Tuesday, March 12, 2013
I live in a pretty small town in northeast Michigan. So small that the closest chain bookstore is a two hour drive in any direction (except east, that would be the middle of Lake Huron). When we first moved here, there was a Walden Books. But, as you probably know, all the Walden stores closed about five years ago. Shortly after ours closed, my friend, Kim, opened an independent bookstore, Blue Phoenix Books. And let me tell you, it is an incredible asset as a writer to have a bookstore owner as a friend.
In order to sell books, Kim has to stay up to date on what’s hot, what’s not, and what might be hot in the future. She has to stay up on all the publishing news and be able to stock her shelves with books she knows will sell, not only to earn an income, but also to be able to compete with online booksellers. Aside from reading a ton, one of the ways Kim keeps up on all the book news is by being registered with Indie Bound, an online community, dedicated to supporting indie book retailers.
Among other things, Indie Bound has two great lists, Indie Bestsellers and the Indi Next List. The Bestsellers is self explanatory, but the Next List is part of a circular that gets sent out to all registered independent bookstores and includes books coming out in the following months. Often, independent bookstores get sent ARCs to review of books going on the Next List. (Another perk of knowing a bookstore owner, you get to read a lot of ARCs. Right now I’m reading INK, by debut author Amanda Sun. I’m really enjoying it and definitely recommend putting it on your ‘to be read’ list.)
Indie Bound also lets indie stores submit books to be ‘Inspired Recommendations’. These books are, most likely, lesser known by the general public, but are still great reads and often put on the cover of the Indie Bound Newsletter.
If you’re looking to self-publish or are with a small press, you don’t have as much of the promotional backing as you would with a Big Six publisher, so it takes more work on your part to get your name, and your book, out there to readers. Being on the cover of a widely circulated newsletter would definitely help with that, so getting to know an independent bookseller is to your advantage. I’m certainly not saying to go into it with the mindset that they’re going to help you sell millions, but by being friendly and courteous, you could establish a good contact person and they may even offer to let you do a book signing at their store. They’re in the business of selling books, and if you provide them with a good product to sell, it’s a win, win situation.