Guest blog by author, librarian and children’s book buyer Susan Kusel
You’ve written the world’s greatest book. You want to see it everywhere.
But when you walk into a bookstore or library, it isn’t there. As a bookseller and librarian, this is my most frequently asked question from authors: “Why don’t you have my book and how can I get you to carry it?”
Here’s some tips to help get it on the shelf.
First, don’t assume the book isn’t there. Always ask a staff member so they can tell you what’s actually going on. Maybe you’re looking in the wrong section. Maybe it sold out and is being reordered. Maybe someone bought the last copy just before you walked in. Maybe it’s being shelved or is misplaced.
Ask nicely. An author who makes a polite inquiry will get a lot farther than one making demands. You will make more sales in the long run if you are kind and courteous to the people purchasing and selling your books.
Give the name of your publisher and distributor. The buyer needs to know how to buy your book and if they’ve already ordered it. Your publisher’s name is the quickest way of finding that out. If your publisher has a distributor, you should give that as well.
Include the ISBN. This may seem like a small thing to you, but providing the International Standard Book Number saves time for a busy buyer. If applicable, give ISBNs for all formats your book comes in.
Give plenty of time before the book’s release. If you want the book available for the on sale date, you need to provide a long lead-time. Bookstore buyers often buy from publishers 3-6 months before the book goes on sale. Library buyers need time to place the order with their distributors.
Sign stock- but give warning. It’s lovely to offer to sign the store’s stock of your books. Autographed copies help sales. But please don’t show up on a busy Saturday morning. Always get in touch ahead of time. This allows the store to find all the copies of your book, order extra copies, and have someone available to work with you.
Make sure the book is a good fit. Don’t ask a mystery bookstore to carry your picture book or a children’s bookstore to carry your mystery book. Do basic research. If they don’t have your book, it is often not a critique of it. Trust that they know what sells and circulates for them.
Read the policies. If the bookstore states on their website that they don’t take self-published books, don’t try to pitch them one. If a library outlines the books they look for in their collection development policy, read it.
Build a relationship. It’s not about this one book. It’s about getting to know the booksellers and librarians. Make sure it’s a two way street. Buy their books. Attend their programs. Listen to their advice.
Include links. When asked where your book can be bought, include a link to an indie or IndieBound. For those looking for a library that carries your book, link to your local library or WorldCat. Bookstores and libraries do a lot of work promoting you. It makes a difference if you promote them.
Susan Kusel has turned a life as a book lover into many careers as an author, librarian, and book buyer. She is currently the children’s book buyer at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey. She has served on many book award committees, including the 2015 Caldecott committee. Her debut book, The Passover Guest, illustrated by Sean Rubinwill will be published in Spring 2021 with Neal Porter Books/Holiday House.You can find her online at susankusel.com.
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