Open Wounds

5 things I learned in Denver

Here are five things I learned about marketing to bookstores and booksellers in my first trip as an author.
  1. It’s hard to describe your book to someone without a physical copy of the book there for them to hold on to. Holding your book also gives them something to do (ie: look at it). Solution: bring a book everywhere with you – which means next book I need to order a lot more ARCs – live and learn.
  2. Booksellers are busy people and just because you make an appointment doesn’t mean they’ll be ready for you, or even remember that you’re coming. Solution: be prepared to make it a cold call and sell your stuff!
  3. Blurbs are important. One of the first things people looked at were the cover and the blurbs listed there. A blurb by Robert Lipsyte on the cover made at least one buyer stop what she was doing and really listen to me. “You got a blurb from Robert Lipsyte?” was my entre to ten minutes of talk rather than two minutes and the door. Solution: get good blurbs. Thankfully I worked my butt off, wrote a lot of emails/letters to writers and got eight good ones from very gifted and known writers. I did this because my brilliant publisher E. Fazio told me to. Thank you, E. Fazio.
  4. Some booksellers don’t know anything about the publisher. Solution: bring catalogs and know the other books on the list. Fortunately I’ve read three other novels by my publisher. (Scars, by Cheryl Rainfield, Orphans, by John R. Weber, and Something Terrible Happened on Kenmore, by Marci Stillerman)
  5. Booksellers like to have a hook by which they can place and sell your book on their shelves. Solution: practice your pitch/have a pitch. For example some people liked “it’s a cross between Book Thief and Gangs of New York,” and others liked “it’s part Oliver Twist and part Captain Blood.” By the way I hate this part. Which means I have to practice it even more in order to be good at it. Can you describe you book in two sentences or less?
One other thing. I was reminded how much I love independent bookstores. The Tattered Cover Bookstores (all three) were extraordinary stores, unique, filled with nooks and crannies, cubby-holes, and great displays. And… the coffee and tea were excellent.
Colfax store.

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