God bless great booksellers

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. 

Problem One

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. 

Problem Two


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. 

Great Allies

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.

Look at him. He’s making an offer you can’t refuse.

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.

Me at my stand in Literatus.

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!)

Perils of Progeny

I am pregnant. With a book. 

Price of Passage—A Tale of Immigration and Liberation is due August 23. It is expected to weigh eleven ounces and be seven and fifteen-sixteenths inches long. 

Congratulations are in order. But pity me carrying it through the hot months!


Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash.

It’s a funny thing, Dear Reader: One stroke of a pen and you go from writer to bookseller.

One hundred percent. Instantly. 

On February 17, I signed a contract with DX Varos Publishing for the publication of my historical novel The Maelstrom.Things started happening. 

  • The publisher and I agreed to change the title from The Maelstrom to Price of Passage.
  • We added a subtitle: A Tale of Immigration and Liberation.
  • The publisher sent me an advance check to seal the deal.
  • We settled on a cover design, which was swiftly executed by the publisher.
  • The publisher revealed the cover and announced the publication with an exciting blurb teasing the contents of the book.
  • I upgraded my website, www.LarryFSommers.com
  • I acquired Mailerlite software, learned its rudiments, and launched an occasional newsletter for my loyal fans, The Haphazard Times (currently undergoing refinement).
  • I attended the Chicago Writers Association’s annual conference, where I received much kudos and encouragement from fellow authors.
  • I applied for a Wisconsin Seller’s Permit.
  • I sent for a Square Reader so I can process people’s credit card and Paypal purchases at author events such as signings, readings, and book clubs.
  • I started “going to school” on my friend Greg Renz, successful author of Beneath the Flames. I’m studying what he does to beat the drum for his book, and how he does it.
  • Oh, yes. I am ordering custom bookmarks to give out with copies of the book.

Take a Breath, Buster

It’s been just over a month. Price of Passage will not arrive until August 23. 

I stand presently under a Niagara of marketing, sales, and bookkeeping concerns. I don’t understand half of what I’m doing but plunge ahead anyway. Learn by doing, the saying goes.

Meanwhile, I have a second completed novel a mere whisker away from being ready to start sending queries to publishers. It only needs two or three good days of last-minute polishing, plus the drafting of a good synopsis and query letter. But all that will have to wait.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash.

I have a great idea for a short story to develop for the literary journals. Quite a bit of work. And it will have to wait.

There is the beginning of a personal memoir. It needs to keep going. But it will have to wait.

Opportunity Knocks

Blacksmiths of yore had a saying to cover this situation: “Strike while the iron is hot.” 

Shakespeare, more verbose yet pithy, said

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat…

Rodeo cowboys are more terse: “Let ’er buck!” 

No matter how you say it, now is the time to sell, even though I’d rather write. We can pick up the pieces afterward.

The Book Trade

Why is it this way?

Maxwell Perkins. Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram and Sun. Public Domain.

Maybe you think when an author finishes a book, he sends it to his publisher—one of the Big Five—who assigns the manuscript to a top-flight editor, a Maxwell Perkins type in a three-piece suit, then takes out a full-page ad in the New York Times and calls the appropriate committees (Pulitzer, Nobel, etc.). Oh, yes, a book tour of the major cities might be needed, with the author accompanied by two or three publicists and cossetted in luxury suites in four-star hotels. And then the dollars roll in, followed by movie contracts, more dollars, etc.

Well, Gentle Reader, let me assure you: 

That is NOT, unless you are Stephen King, How It Works.

Publishers do not sell books. Mostly, they can’t even spare a publicist.

But publicists do not sell books, anyway.

Editors, of course, would not be caught dead selling books.

Even bookstores do not really sell books. They merely conduct the transaction. People come into the store looking to buy books. All the store needs to do is have some on hand.

Amazon? Even more so.

So, you ask, who does sell books?


Authors sell books.

So next time you see me, Dear Reader, I will have my foot wedged firmly in your door. And a great book in my hand. You should definitely own a copy or two. And all the members of your extended family should, too. It will make a very thoughtful Christmas or Hanukah gift.

Wish me luck.


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!)