4th October, 2022
6 min read
Promoting your book to bookshops
Author J. D. Pullan published her novel I'm Going to Find You with Troubador and achieved considerable success in getting bookshops in the West Country, where it is set, to stock and sell copies of it. Here she explains how she achieved this.
Publishing my book was a huge decision. Although I enjoyed every single second when writing it – and editing and rewriting it many, many times over – my intention had only ever been to run off a few copies with the local printer for friends and family. However I knew, if it were to be published, I would have to give it my best shot. I also knew it would mean an investment of time and energy. Now, nine months since publication, I can honestly say it has been an amazing experience and I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone else who is thinking about it to just do it!
My publishing experience with Troubador has been brilliant. I loved being fully involved in the process from start to finish so I was extremely flattered to be asked to write this article. Two key benefits of self-publishing are being in control and also having a clear timeline. This means you can plan all the activities you, as the author, can undertake to derive maximum benefit from everything Troubador does on your behalf both before and after the publication date. However, to me there was little point in getting my book published for it to languish on the warehouse shelves.
The biggest challenge any author has is how to let potential readers – beyond your immediate circle of family and friends – know your book even exists. You therefore have to liaise with booksellers then, if they are happy to stock one or two, it is equally important for you to support them in return by letting potential readers know where to find it. It is hugely advantageous that Troubador ensure your book is available through Gardners as this in turn enables bookshops to easily order your book. BUT booksellers have 1000s of titles to choose from every month so won’t even know your book exists unless you tell them.
They also have limited shelf space so you need to let them know why their customers may enjoy it too - hence the need to get as many good ratings as possible! Do your research – find out which bookshops may have a particular interest in your novel or genre and don’t waste time contacting those who won’t be interested. Mine is set in the West Country - where I also grew up – so this is where I focused at the start. It worked well as there was a personal ‘connection’. Initially I visited a few bookshops local to where I live with a sample copy. With hindsight this wasn’t the best approach, it is preferable to call or email first so they at least know a little about your book, plus you can also gauge whether they are interested or not. I have found it best to telephone first then follow up immediately with a summary email which includes all relevant details. Always check the bookshop website first as quite often they will advise how they want authors to contact them and what information they need.
Do not use a generic email, even if you have a ‘template’ make sure it is personalised for each bookseller and sincere. Telephoning bookshops can be extremely daunting, so it may help to have notes in front of you to act as an aide-memoire with all the areas you want to cover e.g. genre, a thirty second sales pitch, comparable authors, the type of customer it may appeal to and how you will promote it for them. They have a business to run and it’s only worth them stocking your book if it is likely to sell. This all sounds tough I know, however, when you do get a positive response it is amazing!
I can clearly remember the first bookseller (Rob at Wadebridge Bookshop) who agreed - there and then on the call - to stock my book. I was so delighted I was literally lost for words, so do have something ready to say! Do keep going and persevere – most bookshops are extremely friendly and, although a few have been less so, it is still wonderful to receive an email from a bookshop who have ordered a copy or two. When this happens I always follow up with a thank you as they could easily have chosen a different title.
Waterstones may also stock your book – I was fortunate to have mine on the shelves in their stores in Barnstaple, Truro, Plymouth and Exeter due to the connection with the West Country. However, do not approach an individual branch as decisions are made by their central buying team. If you would like them to consider your book you need to complete an online form which can be found on their website menu as follows: Help / Publishers and Authors / Independent Publishers. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where there is a section titled “Submitting your book for consideration” and open the application form from there. Waterstones will review all submissions but, due to the large volumes they receive, are not able to confirm individual decisions so you need to check every so often - simply by searching for your book on their website - and keep your fingers crossed. Don’t hassle them but do try to build a rapport with the booksellers who stock your book. Pop in and say hello if you can – the more they know about your book the more they can tell their customers about it – but do let them know first if you are planning to visit. If you can’t visit in person follow up by phone or email a few weeks later to see how things are going.
In May my husband Andy and I had a fantastic time completing the North Coast 500 road trip around Scotland and prior to going I called Ullapool Bookshop. My book was already stocked in The Edge of the World Book Shop in Penzance (I just love that name) so a friend suggested if it were to be stocked in Scotland too that would be pretty impressive, literally from one end of the country to the other! John O’Groats have a bookshop, but mainly sell walking guides and maps, so Ullapool was probably the next most northerly bookshop in the UK, excluding Shetland. I phoned a few weeks beforehand and Katharine the bookseller was delighted to stock some; when we visited I signed a few copies and it appeared on their best-selling front table next to Richard Osman and other famous authors for a few weeks (see photo below). It is times like this that make it worth all the hard work… plus it’s a great opportunity for photos on social media – more to come on that!
Finally, as with everything, I found it helped me to set a target. Mine was originally to get my novel stocked in ten bookshops, but it was so enjoyable chatting to booksellers that once I achieved this I just kept going. I am now at approximately forty and although I know they won’t stock it for ever it has been great fun.
I'm Going to Find You (J.D.Pullan) was published by Troubador in November 2021. I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and feedback so please do check out my website if you have time, or sign up to receive my newsletters. Alternatively, you can follow me on Facebook or Instagram. Facebook / Instagram: j.d.pullan.author and websites
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