Selling Books the Old Fashioned Way

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A few minutes ago, I read a tweet from one of my authors, Gale Borger, that asked, “Where will authors sell books with so few indy stores willing to do author events and chains closing?” [Twitter: @galeinwisconsin]

This is something I have been working on for quite a few years, but now I am seeing others starting to get worried about it. We started Echelon Press ten years ago and from the beginning, we have been attending conferences, conventions, and books festivals. Why? Because, silly, that’s where the readers are.

“No, no,” you argue, “readers are at bookstores.

“No, not exactly. Consumers are at bookstores. They buy books. They also buy pens, journals, lap desks, games, music, and all kinds of other things that bookstores have included in their inventory.”

You’re shaking your head now, right? “But those are readers.”

“Not exaclty, but kinda. They are people who read. Oh sure, that is a pretty generalized statement, but I think that most of those people (not all) could do without books.”

“What do you mean?”

“My experience is that most people these days who go into bookstores are looking for something specific. A friend told them the latest Patterson is out, or there is a new diet book that is better than the Atkins Diet.” Okay, again, generalizing, but bear with me.

Lots of people read, but don’t you think that those who are real readers are much more organized and deliberate about their book habits? Readers keep track of their favorite authors, they log the books and the series they read, and they will read anything, including the shampoo bottles in the bathroom. How many diehard readers, can name more than a few ingredients off the back of the Lysol can? Seriously.

Those people are readers, and they will go where the books are and where the authors are. That is one of the reasons Echelon has always participated in as many book festivals as we can. Readers go to festivals and conventions. They crave books and they will spend their last dollar on a book and make the cat eat leftover meatloaf with everyone else.

Bookstores are great, but there is a lot of panic in society right now about where readers will be able to get books if the bookstores all go away.

First of all, the bookstores are not all going away. Some are going, others are coming. There will always be fluxuation. My suggestion to you readers, and especially to you authors who are seeing less and less opportunities to meet and interact with your readers in proper bookstores, is to check out the book festivals and reader conventions in your area. These are such awesome places to find books of all kinds and to meet new and upcoming authors. If you’re lucky you may even find a few of your best selling favorites.

If you’d like to meet some really cool authors, you might want to look into attending the South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia, SC. May 14-15, 2011. In my Opinion, this is the best book festival in the south.

Even better than that is the jewel in the Midwest festival crown. Printers Row Lit Fest. in Chicago, IL June 2-3, 2011. This festival is blocks and blocks of books and authors and so much fun it should be illegal. This festival has been a favorite of Echelon’s since we discovered it in 2002. We never miss it.

Hopefully you readers out there will stop by and visit the Echelon authors when you see us at the festivals and conventions. We LOVE meeting readers and trying to convert you into our fans. At Echelon we believe the best way to reach readers is go where they can find us!


4 responses to “Selling Books the Old Fashioned Way

  1. “Lots of people read, but don’t you think that those who are real readers are much more organized and deliberate about their book habits? Readers keep track of their favorite authors, they log the books and the series they read, and they will read anything, including the shampoo bottles in the bathroom.”

    OMG, I totally do this… all of it… hehe.

    At least a few of the local book stores here in N.Colorado are getting on board with carrying our books. Maybe we can start a trend 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Karen, will Echelon have a table at the SC book festival? It is a good one. I’ll look for you and Echelon authors.

  3. I’m not sure about the numbers, I would not even begin to try and put a number on it. I only know that in my time as a bookseller a few years back, I had very few browsers. I had customers with lists and demands, as it were. LOL

    Maybe 1% (and that is generous) came into my store to browse. I also know from talking to people at the festivals I do, which average 8-12 a year across the country, that those readers we are talking to actually spend little to no time in the bookstores for various reasons, mostly I hear lack of knowledge with regard to chain stores and lack of variety in indy stores.

    I miss my store desperately, but I do’t miss having to explain to my customers why I carried the big names over the larger variety of unknowns and newbies. I get that you stock what you (generally speaking) are confident you can sell, but the readers I am meeting nowadays are less tolerant about that. They want to read authors other than Patterson, Roberts, Steele, Grisham, Clancy. They are discovering hidden gems in the different kinds of events and venues and the people I am talking to really like that.

    Now, the rest of the people, I don’t know, because I am actually meeting a very small number of people in the grand scheme.

    So I cannot even put a number with what I am saying, just my personal experience.


  4. I really could not disagree with you more. I agree “readers” are about 20% of the population, but you’ve just redefined “readers” as being about 0.2% of the population – or less.

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