Why not approach your local independent bookshop to see if they could host a Q&A session on how authors and booksellers can work together? This session gives your local group the opportunity to find out more about the book trade and how authors can reach more readers by working with your local bookshop.
Here is a suggested outline for the event with questions and topic areas for inspiration. Tailor the questions to your group’s interests and method of publishing. The event can be run in person at the bookshop or online via Zoom.
Setting up the event
- Find your local bookshop through the Booksellers Association bookshop search or by asking local group members for recommendations
- Approach the bookshop and arrange a time and date for the event
- Decide on the format – ‘in conversation’ style chaired by a group member and asking the bookseller questions. A short introduction from the bookseller before a general Q&A also works well
- Encourage attendees to make purchases from the bookshop
- After the event, you can share this guide from the Booksellers Association: Want to get your book stocked in a high street bookshop?
Suggested topic areas and questions
Ask the audience for a show of hands to guide the questions you ask during the event
First of all, to get a steer on the topics we’ll cover, how many of you are traditionally published? Self-published? A mix of the two? Encourage them to raise their hand or post in the chat.
Factors involved in choosing whether to stock a book
Given that independent bookshops and booksellers are unique, what makes you stock a book? What factors do you consider? For example: local market, your personal tastes, the topic of the book, the author’s track record, the marketing around the book, formatting and prices, design etc.
Could you explain your typical process for acquiring stock? Do you rely on reviews? Publishers’ catalogues?
How important is the book jacket in your decisions about what to stock?
How important is time of year to whether you take a book?
Do you respond to anniversaries, news events, current affairs with relevant stock? Is that something authors can feed into if they have a relevant book, with regard to the shop taking stock and/or hosting events?
Would you stock a book just for a signing and reading etc?
How realistic is it that a local author will be able to influence their local bookseller?
Getting in touch and the approach
How do you want authors to contact you? Do you agree to appointments? And what does not go down well? Any absolute no-nos?
Ok, so getting down to the nuts and bolts of an approach, what information do you need the author to provide? Do you want to read a quick synopsis of the book? The author’s biography?
Once you’ve received an email, what do usually ask of an author/publisher?
Pricing and terms
In terms of discounts, what are the types of discounts you usually agree with a) an indie author b) small publisher and c) large publisher? Who would usually pay for carriage?
On what terms do you usually order books?
How long do you usually stock books for? Is the timeframe getting shorter?
What happens to unsold stock?
Advice for self-published authors
If an author is self-publishing, what tips do you have about the format of their book?
Do you have any tips on pricing?
After deciding to stock a book
On the flip side, what can authors expect from a bookshop once they have agreed to take their book?
So how would a typical author event work for you? And how often do you run ticketed events?
Do you pay for bookshop author events? What about expenses?
How do you work with authors who are having events nearby? How would an author get you to provide stock, or sell books at the event?
Do author events make a difference to sales? Do you only hold events with big name authors?
Would you consider events with groups of authors talking on a particular topic?
Would you advise authors to offer events to bookshops? Would an author offering an event make you more likely to stock the book than if they didn’t offer?
Window displays – what makes you pick that one book you’re keen to promote or give the full blast of a window-display? How do you choose window display books? Do publishers pay for these? If so, how does that work? And how far ahead do you plan them? What materials would you like from publishers?
Promotional displays – what works best in the shop? Where do they go, do publishers pay, what do they supply?
Shelving decisions – how do you decide what goes on the shelf, outwards, on tables, by the tills? By genre, alphabetical, by mood; how and why do you group books?
Stock control – what information are you happy to share with visiting authors? As a bookseller you often know more about an author’s book stats through Nielsen than the author.
General – supporting your local bookshop
How can bookshops compete with Amazon for a decent share of the market?
What do you feel are the biggest challenges for booksellers? How will writers be affected?
What can authors do to support their physical bookshops?
And finally… if there was only one piece of advice you could give an author, what would be the one most important take-away message you’d give to an author to get their books stocked in a bookshop?