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Why won’t the book stores talk to me?


Recently I received an email from a gentleman who had his first book on the market. He was upset - he couldn’t figure out what he was doing wrong:

I composed what I thought was quite a good marketing email and set up a wholesale easy-ordering web page accepting purchase order, check or major credit cards through Paypal. All for naught.  I sent it to dozens of indie stores and got no takers.  Web stats indicated they never even visited the order page.  I phoned quite a few too, and they had very little interest in speaking to a (micro) publisher or author.  Do you think that’s a typical response, or might I be doing something wrong?

My response helped him see his plight from a very different viewpoint:

Put yourself in the place of the retailer. There are 500,000 new books this year to choose from. You have your accounts set-up with Ingram and maybe B&T. You can aggregate purchases onto a single order form, get one bill, have full return privileges, they keep track of everything for you – you have only one account (or maybe two) to keep track of and your buys and returns are all tracked perfectly.  Running a book store is difficult, but at least the ordering has been made easier with the advent of Ingram. The retailer no longer has to deal with thousands of vendors – if it is worthy, it will be available from a wholesaler at a minimum. It is a way of “weeding” things out too.

Then you get this piece of email from someone who you don’t know, don’t know anything about the author or the book – just one book that I’ve never heard of – and who is this publisher? – and I can’t just order it from Ingram or B&T?  DELETE….

Make sense?  It is a very tough business and no one wants to make life any more difficult than it needs to be.  Why would they disturb their business model to deal with you? What’s in it for them?  If you want to play their game, you have to use their tools – wholesalers, distributors, and mainstream promotion.  If you can’t or don’t want to do that, you are going to have to be happy with direct to consumer promotions – mainly through the internet, but others are possible.  This is what a marketing plan is all about – making those choices and having a business plan to back it up – how will you finance your choices and a million other decisions.

I feel badly for you because you are trying to do things right, but you are thinking in terms of your own self-interest, not the self-interest of the book retailer who is the "gatekeeper" to your success.


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4 Responses to “Why won’t the book stores talk to me?”

  1. Nancy Naigle says:

    Hi Carol,
    Any special advice for those of us that with small publishers that are POD but ARE available through Ingrams?

    My debut novel, SWEET TEA AND SECRETS, comes out in May. I don’t want to waste mailing $s if I’ll just end up in the trash. It’s a tough course to navigate.


  2. admin says:

    Hi Nancy -

    Perhaps this blog post is just what you are looking for: or maybe this one about review copies - I’m not quite sure what your question is specifically addressing.

  3. If you are a local author (though the book you’ve written is fiction and is not about your hometown), would indie bookstores be more likely to consider ordering from you individually like this? Or does that make any difference?


  4. admin says:

    Shannon - Yes, some local indie stores will take a few consignment copies from a local author even if it doesn’t have to do with your locale. But that is still a pretty tough way to sell books - over time maybe a dozen or so? You need to be able to reach out to all of your audience, whether local, regional or nationwide. It isn’t that difficult to mount a nationwide effort, but you must have some form of distribution prior to embarking on that effort.

    Thanks for commenting.

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"And I thought after 40 years of writing, I could write a sales letter... WRONG! Carol White's letter went beyond my imagination and into the sales stratosphere. Thanks, Carol! " -- AD Walker