Tuesday, April 02, 2013

7 Things a Writer Should Do at The Bookstore

One of my favorite indie bookstores, Kramerbooks.
B is for Bookstore, or specifically, 7 Things a Writer Should Do At The Bookstore.

If you're a writer serious about publication, whether trade or self-publishing, there is no better place for you to spend a good amount of time than your bookstore. I spend a ton of time in mine—I work there! And all those hours gives me some insight into what kinds of things have been insanely helpful in my own understanding of publishing and bookselling more generally.

  1. Go beyond the bestsellers. Most people wander into a bookstore and mostly browse the bestellers or the books that are on co-op (the endcaps and tables—those are mostly paid promotional spots that are figured into a book's marketing budget). If you'd like to really get a broad view of what's being published, you have to dig a little deeper. One easy place to look is in a new release area for a given section. These are often constantly being updated with new titles as they come out, and frequent visits will open your eyes to books you might not hear about otherwise.  
  2. Look at covers. This is more helpful for the self-publishing authors out there, but sometimes it can be helpful for trade published authors as well, if for no other reason than to feel comfort about the cover designed for their title. Booksellers can often tell from a cover what genre a book is and what demographic it's geared for, and readers, can, too. It's important to have a sense of what covers for books like yours look like.  
  3. Check out the spine-out books. Yes, faced-out books and books on a promo rack, endcap, or table are eye-catching. But a lot of more interesting information about the publishing industry is to be seen in the spine-out titles. How many copies of each book are there? Are the books like yours mostly bought in onesies and twosies, or do they have huge stacks? Is the section dominated by a few authors? This information can be valuable as you think about what your goals are on your publication journey. (And again, you'll probably find some neat titles you weren't aware of!)
  4. Figure out your genre. Some authors have trouble categorizing their books, or insist their books defy categorization (almost always not true). The advantage of being in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore is that you can physically walk through the different genres. Where are the books like yours shelved? What is the sign on top of their shelf? This will at least give you a broad place to start.
  5. Ask about sales. Technically, most booksellers aren't supposed to talk about sales. But almost all of us do. Exact numbers are often taboo, but you'll get information about what titles are flying out the door versus ones that sell more slowly. It's never a good idea to try to catch a trend in publishing—you'll be a couple years behind the curve, more than likely, but again, it can help with your own goal-setting.
  6. Write. Bookstores are great places to huddle up with your laptop and just soak in the inspiration. I think it leeches out of the books. So find a good place to plug in and do so. But don't forget to...
  7. Buy books! I'm of the firm belief that no matter how much ebooks explode, the continued existence of bricks-and-mortar bookstores is important for authors. Many online book sales are still originating in bricks-and-mortar stores. So while you're there, don't forget to support the store by buying a new title or two. Even better if it's a local independent bookstore.

Writing can be a solitary endeavor. So every now and again, hit up your bookstore, for the social aspect and the knowledge both. And have fun!

This month I'm participating in the A-Z blog challenge. My theme is "writer hacks," or 26 shortcuts you can do as a writer to get the most out of writing and the journey toward and through publication. Find out more about it at a-to-zchallenge.com, and hop around to read the other cool blogs that are part of the challenge!


  1. These are excellent tips! Thanks for sharing some of the bookseller perspective on writing and the publishing process, in this post and others. :) I'd love to hear your thoughts some time on how authors should reach out to booksellers to promote their books. What is helpful for bookstores? What is annoying? Etc.

  2. Love your header! Great tips. I'm amazed at how many new writers I meet that don't know their genre.
    Jenn @Scribbles From Jenn

  3. WOw. Lots of great advice. Sometimes used book stores can give a different angle just because they are arranged differently.
    Tattered Past, A to Z 820

    1. Yes indeed! I forgot to mention that (myopic first-run bookstore employee!) That's great advice.

  4. Just skipping around A2Z blogs. Other advice I have been given is a) always ask if they have copies of your book in if they want you to sign them - signed copies will apparently sell more quickly, and b) take your own books out of the rack and place them with the front cover facing out rather than the spine. It can be a mean old world out there! Enjoying your posts!

  5. I miss the accessibility of bookstores since Borders shut down. Thankfully, I have a wonderful indie fairly nearby, but it's a deliberate trip to get to that side of town. Still, I love to browse. I'm usually looking for a list of specifics, but I like seeing what's out there.

    Hope you're having fun with the A to Z Challenge! Here's mine for today: A Girl and her Diary

  6. I have to travel a bit to get to a bookstore but I do LOVE spending my time there.
    Denise at Organization and Inspiration for Fellow Writers, participant of A to Z Blogging Challenge

  7. Great tips! I could get lost in a bookstore. And I definitely like to go beyond bestsellers. I love to just pick up a book, read the back, and if it catches my interest, it's mine. I've never been one to really pay too much attention to what's hot. Until of course, I started focusing on becoming a writer (even then, although it's important, it's never a deciding factor when it comes to choosing a book).

    Have fun with the a-z challenge. :)

  8. Your post reminds me that I really don't spend enough time in my local bookstore. Just to support it so it stays open for one thing! But it could become a really great pastime. Good post!


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