Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
I spent the past several days listening to and speaking with retailers at the CPE International Christian Products Expo in Murfreesboro, TN. My impressions are many.
One question not asked often enough in our day-to-day writing is “What does a retailer need from an author?”
A clear way to inform their customers about your books
Store staff are much more likely to hand-sell your book if they have a clear and concise way to describe the book to customers. That 15-30 second description is useful as an elevator pitch (in a two-story building). It is vital for the sales and marketing team to use. When an author talks with readers, libraries, or retailers about their book, it’s gold.
When an industry professional hears an author taking a long time to explain their book, the assumption is that the author doesn’t yet have a firm grip on how to interest a potential reader, agent, editor, or retailer in the project.
Whether published independently, by a small publisher, or by a traditional publishing house, resist the urge to use a headshot that is more than two or three years old. That includes for publicity materials, in social media, or on the cover of the book. The disparity when a retailer or even planner meets that author face-to-face is not only startling and confusing, but it exacerbates the disconnect. As if the author intended to deceive.
Even if it’s not always possible to keep a back cover bio as up-to-date as a writer would like, the writer’s website should be current. (Note: That also helps in radio interviews if the interviewer goes to the author’s website for information. Which they will.)
Isn’t it heartwarming that Americans have begun to adopt the habit of thanking servicemen and servicewomen when they see them in public? “Thank you for your service” is a common expression. What if we built the habit, too, of thanking retailers? As one prolific author recently expressed it, “If someone is blessed by my book, or their life changed, I may hear about it in an email or social media post or even a hand-written note. But, bookstore owners, I’m sure they don’t often tell you.” It’s no secret that keeping a bookstore alive and thriving is not an easy and is often a thankless job. We can correct the thankless part.
What does a retailer need from an author?
Patience and understanding
No matter how much they may like your book, a decision to stock it on their shelves is many faceted. Can they afford to give up the shelf space? Can they afford to keep that much inventory on hand? Will this book usurp others that are already much-requested? Have they already overspent their budget for the year? What’s their bookstore’s existing policy?
Authors who approach retailers–and libraries–respectfully, and with understanding rather than with the assumption that “My book is so great. Why wouldn’t they want to stock it? They’re making a big mistake!”, win the hearts of retailers. Persistence wins. Obnoxious loses every time.
At events like the recent CPE Expo, retailers talked often about how much it means when they hear authors are praying for them, viewing them as part of the family, which they are. You can make a retailer’s day.
Ask not what your retailer can do for you (that’s commonplace). Ask what you can do for your retailer (rare and appreciated).