Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Field Trip #5: Working the System

We are bombarded with well planned and orchestrated marketing campaigns daily.  Everything from the ads that we see to a store's floor plan is designed to entice us to buy more products.  If large corporations had their way, we would receive marketing messages twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  To be honest, they are coming pretty darn close to that goal.

What is an author to do?  
Work the system....

This week, we want you to go back to your favorite bookstore.

If you are pre-published:

  • Examine how the books are shelved.  Maybe you'll decide to pick the pen name "A. Aardvark" to ensure that your books are alphabetically first on the shelf.
  • Talk with the store manager to find out when the new books arrive.
    • How do they decide which books are 'faced out' and which ones are placed on end caps?  (If it's a small bookstore, there's a good chance that the store displays (merchandising) are determined by the local staff.  If it is a national chain, they may receive specific display set up instructions or kits.)

If you are published:
  • Chat with the store manager and try to find out the following:
    • How do they set up / schedule in store book signings?
    • How far ahead of time do they design their seasonal displays? (Maybe you have a book that takes place during Christmas or would work well for Halloween or Easter.)
    • For a regionally based or local store, find out who the buyer is for the types of books you write.
  • If your books are already for sale in the store, ask the manager if you can sign their stock copies.  (Autographed books can't be returned to the publisher....)
    • If you do sign the books, be sure to have stickers for the front cover that say "Autographed Copy" - you'd be surprised by how many people prefer to buy signed copies!
    • While you've got the book open, shove in a book mark, trading card, or other promotional piece to drive traffic to your website.

Learn the rules of the game, then WORK THEM to your advantage!


  1. I enjoyed your workshop last weekend and found the answers to several questions that had been plaguing me. Thanks

    1. You're welcome. That's why you can ask questions here anytime. Even if they are not related to the current post.

      Your questions could be worthy of a dedicated post because if you have the question, others will too.

  2. Some years back I was delighted to find my books at a lovely little bookstore in Seaside, OR ("Beach Books"), and was such a newbie author that it took my friend who was with me to "out" me to the owner. She kindly invited me to sign the books, and had her own "Autographed copy" stickers. I've learned a bit more since then, but what good tricks you've taught me today: to have my own stickers available (this would probably help sell the idea of my signing them) and to slip in a bookmark with my website on it. Brilliant! Thanks, I'll be back for more!