Hi Eric! As you may have noticed from my website, I like to interview writers. From what you’ve told me, you like to write sci-fi fantasy stories, but also write some business and finance works as well. I’m happy to chat with as fellow writer like yourself, but I’m not going to ask you about your writings today. Instead, I’d like to pick your brain regarding your passion for helping writers figure out the business side of being an author.
Before jumping into the main questions, can you tell us a bit about your experiences that lead you to want to help writers?
I have always had a passion for writing and storytelling but like many prospective authors I felt that writing for a living was just a pipedream and I went to school for business instead. My love of books and the overwhelming fines I had racked up at the local library led me to become a manager of a bookstore. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to speak directly with many authors and gain priceless insight into their mind. My experiences have led me to speak with authors just starting out, as well as, others like Larry Correia who have achieved the hallowed, NYT bestseller status.
As I stepped into this larger store 6 months ago the requests to do author signings and questions about how to publish a book has grown exponentially. From my countless conversations with new authors it was apparent that many authors lack the experience, resources, and knowledge to get their books to their readers hands. I realized that it was selfish for me to hoard the knowledge I had gained through my unique ability to directly interact with successful writers.
I decided to put more of my effort into understanding and overcoming the struggles of new authors. It then became my crusade to help my fellow writers understand the business of books so that they can see the fruits of their labor.
I can name off a long list of struggles, writers go through when trying to publish and market their books. What do you see as being a major reason why a lot of authors fail to get the exposure they are seeking for their books?
This is a bit of loaded question so I will give you a short and long answer for it.
Short: Supply and demand…
Long: Writers often are creative people who would prefer to not have to get their hands dirty with the business side of things. This is why the industry model has been one driven by writers, agents, publishing houses, and bookstores all playing the same role for decades. Writers need agents, who need publishers, who need bookstores, and bookstores need writers, who need… I think you get where I’m going with this.
This model has recently, if you can call almost a decade recent, been altered drastically with the advent of the e-reader. Due to the lowered cost of print self-publishing partnered the ease of e-book publication the market was taken over by people who may never have written a book in the old system. With the a few hundred thousand new titles flooding the market agents have a test market to cherry pick budding authors from. They choose the authors who have the quickest and most likely chance of selling X number of books. By removing the middleman from the equation many authors are left with a voice but no microphone.
The author is forced to pick up the slack and market themselves. The fact that many authors have worked their entire lives on the right side of their brain they lack the experience and business acumen to become the marketer they need to be in order to get their message out there. The writer in today’s over saturated market has to build their own platform so they can stand out to readers, agents, and publishers.
Can you suggest a few things, which you think, a successful store book signing has?
The first thing I would suggest is that the author have a built in audience. Without a built in fan base it is likely that anyone who is shopping the store will not think you are very interesting if nobody has shown up to see you. People think they are missing something if there is a crowd.
Another thing you should have is an engaging topic you plan on discussing. It is great to start by reading a passage from your book but the people who’ve traveled to see you want more. They want to know what the passage meant to you. Let them in on your secret thoughts that led you to write the book. Sharing this content will help the person have a deeper connection to you and your book. These people will sell your book for you.
The last and most important thing you should have is candy. People love chocolate and it may just sweeten the deal and encourage them to purchase your book.
If people would like to find out a bit more about you and your works where can they find you?
In your experience as an Assistant Store Manager for a large US bookstore, what advice do you give authors wanting their book on the shelves? Is it the same advice for both indie and traditionally published authors?
The primary piece of advice I can give you is to make sure your book is returnable. The management and staff at a bookstore love literature and also love helping new authors get their book to people. With that said they are also running a business that they need to ensure is profitable. If the book is non-returnable then it is not likely the bookstore will be able to carry the book. Some independent bookstores may allow you to do a consignment where you sign an agreement that you will purchase back the books at retail cost.
To my knowledge Lightning Source is the only Print On Demand (POD) publisher who allows you to set up your book as returnable. Keep in mind that this option costs more for the author and there is no guarantee that you will recoup the cost if it doesn’t sell. The author typically has to pay the shipping or destruction cost.
More often authors who have gone the traditional method for publication typically have returnable books so my primary advice is different…
Get your book on Edelweiss.
This website allows publishers to put the book up for bookseller, reviewers, and other industry professionals to download for free. There are over 74,000 people in the bookselling industry who have accounts on this site. These are the people who can and will be the champion of your book. If they like your book they will order it into their store and handsell it to your readers. Partnering this with a well defined social media strategy and you have a great chance of success.
Can you give us an anecdotal story about an author who’s come in to your store? Maybe they were a great example of what to do right – or wrong.
Hmm…That’s a hard one too.
I would prefer not to conjure up the thoughts of failed book signings and although Ronda Rousey and Greg Gutfeld come to mind, I think a more pertinent example would be Andrew Welsh-Huggins. He is a local author of the book Slow Burn and has done a few signings at my prior store. With a Twitter following of only 3,000 he can always pack the store with people. He is brilliant at marketing himself and relating to his followers. When you talk to him you can tell he genuinely appreciates his fans and enjoys connecting with them. This is why I have witnessed him have a successful signing on a Tuesday and do equally well at the Ohiana writer’s festival on Saturday even though it is just a few miles away.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to connect!
My best wishes for all your endeavors Eric! Katherine