Friday, April 19, 2013

POP - Working with Independent Book Sellers - Debbie Burke, Owner - Jan's Paperbacks

Morgan here with our very first formal interview!  Recently I sat down with Debbie Burke, owner of Jan’s Paperbacks and the 2012 Romantic Times Bookseller of the Year.  Jan's Paperbacks' Mission Statement is: To work with our community and customers to buy and trade books to reduce costs while maintaining a broad selection of reading materials. Support local authors and publishers and advocate for locally owned businesses and their impact on the community.

Many, many thanks to Debbie for her time and continued support of local authors and the romance writing community.
Debbie Burke in her 2012 RT Bookseller of the Year Tiara.
Work it Debbie!
Morgan (M): When coordinating a book signing, what are your expectations from the author?
Debbie Burke (DB):  First, the author should have a website.  On that website, they need to post that the book is ready for sale AND that it is available for sale at Jan’s Paperbacks.  They also need to put the word out about the book signing.  They should post it on Facebook, Twitter, send out emails, call their friends and family, post flyers in places they do business - do whatever they can to get people to come to the signing.  They can’t assume that the bookseller is going to do all of the promotional and marketing work for them.  They need to work their network.
M: How do you work with self-published authors?
DB: Typically, I sell self-published books on consignment.  We have a local author and self-published shelf that displays our self-published books.  As a professional courtesy, a self-published author should call ahead of time and make an appointment to meet with me to discuss their book.   I require that they give us a free copy to review.  {The reviews are on display as hang tags on the bookshelf.}  If we like it, we say so, if we don’t like it we state why.  There was an author who didn’t like our review.  Authors need to understand that my customers have come to rely on my recommendations and they trust what I say.  I have to be honest in my reviews.  I have customers that make purchases based purely on my recommendations and they are repeat customers. 
Kobo In-Store Display
M: How do you work with e-published authors?
DB: I sell Kobo e-readers and e-books through Kobo.  I have a display of e-books in the store.  They are cards with QR Codes so you can scan right now or take it home to remind yourself.  Or you can go to our website which will take you to the Kobo store via our site where they have over three million titles available.
M: How would you work with an e-published author to sponsor an event in your store?
E-book Display
DB: Now that’s a tough one.  E-book readers can come to an event and buy the book via a different seller.  If I am spending the money on an event I obviously need to make money and that isn’t going to happen if they are buying from another source, possibly using my wi-fi to do it.
M: During the book signing, what are some of the things an author can do to make the event a success?
DB: In store posters and signs.  If you have a high-resolution file of your cover, go to Costco.  They can make you a poster for $6.99 {USD}.  Then you can glue it to some foam core from a craft store to make your own sturdy, in-store signs.  Prizes and treats are a good thing, too.  Especially the homemade variety.  One of our last signings one of the authors brought the biggest pile of Snickerdoodles I have ever seen.  There were none left over.
M: What are some of the things you do to promote your store and upcoming events?
DB: On our website, we post our coming events.  We also have a Facebook page and Twitter account.  We also have a section on the bulletin board at the front of the store for upcoming events.  We produce press releases and have received great coverage in the Beaverton Valley Times.  Authors should know that on a slow news day, a well written press release pays off.  Free press!
M: It was great to see you win 2012 Bookseller of the Year at the 2012 Romantic Times Conference.  How has attending this conference helped you, as a bookseller?
RT Magazine at the checkout stand
next to author promo pieces.
DB: I started reading RT Magazine to know what’s coming!  The reviews are great too but it keeps me a month ahead.   It’s the only magazine I sell in the store.  Kate Ryan is the Book Store Liaison at RT.  She is great at designing programs for the Booksellers Track at RT’s conference.  I have met folks from the major publishing houses and spoken with them directly about how they can better help booksellers.  RT has helped me build a network of fellow booksellers and taught me a lot about how to better run my business.  Going to RT and any other conference is a way of networking and this works for Authors too.  The more people you know the more people to repost and reTweet what you are doing.  Social media works and everyone should be using it to further their business whether you are selling books or writing the books.
M: Any final thoughts on how authors can better work with you and other booksellers?
DB: Yes, I can’t stress how important it is for authors to work their networks, especially the self-published authors.  Tenacity is key with regards to marketing and promotions.  Use my newsletter – authors can submit articles and announcements to me for my newsletter.  Pictures are great, too.  And of course, link to Jan’s Paperbacks on their websites.
Next week, my interview with Debbie continues.  She will reflect on her business and tell us how she is using POP marketing as part of her recent store remodeling.

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