Malik Sharrieff

Just a couple years after launching Write On Press, a fresh-faced aspiring indie-author approached me seeking help getting published. In our second consultation she told me that her dream was to get a book deal with a major publisher.

After she was certain that I had taken no offence, she asked if I could help her create a strategy to attract the attention of one of the traditional publishing companies.

Here’s the play-by-play of how we made it happen…

Step 1:

We reviewed the authors’ manuscript to get a better understanding of who her target reader was and where they might be found. We discovered that the content we were publishing was attractive to readers who frequented bookstores. Not that a bookstore was the only place this author’s readers could be found, but in this case it was the most readily accessible consumer source.

Step 2:

Write On Press published the manuscript and obtained production services through a Print On Demand (POD) platform.

Once we received the first shipment of 50 units of the trade paperback, the author and I targeted a local independently owned bookstore. We then role-played several potential interactions so that she would be ready to engage the store owner or manager and pitch her book.

Then we called the store and arranged a meeting between the store owner and the author.

Step 3:

At the meeting with the store owner, the author was personable and charming and briefly pitched her book. She kept the book description to about 90 seconds but spent an additional minute or two letting the store owner know that she didn’t want the store to buy her book. Instead, she wanted a consignment deal where the store would receive 40% of the sale price. To sweeten the deal, she offered to print and post her own Point of Sale (POS) materials.

After the store owner understood that he wouldn’t carry any risk or cost, it was easy to get 10 books placed in the bookstore.

Step 4:

We organized a quick email promotion to about 150 contacts in my author’s email list. These were just local family, friends, and associates that she felt would have at least some interest in her book being offered in a bookstore. We crafted a short message stating that the author was so excited that after having her new book stocked on the shelves at her local bookstore, there were only 10 copies left!

That message resulted in all copies being sold out by the end of the week. There’s a lot more to tell about crafting a message to potential readers inside your social circle, but I’ll have to cover that in another post.

Step 5:

At the end of the week, my author went to the bookstore to collect her 60% and restock. The bookstore owner asked her for 50 more copies! Of course, we sent out another email message and made a few social media posts saying thank you to all of the fans who helped to sell out her book at the first bookstore.

Then my author visited a second and third independently owned bookstore to talk to the owners about the success she experienced at the first bookstore. Both stores were willing to carry her books on consignment (one did insist on getting 5 free copies, but she also took 50 copies right away). Of course this gave my author more to celebrate with her social and social media networks and build more excitement.

Step 6:

It took about nine months, and she had to work an eventual total of five small bookstores like a part-time job, but my author was able to get just under 4,000 units sold. In that time, she also published a digital format and sold almost 1,000 downloads. With her popularity growing organically now, it was time to develop the assets needed to move to the next step.

I consulted with her about how to prospect/attract a literary agent (I’ll offer more details in another post). Let’s say that it was much easier to get several agents to reply to her after she included her sales receipts with her letter of introduction and writing sample.

After completing the process of selecting a literary agent and putting him to work, my author received three offers over the next two months for single book deals! These were with smaller imprints of the Big 5 Publishing houses, but hey, it’s a contract!!

I’ll have to relate the story of what happened after receiving the offers in another post. What I really wanted to illustrate in this story is that the book deal offers, the attention of the literary agents, even the willingness of bookstores 2 -5 to stock this incredible book would never have happened if not for the author’s ability to demonstrate that this product had a market that was willing and ready to buy it.

Here’s what this means for you:

Whether you use this particular strategy, a variation, or something else altogether; you have to be able to show in real numbers that your book has a market. Publishers, literary agents, and bookstores are all businesses. In order to get what you want from them you have to show how supporting your dream will profit them.

In the publishing world, a book’s perceived ability to sell is king. Prove to the publishing companies that your books can sell on a small scale and they just might take a chance that your books will sell on a large scale.

Feel free to comment or ask questions below, or suggest strategies that might help others in the community to prove your book’s salability.

Until next time, keep writing!

~Malik

Key Terms and Additional Info:

Consumer Source = that place where your target readers congregate, discuss, consume or purchase books that are in any way similar to yours.

Point of Sale (POS) = Posters, fliers, postcards, bookmarks, coupons or any merchandise (swag) that markets you as an author or any of your book projects. Point of sale items can be sold, but are most often given away to encourage current or future purchases. There is a subtle difference between POS merchandise and sales merchandise, as sales merchandise is either offered for sale or free with purchase (i.e. a free t-shirt with the purchase of a novel). POS is unconditional and sales merchandise is conditional.

If you have any questions, you can post them below and we’ll get you some feedback. Or, you can visit the contact us page and send us a note. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please click the services tab at: WriteOnPress.com to book a meeting with one of our consultants.

5 Replies to “How Indie-Bookstores Can Get You a Publishing Deal”

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