Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Are Brick and Mortar Bookstores All They're Cracked Up to Be?

One major goal every author seems to have is getting their books into bookstores. It seems like the holy grail of book sales, but are brick and mortar bookstores all they’re cracked up to be? Will readers walk into bookstores in droves and pull our books from the shelves? If we finally manage to get bookstores to stock our books, will it translate into sales?

My family loves going to the bookstore. My kids could spend hours browsing and looking through their favorite series. As a writer, I longed to one day see my books on those shelves. Well, now they’re there. I can go visit my book baby at a number of local bookstores. Dream come true, right?

Maybe not.

Notice where people tend to shop in those bookstores. They peruse bestseller tables and end caps that feature popular titles, but they tend not to sift through the hundreds of books, spine out, littering the shelves. If you’re a mid-list author, with a small publisher, or self-published, you will likely never end up on the bestseller table because real estate on tables and end caps is purchased. Publishers pay bookstores for their titles to appear in these coveted spots. Unless you can ante up, your book will be relegated to the shelves of obscurity.

So, unless someone walks in the door in search of your book, they likely won’t buy it, which also means your time on those shelves is limited. No sales, means no new orders and, in fact, can mean the return of unsold merchandise.

All my bookstore sales have resulted from signings, launches, or people walking into the store asking for my title as a result of my or my publisher’s marketing efforts. I’ve seen sales spikes after radio interviews and newspaper interviews. My bookstore sales as a result of Enslavement sitting on a shelf and just happening to get noticed have been next to zero.

I have to reach people before they set foot in the bookstore.

So, while I like seeing my book inside bookstores, its presence is not a goal in and of itself. My goal is the sale of that book, so that retailers want to continue to carry it. My focus has shifted from getting my book into stores, to introducing it to readers because if they want it, they’ll find it.

What are your thoughts on brick and mortar bookstores?

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Melinda Friesen writes short stories and novels for teens.


Leandra Wallace said...

I'd love to see my book at B&N or my local indie, Viewpoint Books, one day, but I agree, they probably wouldn't sell like gangbusters. I have seen both of these stores have stickers on books saying they've been signed by local authors. That always gets my attention.

Andrea Rand said...

I agree! I'm a somewhat new indie author and after researching how bookstores work with the percentage that they take and dealing with returns, getting my book into stores has not been as big of a focus as increasing my visibility on-line. Once I have a bit more of a following I will probably pursue the bookstores more, for yes, that placement in Barnes & Noble would ultimately be pretty cool! :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Whether I ever see one of my books on the shelf of a brick & mortar bookstore, I love them. I love spending time in them. I even buy books in them (making some author happy.) I feel the same way about libraries -- and even buy from the 25-cent sales paperback & magazine table sometimes. I hope they continue to exist forever. They offer me pleasures that the digital world can't -- event though I buy digital books, too. Let's face it, I'm just a book junkie!