Post No. 47: Getting Booksellers’ Attention
27 January, 2010
In my last post I talked about how my smallish publisher uses reps (not employees) to sell books to the chains. With independents, the relationship is more direct. The good news is, there are ways to have a direct impact on the sales process, and once you get an advocate, they will “hand sell” your book to their customers, and most likely tell their friends at other stores. The bad news is, the process is labor-intensive, since you have to pitch each bookseller individually.
M. says that without any doubt her best sales weapon is the ability to offer the author for a signing. She drew a vivid picture of what it’s like.
“Are you familiar with the term ‘slush pile?’” she asks.
“Sure,” I respond. “It’s the stack of unsolicited manuscripts on the desk of an acquisitions editor.”
“Right, but the term is also used for the waste-high stack of ARCs that most independent buyers have in their office.” The problem is to get them to pay attention to your book, buried as it is in the middle of the stack, which grows every day. The way to do this is to offer an author signing.
Successful signings are usually the only thing that gives M. any leverage with other booksellers. If she can say, “I sent Mike to Tattered Cover and he sold out,” she can get me in elsewhere, and get a decent order in the bargain.
My whole concept of developing specific metro markets and building a spread sheet of convincing sales numbers won’t work. But there are a couple things I can do.
The first is to develop what’s called in marketing a “dimensional direct mail piece.” It need to be something that is hard to ignore. Once, to help a company sell software for controlling travel expenses, I created a game board (with invaluable contributions from co-creative director Marcia Gregory), complete with dice and little tokens. You competed by rolling the dice and moving from square to square like in Monopoly, except the object of this game was to waste as much money as possible on a business trip. The squares said things like, “Rent a Lexus instead of a Ford, waste $250 dollars,” and so on. We got three responses on the first day, worth about $1.5 million in potential business for our client.
Will something like this help M “get their attention?” I hope so.
To be continued…
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Note: I’m using the blog format here to post a journal I have been keeping for some time. We will catch up to the present in a couple of weeks.