A Word to the Wise Writer

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By Wendy Welch

A word to the wise: if you are planning to contact local shops to ask for opportunities to hold book signings or otherwise promote a new publication, booksellers have some dos and don’ts for you:

Don’t let the first time you walk into a bookstore be to ask for their help in promoting yourself.

Do buy your books from local shops; Amazon may be cheaper sometimes, but it doesn’t care about you.

Do enter the bookshop with an information sheet on your book: a brief summary, what the shop would sell it for and what percentage they would keep, and any marketing materials (flyer for the door, etc.) already printed. You are part of a widening group of writers asking for assistance; don’t burden the shop with printing materials for you.

Don’t ask a local bookstore to hold a signing for a print-on-demand book, or one only available online.

Do show the shop how you can bring new customers to them by having an event there; you want their existing customer base to see your book, and they want new customers. Work together. Don’t assume they will do all the publicity. Show them how you will help them.

Don’t visit shops during prime-time hours, and if you see they are busy when you visit, leave an information sheet and a contact number so they can call you. Some shops have purchasing agents, others are one-person offices. Be respectful of their process.

Do add public interest value to a book signing; why not advertise it as a workshop? If your book includes herbal lore, offer a workshop on plants and read from your book as part of that. Writing historic fiction? Talk about scandals or showcase accurate clothing. Do something that draws people to the knowledge of your work even when they don’t know your name. You will build a better long-term platform and you will make the bookstore happy by bringing in new people.

Compiled by Wendy Welch (author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap) and delivered at the Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia 2019.