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Messing With The Bookstores

Please, please, please refrain from rearranging books, creating faceouts, create unauthorized displays, "reverse theft" (!?!), pamphleteering, "misplacing" competive books, etc. in other people's bookstores. If you own a bookstore, great, do what you like. But someone else's bookstore is *not your store.* The fastest way to create ill will among booksellers -- those people in the best position to sell your book -- is to undermine their work. (Anyone who wants a detailed treatise on *why* you shouldn't do these things, let me know and I'll provide one.)

In my experience, the authors who use these tactics are trying to push a book that is less than stellar.

If you as an author or publisher want to create goodwill with a bookstore, here are some postive, out-in-the-open things you can do.

1. Shop there. Get to know the staff. Find out who shelves/maintains the section into which your book fits, and introduce yourself. Be friendly, be patient, and don't be surprised if they don't have a lot of time to spend with you, especially on a Saturday afternoon. (I have yet to see a bookstore that is overstaffed.) If you're a customer I recognize and you tell me you have a book coming out, I'm going to be more receptive to your message than one from a stranger.

2. Understand that (usually) the manager is not the special orders person is not the inventory person is not the special events person. Ask for the right person to speak with for what you want to accomplish. It's usually *not* the manager.

3. Follow the channels. Many chain bookstores don't do their own ordering anymore, even for local-interest titles. If you ask and someone tells you to talk to someone at headquarters, follow their advice. If your book is carried but you think it is miscategorized, ask what you need to do to have it recategorized rather than just reshelving it yourself.

4. Be easy to work with.

5. Talk to the special events person about setting up a signing or a reading or another event. Use your own connections to help publicize the event. Show up on time and be prepared.

6. Understand that bookstores, like libraries, have limited shelf space and just can't carry everything. Do your part to reduce the possibility of your book being rejected. Make sure that your book is professionally produced and presented. Do your homework so you can explain why your "finding yourself" book is different/better/more exciting than the 200 other ones out there. But in the end, recognize that your particular book just might not be what the store is looking for.

Someone else mentioned having your family/friends/colleagues special order your book at the store. This is good advice. Repeated special orders will draw attention.

Lori A. Kozey -- (with two years as a full-time bookseller, and several as a part-timer)

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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