Book Sores


By Elaine Viets

Some bookstores are mad as hell at writers, and for good reason.
We writers still need bookstores. Even self-published writers like to see their work displayed on store shelves – at least the ones I know.
And bookstores need to fill those shelves with our pretty books.

So why is it so hard to make this work?
I used to be a bookseller, and a couple of members of the tribe told me why writers’ books may not make it onto their shelves. I’m not using their names because they spoke bluntly about the issues.
Here’s what booksellers want you to do:
(1) Give me a real new release.
An independent bookstore owner said, “I’m not interested in mysteries that authors have been trying to sell on their own for six weeks, but are still calling new releases. When your book is first out, bring it to me.”
(2) Give me time to display your new release.
Make sure your books are at the store in plenty of time. Either hound your publisher or personally deliver the books to the store. “For an April 1 release, I’ll need to have a copy of the book in my store by March 25,” an indie bookseller said.
(3) It costs money to stock your books.
“Many traditional publishers are charging restocking fees now,” the indie bookseller said. “So if your books don’t sell, my store loses money. Self-published books require paperwork and have storage, pickup and delivery problems. I don’t have to the space to keep them.”
(4) A fact of book selling life: Some local authors don’t sell in my store.
The authors are charming. Their covers are good-looking. “But their books don’t sell. I’ve had some authors’ books for a year and no one bought them,” he said. The big box stores would have returned those books months ago.
“I can display your books as a new release for two or three weeks, but if they don’t sell, I can’t afford to give those books shelf space.” If this bookstore isn’t the right fit for your work, look for one that can sell your books.
(5) A bookstore is a place to buy books – not a showroom.
“I’ve had people buy the books on Amazon – Amazon!” he said. “Then these same people come to hear the author at my store, eat my snacks and drink my bottled water and soda. Can they do that on Amazon? No!
“I’ve watched people in the audience take out their e-readers or their iPhones during the talk and order from Amazon. That’s why booksellers are starting to charge for signings.
“Authors, if you have a signing at my store, please ask your friends and fans to buy the book here.”
  (6) Avoid the A-word.
That’s Amazon. A Barnes & Noble community relations manager told me this story:
“A customer wanted a local author to speak and sign books for her group. I gave her the names of several people I thought would be a good fit for her organization. We spent half an hour discussing various authors, and then I gave her their contact information.
“ ‘Now,’ I said, ‘when you get the author, how many copies would you like to order for your event?’
“ ‘Oh, I’ll get the books from Amazon,’ she said. ‘They’re cheaper.’ ”

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About Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets has written 30 mysteries in four series, including 15 Dead-End Job mysteries. BRAIN STORM, her first Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery, is published as a trade paperback, e-book, and audio book.