If you’ve been following this blog for a few years, hopefully you’re familiar with Perpetual WIPs, a series I ran for a while with different editions that asked a bunch of industry folk a bunch of questions and posted the answers anonymously. This newest edition is a slightly altered take in two ways: 1) it’s not anonymous, and 2) instead of posting everything in groups, it’s gonna be one interview at a time. The better to soak up the valuable knowledge!
Because here is a thing I’ve noticed as an author: how to deal with booksellers and indies is something many of us are still clueless about even after years of publishing, especially if you are…shall we say…not your publicity department’s top priority. And so, I got a bunch of fabulous booksellers to help clear up the answers to the most frequently asked questions I see on the topics of their jobs and how best to work with them as authors.
If you missed the earlier posts, check ’em out here! To see a new perspective, read on and get to know Rachel Strolle of Anderson’s Bookshop, who happens to be, without exaggeration, one of the best YA supporters in the known universe.
What kind of opportunities does your bookstore offer for discovery of new authors? (e.g. Events, “blind date,” carrying swag, etc.)
Blind Date with a Book is a great way! Plus, shelf talkers for books helps draw the eye, so I try to write out as many as possible.
Preorder campaigns – what helps them actually work?
If an author is going on tour and has a preorder campaign, let the store know. ESPECIALLY if you know who the YA booksellers at the store. This can help with handselling the book before its on the shelf (oh did you know that if you order this book for our event, you can also get [insert gift here])
What tips do you have for authors who want to hold a launch party at bookstores?
If you’re doing it in an area where you have friends and family TELL THEM (and if you were already bringing all your cousins and your weird uncle, if the store has a policy about needing to buy the book from their store PLEASE LET YOUR WEIRD UNCLE KNOW). Launches are super fun!
How do/should people go about setting up panels/events at your store? Does someone at the publisher need to do it or can authors arrange them themselves? And what makes an exceptionally good event?
Most often someone at the publisher goes through with our publicity department, but sometimes an author is like “hey i’m gonna be around [date] can we do something” and then they still go through our publicity department.
A good event for me is an engaged audience (no matter what the size). DO NOT JUST SIT DOWN AND ASK IF THERE ARE QUESTIONS. At least introduce yourself and then you can always do a “is there anything y’all want to talk about?” If there is one teen who is remarkably excited to be there, it’s a win. Also a good sign is when a parent looks like they’re mad at the line taking a while but then they see how excited their teen is and they soften.
Someone walks into the store and says, “I feel like I’ve read all the bestselling [insert your favorite genre] books but not much else; what would you recommend?” Once you’re able to breathe again, what recs do you throw at them?
I LIKE LOTS OF GENRES OK
Other world Fantasy–The Reader by Traci Chee, either of Roshani Chokshi’s books, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Our world Fantasy–The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Historical Fantasy–The Falconer by Elizabeth May, The Diviners by Libba Bray, Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Mystery/Thriller–anything by Stephanie Kuehn, Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig, Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Contemp–You Don’t Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow, Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, all Jason Reynolds’ books, Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Historical–You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins, Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, The Agency series by Y S Lee
Retelling—Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas
Sci Fi–Proxy by Alex London, Want by Cindy Pon, Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller, Zodiac by Romina Russell
Grab bag–Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, Timekeeper by Tara Sim (the looks I get when pitching this one are the greatest things ever)
What does your typical day look like?
Usually reading. If I’m at the store usually it’s helping customers, checking on the blind date with a book display, petting all dogs that walk in (with human’s permission), and making sure the two parts of our YA section have the right books. (We separate the “12&Up” from the “14&up”)
If an author in your area (or at a conference) had fifteen minutes with you, what should they be asking you?
“Can I see pictures of your dog?”
But also a good bet is if they know I’ve read their book and don’t quite know how to quick pitch it, I can help with that!
But also dog pics.
Authors walking into your store and offering to sign stock: excellent or awful, and why?
If we’ve got it, great! A signature in a book can definitely help sell it!
What are some best practices for working with bookstores that authors and/or publicists might not think of?
The YA booksellers on the sales floor and the YA buyer might not be the same person. And sometimes the bookseller on the floor can have sway over things that might not get ordered otherwise, so make sure you talk to both!
Turnover on the shelves: what’s your policy? How long before a new release is given the boot, and what can keep books longer than the standard shelf life?
It can vary depending on how full the section is or if we are doing a pull for a certain publisher. If a staff member has a staff rec on something and swears they’ll handsell it, usually it stays. Or if the author is coming soon!
What have you noticed in terms of trends that sell, both regarding content and cover design?
I’ve been noticing a lot of varied stuff recently, which is GREAT. I definitely try to pick things that won’t necessarily sell on their own. The great thing about handselling is, it’s just telling the truth about a book to a person who may never have heard it before.
What store do you work at and why is it awesome?
Anderson’s Bookshop and it’s awesome because I’m there
HAHAHAHAHAH no I’m kidding. There’s always lots of great events and we have a killer YA section. And by that I mean the section is large, not that it’s only YA books about murder.
Rachel Strolle is a bookseller, teen librarian, and in a constant state of book recommending. She has a lot of books and a very cute puppy, and thrives when belting out show tunes alone in her car.