When your debut novel is published, you need to find readers who will buy it, read it, and—if they like it—will recommend it to others.
Selling is not done by some lofty publisher who will buy a frontpage ad in the New York Times for your book. It’s done by you, the author.
Authors tend to be introverted, even reclusive, people. But the moment your book hits the street, you must put on your hip boots, shuffle the introvert card to the back of the deck, and become the world’s best spokeman for the worth of your own writing.
If you, the author, don’t think it’s a great book—why will anybody else think so?
But when you confront Problem One by committing to toot your own horn, then a second consideration presents itself.
There are a million ways to sell books, but they all take time.
You only have so much time, and now that you have one book in print, the clock is ticking. You’ve got to hurry up and write the next book, then hit the query circuit to seek publication for it. The time you can devote to selling the already-published book is severely limited. Among all the selling activities you could do, you’d better choose wisely. Strategically.
What’s a poor, beleaguered debut author to do?
Wouldn’t it be nice if people who sell books for a living—professional booksellers—would sell your book for you? Believe it or not, Dear Reader, this can actually happen. But you must approach the owners and managers of bookstores and let them know your book exists.
Every bookstore is different. They all have their own preferred working methods. You need to approach each store individually—another time-consuming pursuit. And not every bookstore you approach will show an interest in what you’re offering.
So when professional booksellers enlist in your campaign, that’s cause for rejoicing.
So far, I have gotten Price of Passage placed in several bookstores, but two stand out.
At Open House Imports, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, owner Janice Sievers immediately bought six copies and placed more on order. I asked Janice if there was a way she could highlight the book by special placement so it would not get lost among the many other fine books she sells in her Sandinavian gift shop. She got a gleam in her eye and said, “Let’s have The Troll sell it.” She marched around the end of the counter and placed a copy of my book right at the feet of the imposing troll who greets customers as they walk in the door.
Janice reports she’s already had some sales.
In Watertown, Isabelle and Wesley operate Literatus & Co. It’s a well-stocked bookstore that also sells great coffee and snacks. The place has become a center of community life in Watertown. You might see almost anybody there on a Saturday morning, so when Isabelle offered me the opportunity to personally present Price of Passage to their customers, I jumped at the chance.
They set me up at a small table in the main traffic flow, and Wesley encouraged me to be proactive, approaching customers and engaging them in conversation.
The net result was sixteen books sold in three hours, including two purchased by the store for their stock. In less than a week, Isabelle informed me those two copies had been sold, and she ordered more from my distributor.
Friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable booksellers like Janice, Isabelle, and Wesley are great allies for an author to have.
Support Independent Booksellers
If you, Kind Reader, find yourself in or near Mount Horeb or Watertown, Wisconsin, make it a point to stop at Open House Imports or Literatus & Co. Look around, check the place out, and buy something.
Even if you’re not physically there, you can support them through online purchases, directly at their own websites or through Bookshop.org.
It’ll give you a warm glow.
Larry F. Sommers
Your New Favorite Writer
Author of Price of Passage: A Tale of Immigration and Liberation
Price of Passage
Norwegian Farmers and Fugitive Slaves in Pre-Civil War Illinois
(History is not what you thought!)