Sunday, November 29, 2015

Think Outside the Bookstore

Copyright © Heidi M. Thomas
Originally Published by 1st Turning Point

When my first book, Cowgirl Dreams, was published, I was shocked and surprised to learn that you don’t necessarily sell books in bookstores. That just doesn’t seem logical, does it?
Well, it does, if you think about it. Bookstores shelve thousands of books. Customers have their favorite well-known authors and usually they go in specifically to purchase that particular author. Some may browse and run across your book and be intrigued enough to buy it, but unless your name is John Grisham or Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts, don’t count on it.
Even when I put on a reading and PowerPoint presentation one time at a local independent bookstore, I had an audience of about twenty people, but I sold two only books.
Seems daunting, doesn’t it? Where do you sell books, if not in bookstores?
Since my novels are based on my grandmother who rode bucking stock in rodeos, I look for any store or event where people might be interested in rodeo, horses, ranch life, and cowgirls. My very first signing was at a local Farmers Co-op store, where they sell feed, farm supplies, and some gift items. It was around Christmastime, they featured a “customer appreciation day,” and Santa was there. I sold about 20 books in three or four hours.
Other venues I’ve tried:
  • I’ve set up a table outside a western wear store.
  • I’ve attended an event for National Cowboy Day at another farm supply store.
  • Rodeos and horse shows.
  • I’ve given talks to local organizations—libraries, museums, service groups such as Soroptimists or Rotary. These service-type organizations are always looking for speakers.
  • Farmers markets. Many will allow crafts and other items besides fruits and veggies.
  • Arts and crafts fairs around the holidays are good for selling books.
  • Since I teach classes on writing, I give workshops.
  • I was invited to participate in a “Storytelling Roundup” event in Cut Bank, Montana, where my grandparents lived, and gave workshops in schools.
What is your book about? What are some sub-themes? If you have a mystery but your main character raises show dogs, look for stores and venues that cater to dog people. Is your character in your thriller a gourmet cook? See if you can set up a signing at a kitchen store. Where is the setting of your book? If possible, go to that town. Find organizations or places that might be interested in subject matter in your book. Is there a specific landmark mentioned, a well-known bar or restaurant, a university, Alcoholics Anonymous or the Society for Retired Train Conductors?
To paraphrase the old clich√©, “think outside the bookstore.” And have fun!

I love hearing from you! Leave a comment and let me know about your bookstore signing success or failures. And don't forget to enter our contest to win a complete book promo package at

Heidi M. Thomas is the EPIC and WILLA Literary Award-winning author of the “Dare to Dream” series, is a freelance editor for fiction and non-fiction, and teaches memoir and beginning fiction writing classes in her Pacific Northwest community. She is the member of Women Writing the West, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Northwest Independent Editors Guild, and Skagit Valley Writers League.

1 comment:

  1. Craft fairs have always been a good place for me to sell books. However, one of my children's books has a crafty element, that lets me get into these. Not all craft fairs allow authors.