When my first book, Cowgirl Dreams, was published, I was shocked and surprised to learn that you don’t necessarily sell books in bookstores. That just doesn’t seem logical, does it?
Well, it does, if you think about it. Bookstores shelve thousands of books. Customers have their favorite well-known authors and usually they go in specifically to purchase that particular author. Some may browse and run across your book and be intrigued enough to buy it, but unless your name is John Grisham or Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts, don’t count on it.
Even when I put on a reading and PowerPoint presentation one time at a local independent bookstore, I had an audience of about twenty people, but I sold two only books.
Seems daunting, doesn’t it? Where do you sell books, if not in bookstores?
Since my novels are based on my grandmother who rode bucking stock in rodeos, I look for any store or event where people might be interested in rodeo, horses, ranch life, and cowgirls. My very first signing was at a local Farmers Co-op store, where they sell feed, farm supplies, and some gift items. It was around Christmastime, they featured a “customer appreciation day,” and Santa was there. I sold about 20 books in three or four hours.
Other venues I’ve tried:
- I’ve set up a table outside a western wear store.
- I’ve attended an event for National Cowboy Day at another farm supply store.
- Rodeos and horse shows.
- I’ve given talks to local organizations—libraries, museums, service groups such as Soroptimists or Rotary. These service-type organizations are always looking for speakers.
- Farmers markets. Many will allow crafts and other items besides fruits and veggies.
- Arts and crafts fairs around the holidays are good for selling books.
- Since I teach classes on writing, I give workshops.
- I was invited to participate in a “Storytelling Roundup” event in Cut Bank, Montana, where my grandparents lived, and gave workshops in schools.
- When my non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! comes out in September, I have a presentation and launch party scheduled at a local western history museum.
What is your book about? What are some sub-themes? If you have a mystery but your main character raises show dogs, look for stores and venues that cater to dog people. Is your character in your thriller a gourmet cook? See if you can set up a signing at a kitchen store. Where is the setting of your book? If possible, go to that town. Find organizations or places that might be interested in subject matter in your book. Is there a specific landmark mentioned, a well-known bar or restaurant, a university, Alcoholics Anonymous or the Society for Retired Train Conductors?
To paraphrase the old cliché, “think outside the bookstore.” And have fun!
|A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.|