While at Sleuthfest last February, I sat in on a session given by Joanna Sinchuk, manager of the Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore in Pineapple Grove Delray Beach, Florida. I thought about her talk recently when CBS ran a feature on April 23rd about Independent Bookstores.
When the big box book stores came on the scene, and then Amazon, everyone predicted the independents would disappear. And yes, many independents didn’t make it, but between 2009 and 2015 more than 570 independent bookstores opened, bringing the total to more than 2,200 independent book stores in the U.S. However, theses bookstores are not the same as the small bookstores that existed prior to Amazon and B&N. Independent bookstores have had to become more than places where people can just buy a book. Nowadays, they offer books, education, entertainment, and a social gathering place.
Gloria Tiller, the owner and manager of Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, Michigan has understood this need for diversification for years. In addition to offering new and used books, the store is a meeting place for book clubs and writing groups, and throughout the year sponsors a variety of events, including pet adoption and most recently “Derby Day,” where mint juleps were served along with the promotion of the book How to be a Bourbon Badass.
But back to Joanna Sinchuk’s talk. Joanna said there are over 3,000,000 new titles published every year, and that doesn’t include ebooks. (She wasn’t sure how many ebooks are published each year.) The big box stores return approximately 80% of the books ordered. (With hardcover books, the entire book is returned, at cost to the publisher; with trade and mass market paperback books, the cover is stripped and returned and the rest is dumped.) Independent stores return approximately 50%. That means, if you are self-publishing, you are the one who would pay for the returns.
So how does a writer get his or her book noticed and purchased?
Joanna emphasized, if you are self-publishing a book, make sure it has a professional look. Study and follow the layout of traditionally published hardcover books. (She mentioned that collectors want the author’s signature only and want it on the title page and signed in black ink.). She also said the book should indicate if it’s a first printing or second (i.e., if changes have been made) and so on.
With so many books out there for readers to choose from, you really need to publicize your book, so get to know your local independent booksellers. Stop by and say hello. Joanna said,”Even if you are published by a traditional publisher, you, the writer, need to find out what the publisher intends to do to publicize your book, and you need to keep the publicist aware of what you are doing to promote the book.” Personal contact with booksellers doesn’t need to be expensive, so put it on your PR list.