11/30/06

We Can't Hold a Gun to Their Heads

I have a question. How much can publishers do to get a book into DB and Seagull? I know they're picky about what books they will accept. At a minimum, what should I expect my publisher to do? What can I do to make sure it gets in those stores? My publisher is well-known. It's not like they're obscure or minute. Why aren't they doing more to get my book into the stores? It is my first novel, so I'm sure that has something to do with it, but don't they have a responsibility to try harder? Thanks

It is the publisher's responsibility to make every reasonable effort to sell your book. They’ve invested thousands of dollars into producing your book, they are going to do everything they can to get it into as many stores as possible—especially Deseret Book and Seagull. It would be stupid for them not to do so.

Here’s what a publisher can do:
We can send a free sample of the book and promotional materials to the buyer. We cannot force them to open the package or read the book.

We can go to trade shows and put on a dog and pony show advertising your book. We cannot accost them in the aisles, drag them into our booth, and make them listen to our spiel.

We can call them on the phone and talk to them or leave voice mail. We cannot make them talk to us. We cannot make force them to return our calls.

We can try to get a face-to-face appointment to talk to them. We cannot go camp out at their office and hold a hunger strike until they meet with us.

We can send letters, faxes and e-mails. We cannot prevent them from throwing those messages in the trash.

We can offer deeper discounts, special packages or better terms. We cannot use physical force, blackmail them or bribe them into placing an order.

We can run ads targeted to the reader to try to get them into the stores, but those ads are not always effective. (I just spent $250 on an ad that reached a six-figure customer count and it sold 5 books.) We cannot always get your book into Deseret Book or Covenant’s catalogs because those are often “by invitation only.” They are also extravagantly expensive and in my experience, not always successful. (The last DB ad I ran cost $900 and orders did not increase.)

I would guess that your publisher has already done/is doing most of these things. Now it’s just a matter of continuing to do them and hoping for the best. You can only contact a buyer so often before they become annoyed and start avoiding you.

There is very little you can do to get your books into these two stores. Contacting them yourself will work against you. Going into their stores and giving a free copy to the bookstore manager might help, if you’re professional and respect their time. (This means five minutes TOPS!) But it also may not help at all. I have a friend who is a DB manager who loves one of my new books, but DB corporate still hasn’t placed an order.

The best thing you can do to help is to create customer demand for your book. Get a website, blog, develop an e-mail list, advertise your book to the end customer as “available in most LDS bookstores.” If people are interested, they will start going into their local LDS bookstores and asking for the book. (How many friends and relatives do you have that would go into the store and special order a copy?) If enough stores are getting requests for a book, and forwarding those requests to corporate, DB and Seagull will move a little faster to order it.

1 comment:

biboo said...

LdSP, this post is a prime example of why your blog provides a much-needed public service for writers. I'd guess that most writers (myself included) have no clue as to how book publishing/marketing/distribution really works. We are focused on the writing. We think that once we get the acceptance, we'll all live happily ever after.

We need to be reminded that acceptance is only the beginning...