Lesson no. 1: Be nice to booksellers1
If you’re an author or wannabe author never do the following:
- have a bookseller check on the availability and price of a book and then when they offer to order it for you tell them, “No thanks, I’ll get it on Amazon—it’s cheaper.”
- Do not expect your local book shop to order in your book in huge quantities sight unseen.
- When you’re doing an event at a bookshop, no matter how famous you are, no matter how long you’ve been on the road spruiking your books, do not treat the booksellers as if they are your servants.
Think about it: many independent booksellers are struggling to survive in a market dominated by the big chains and online booksellers. The words “Amazon” and “Barnes & Noble” frequently make them sad. You can just say, “No, no need to order that book. Thanks so much for finding the info for me. I really appreciate it.”
Go in, talk to the buyer, the manger, or the owner—or all three. Give them a copy of your book. Tell them you are a local author, extoll the virtues of your book. Then they either will or won’t order it. If they do, offer to sign copies for them, give them the tschotkes you’ve had made—bookmarks, postcards, whatever—to promote said book. Buy one of their books. Buy two. Show you support them as much as they support you. Besides, many bookshops give authors a discount.
Do I really need to explain this one? And, yes, I have seen it happen. More than once.
If you haven’t already here’s something you should do: make friends with your local booksellers. First up, like librarians they’re usually fabulous. They like books; we writers like books. Together we can all talk and argue about books. Fun!
I have many friends and acquaintances in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, New York City and San Francisco who are booksellers. The Australian ones were friends of mine long before I started publishing books. We became friends because I’ve been buying books from them since before I was a teenager. I’m a book addict. I haunt bookshops and libraries. Booksellers and librarians are my kind of people. (Archivists, too, though they can be kind of weird. In a good way!)
Since I published my first book a really cool and unexpected thing has happened: those booksellers got behind it, plugged it big time, and sold many more copies than you’d expect for such a book. And they’ve got behind Magic or Madness in an even bigger way. They’ve been amazing. The handselling of my book that’s gone on at bookshops like Books of Wonder, Galaxy, Gleebooks and Pulp Fiction (Ron, when are you getting a website?)—well—I blush! I totally blush.
So there you have it: booksellers are your friends. Do not cross them! They will remember.
- I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to any booksellers or librarians I have ever offended. I was young and knew not what I did. And if it was more recent, well, then, um, that book that I ranted about and called the worse book ever, after you’d just told me you loved it so much you had to read it twice in a row? That book? Turns out it is a work of genius. Ooops! Sorry, Stephanie . . . [↩]