Mark Terry

Monday, March 19, 2007

Contacting Bookstores Directly

March 19, 2007
Ron Estrada has a post about cold-calling bookstores on his blog today. I responded at length--at such length that I decided I'd just repost it here.

Just be aware of a couple things. Presumably you're contacting bookstores for one or two things or both.

1. You want to set up a booksigning.If that's what you're going after, be aware that Borders, for instance, does not do this on a store-by-store basis, but has a regional events coordinator, who, by and large, isn't remotely interested in you unless your name is Stephen King or John Grisham. You can find this person through the Borders website. You'll end up with a voicemail. You'll leave a message. They'll never get back to you. You leave more messages. They continue to ignore you. You call them up and say you're John Grisham and you want to do a signing at their store. They don't believe you.

At other stores, they may require you to fax or e-mail a press release to get a signing. They may want this handled by a publicist. They may--very likely--say no, no thanks, go away, go to hell or any variation of the above. Some will hem and then they will haw and then they may or may not tell you politely that it's not worth their time and/or money to host a booksigning with you because you're, well, nobody and the idea here is to sell books for the bookstore and draw a crowd. Go away and come back when you're somebody. Of course, by then you can be picky and you'll remember every bookseller who ever dissed you.

If and when they say yes, you say thank you, set up a date, make sure they have books (make sure you bring your own just in case) and mark it on your calendar. There's more to doing this right, but hey, I'm just commenting here.

2. You're just calling to say "howdy." Your call may very well sound like this: "Hi, I'm Mark Terry, I've got a new novel coming out called The Serpent's Kiss. I'm just touching base with all the local booksellers to introduce myself and let you know I exist. So, hi. I exist."

Chances are you're talking to some lackey at the information desk. Be nice to them. They stock your books. You want them stocked at the front table or the new titles or the local author section, even if your publisher hasn't paid co-op for the privilege. Otherwise they'll shelf your thriller back in the mystery section, or way back in the back of the store ten feet off the ground where you can't be reached except by extension ladder.

Chances are they will be very friendly because, quite simply, you're not doing anything except saying "howdy." It's when you start demanding things of them--like book signings--that booksellers start getting evasive. They'll probably ask you the title again, your name, and almost assuredly the publisher. If you're self-published or published by iUniverse or by Fly-By-Night Books, inc., they may very well say, "Thanks for calling, bye." If they've heard of the publisher they may very well say, "Yeah, we'll order a couple. Thanks for calling." Say thank you and comment that you'll probably be swinging by after the pub date to sign stock, hope to see them then.

Here's the thing: the less demanding you are, the friendlier they are. Remember that the person you're talking to might not have the authority to do anything--they might not be able to set you up for a signing, they might not be able to order your book, they might not be able to do anything but stock your books if they're ordered and take customers' money. Is it worth asking for the manager? Maybe. Or assistant manager. Or "the person who orders books."

Oh, and I didn't mention the depression factor. If you've got some list of independent bookstores and you start calling, unless that list was compiled, like, yesterday afternoon, there's a very good chance that the bookseller you're calling is:1. Out of business2. Going out of business

Yes. I'm afraid that's just the reality of the indie bookstore these days. So good luck.


Blogger Joe Moore said...


I've never been turned down by cold contacting Borders or B&N for a signing. I find the best contact method is email so I can carefully state my case. I have had chain stores say they were booked up and would get back to me. Amazingly, they did. I remember an instance where I emailed one of those 2-story mega B&N in another part of the state, told them I had visited their store in the past and would love to do a signing there. A few moments later, I get a reply with a selection of dates to choose from. Go figure.


5:04 AM  
Anonymous Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound said...

If the bookstores ask you send a press release, make sure it's short, to the point, and interesting.

So many authors who write great books but horrible press releases. That's why I created the free email tutorial called "89 Ways to Write Powerful Press Releases."

It explains how to write releases not only for journalists, but for consumers who can find the releases online, click on links within the release, and end up at our website where they opt in to a free special report or ebook, or maybe even buy something from us.

Several authors I know make great use of press releases. And they know how to write them not only for humans, but for the search engine spiders. The tutorial explains how.

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