Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Having just returned from the International Christian Retail Show, I couldn’t help but turn my thoughts to the news that independent bookstores are having a good year. And have, as a matter of fact, increased in number by 27 percent since 2009. You can read about that here and here.
But that doesn’t mean they’re riding the gravy train. Far from it. Challenges abound.
The other day I read an article in The Guardian, a UK newspaper (thank you, the Internet), on advice from the owner of an independent “bookshop,” to use the British term, for what it takes to run a successful store. Many of his suggestions are applicable to anyone who wants to attract customers or readers, including authors, agents, and publishers. Take a gander at some fetching ideas that might not have occurred to you.
Nic Bottomley, the owner of the award-winning Bath bookshop Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, produced this 13-point manifesto for independent success:
1. Do one thing differently every week.
2. Tell everyone what you’re doing. Tell customers what’s happening at your shop; tell publishers which of their books you’re selling hard; tell the press anything remotely interesting. It will come back to help you.
3. Never pay for advertising.
4. Copy good ideas from other geographically-distant independent businesses.
5. Inspire 10 book lovers every day; convert one book-agnostic every day.
6. Surround yourself with creative booksellers who love books as much as you and can wax on about them even more persuasively than you.
7. Use social media.
8. Use the time you were going to spend bitching about Amazon to work out, realistically, what your business needs from publishers. Tell the publishers.
9. Create a community. Hold events and book groups that are so good people will attend even if they’ve never heard of the author and that afterwards they’ll rave about to everyone they know.
10. Don’t give excellent customer service. Give extreme customer service–so that you become part of the fabric of your customers’ lives. They will do your advertising for you.
11. Sell e-readers now if you love them as much as physical books. If not, wait until the margins are plausible before you think about it and in the meantime carry on selling books.
12. Don’t buy stock from Amazon.
13. Be surprisingly cut-throat and financially driven when no one is looking; aim not to survive, but to thrive.
I love his upbeat mindset, his decision to surround himself with fellow book lovers, and his creative approach to connecting with readers. But I especially appreciate #1: “Do one thing differently every week.”
I’ve been pursuing a similar mantra for a number of months. Every week I’m trying a new way to:
- attract the kinds of clients I want to represent;
- direct my clients in how to create material they’re passionate about and that will be just what a publisher is looking for;
- know if I see a well-conceived manuscript about __________ that I’ll be able to sell it.
Which leads me to the reality that I’m also focused on #13. Although I would use the word “calculating” rather than “cut-throat.”
Which of Mr. Bottomley’s ideas for finding customers–aka readers or agents or publishers–has your name on it?
How to find new readers for your books. Click to tweet.
Change your outlook and thrive as an author. Click to tweet.
Attracting customers to your product. Click to tweet.
Image courtesy of 2nix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net