by Robin Agnew
As co-founder (with my husband) of Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookstore, I know this is a crazy, difficult business. But writers? You are doing something you love, and if you keep whittling away at it it’s well worth the effort. Booksellers, of course, are your main connection to readers—we can hand-sell your books, suggest your titles, handle placement (sometimes! Co-op is a topic for another day), and recommend our favorite writers.
We’ve been in this business for years—26 years!—and we wouldn’t have persisted unless we loved authors.
Authors ask what makes us so professional and easy to deal with.
Savvy authors know how they can help make this crazy difficult business work for all of us.
What’s the best way to connect with bookstores? Here’s some advice.
Send us stuff
Send advance copies or bookmarks or postcards. We are inundated with these things, but they can still make you stand out. Sorry to recommend something that is almost like winning the lottery (we probably ignore 85–90% of this stuff) but the ones we latch on to do make an impact.
Have an in-store book signing
That’s a great way for you to meet and connect with readers.
Who should do the asking? The initial (and polite) email query might come from you or from your publicist.
If the request comes from your publisher you are probably all set and you don’t need to read this. Booksellers want to please publishers and keep getting authors through the door, so we almost always say yes to a publisher’s request.
If no response comes quickly, it’s fine to check in. I make every effort to respond promptly to inquiries as I know authors are trying to make a plan. If it’s been more than a week or two, go ahead and follow up.
Maybe we say no. There are a host of reasons why we might: time of year, the amount of traffic we think your event will generate, any local or family ties who might show up, whether or not we believe in or like the book.
It’s also rare we schedule a signing with a self-published author. There are exceptions, usually because the author is local.
Don’t take the rejection personally. These decisions have nothing to do with you as a human being.
Be polite. We might change our minds with a later book.
What if we say yes? What do you do next? How do you handle it? Who’s in charge? More on that in my next article.
There’s lots to understand about beginning your relationship with bookstores. If you have questions or observations, let’s talk about it on Facebook.
In the meantime, get writing. We can’t wait for your next book.
Robin Agnew and her husband Jamie founded Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 26 years ago. They will complete their bookselling journey this August.
Robin spent 14 years as a board member and president of the Kerrytown BookFest, an Ann Arbor book festival that now draws up to 4,000 readers every September.
She is planning a blog featuring women mystery writers after closing the store, and works part time in a church office, where she finds not being in charge and being around people with no connection to the book business strangely calming.