Over the years, I've made friends with several independent bookstore owners and their staff, and managers and events planners at a couple of Coles/Chapters. They've unfailingly had me in for signings and events, and I know they're hand-selling my books. I promote them as well every chance I get. It's all time well spent in my opinion.

Is there a better use of time than making personal connections? There are quicker, more effective ways certainly to reach more people en masse.  The best one in my experience is to get coverage in the newspaper - a review, an interview, an excerpt from my book - sales have always gone up after such publicity. I would imagine being interviewed on a major television network would have much the same effect. Yet, I would argue that this cannot replace the time put into meeting people in the industry and making connections, or for taking the time to meet readers.

Another writer I know said that he does not do bookstore signings anymore because the return is not worth the time spent. He prefers book clubs and book conferences. I don't think it's a question of either/or, but I agree that standing in a store for a few hours and only selling a few books doesn't always feel productive. I limit my signings to two hours, so they don't take up the entire day. I use the visit to check in with the staff, sign stock and keep my book in their sightlines. At the end of the signing, I like to add up how many brand new readers bought a book and think that even a couple is helping to spread the word. I also love going to book clubs and conferences, but think they should be part of a wider marketing plan that includes visiting as many bookstores as I can fit in!


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Catriona McPherson said...

No one ever wants to hear this news, Brenda: succeed very slowly and gradually by doing hard things that take time and money!

Brenda Chapman said...

The tried and true methods are still the best :-)

Susan C Shea said...

You're right, Brenda. If you - and Louise Penny - can do it, I should be able to truck around copies of my new book with a smile!