Sunday, November 25, 2007

Getting stocked in book stores lesson no. 2

Continuing on from yesterday - how should one approach book shops when do you get round to ringing them and is it really worth the time and effort that entails? I mean, no one likes to receive unsolicited sales calls at the best of times do they? In this situation the calls are not exactly unsolicited, as when ones works in or manages a book store talking to authors who want you to stock their books goes with the territory, that is why Waterstones have people like independent author advisor Justin Hutchinson in the first place - to help and advise independent and self published authors and put them on the right track.

Actually I have found it to be THE most worthwhile piece of marketing I have ever undertaken. It does take a certain amount of courage to do this for sure, and you have to know your market and your product, but you have already done that right - or you wouldn't have self published in the first place would you? I sincerely hope you did your research anyway, as it not, I fear you will be in for one hell of a shock otherwise ....

The way that I did it then was to decide firstly on how many calls to make each day. You don't want to rush this and call everyone at once, as for one thing you rapidly tire of doing this, and for another if you say it enough times it does start to sound rehearsed. You want your pitch to sound as natural as possible if you are to be in with a chance.

I try then to make between 10 and 12 calls a day, and no more than that. You will need of course though some means of recording what has been said and who needs to be call next. The spreadsheet of Waterstones details that Justin sends you is read only so you will need to copy this into a format that can be edited. I don't have excel on my machine, so I use Works instead, which is a somewhat simpler version to use. I have added several columns entitled contact name, date and what was said, and then follow up columns with dates as well. Sometimes you may need to contact a store several times after all before you get a result.

In my case then I started with the local stores within say an hour of home and then started to work down the list country wide from A to Z. The whole process I estimate will take around 4-5 months to complete and will in all honesty be ongoing since you continually have to make follow up calls as well to build up a relationship with your stockists.

Who you need to speak to will depend on the size of the store you are calling, and unfortunately it is difficult for you to know this until they pick up the phone and tell you! The best approach then is simply to explain who are and ask who the right person to speak to is. I say it something like this 'good morning/afternoon, my name is June Austin and I am the author of a mind, body and spirit book entitled Genesis of Man, I was wondering who the right person would be to speak to about getting it stocked in your branch'.

The book seller will then do one of several things - put you through to the right person, tell you there are not in or ask you send them some information. Sometimes they will also try and tell you that you have to go through Head Office. If they do this, then politely explain to them that you have already spoken to their independent author advisor who said that you are free to contact any store that you choose direct.

When you do get to speak to someone make sure that you know exactly what you need to say and make sure you have the ISBN close by as well, as they are bound to want to know this so that they can look it up. If you are very lucky and say the right things then they may agree to order copies then and there, but they are more likely to request further information. Whether you choose to send this by fax, email or letter is up to you, but email is by far the cheapest of course. If you do send emails then make sure they are not overloaded with attachments as they will not get through the system. I send them a standard email with a copy of my information sheet and a link to the book trade page on my own website which contains reviews, sample chapter etc should they wish some more information.

Make a note then of who you spoke to and sent the information to and call them in a weeks time to make sure if was received and see what their interest was. I use my Works spreadsheet in conjunction with Works calendar to record this information. It is a useful tool since if it happens for example to be the persons day off when you call, then you simply make a note to call them on the next available day, which you will see when you open the calendar on that day.

One tip I will also pass on is that if you speak to a manager or book seller and they say that they will mention the book to the section manager of your genre (children's or whatever) see if you can get that persons name as well. Even if you can't, then when you call to follow up, do not ask for the store manager but the section manager direct. Store Managers are busy people and nine times out of ten when they tell you they are going to do something they don't. because they forget or get distracted. Talk then to the section manager direct, who makes the final decision to buy and save yourself a lot of time.

When I do get orders I also always send out a confirmation email thanking the store for their custom and providing a link to my website should they wish to use reviews etc for promotional purposes. Like I said earlier, these stores do gt busy, and sometimes they may tell you they are going to order copies and then forget, so sending these emails serves to remind them.

Here then ends lesson number two in how to get stocked in the chain stores.

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