By Award Winning Author Victoria L. Thurman (author of The Dating Dilemmas of Delilah Dunnfield)
I wasn’t aware that Barnes and Noble hosts an author signing class, as maybe you weren’t either. (Please be advised I am not exactly sure if that is the exact name). I received a text from my friend, whose friend posted it on Facebook. The text was a photo of a sign in the local Barnes and Noble advertising an author class—how to get your indie book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. (NOTE: I could not find it listed on their events website at all. Call your local B&N to find out when your class is. They have one once a quarter.) As I had given up after a couple of years trying to figure it out, I jumped out of my chair at work and squealed. I didn’t want to take any chances on the class filling up (in my mind it was already packed to the hilt with eager indie authors and they would turn me away) and even though I am poor as a church mouse at this moment in time, I saw myself using my last credit card with any space on it to sign up—no matter the cost my book will be there! I called the store IMMEDIATELY. I mean, except for the minute it took me to Google their phone number. Imagine my surprise when the clerk said, “No problem. You are signed up now. No charge for the class.” I get to have a real shot at my book in Barnes & Noble and it didn’t cost me anything!
Two weeks later I arrived at class…THREE minutes LATE! Argh. Deflated. There were only five of us in the class, and not to be a braggart (cause nobody likes those) I was the only one who brought a copy of my book with me. (And the major store chain’s fluorescent lights glinted off my B.R.A.G. Medallion, and I like to think, fairly blinded the store manager with its majesty.)
Armed with my tiny notebook (which I had forgotten to pack and had to stop at Walgreens to purchase, which also, was why I was late) and my trusty pen, I set out to take notes wildly and enthusiastically. Our CBDM (Community Business Development Manager) gave us information specific to them and their store. The first thing he told us was, “Congratulations for deciding to attend this class because you will be ahead of the game.” He also shared with us that those who take the class, have priority over those who cold call. CBDMs are very busy so never ever go in a Barnes and Noble and drop off your book for them, UNLESS you made prior arrangements with the CBDM.
If your book has been published and you have a copy- take it with you to the class. And make sure you have your B.R.A.G sticker on it. AND BRAG about your award. (My CBDM was impressed.)
If you are currently being published and do not have a copy to bring, then my CBDM told us to do the following:
- Find out who the CBDM (or CRM, Community Relations Manager) of your local B&N is and find out their email address.
- Send them a short (to the point) email as your first approach (he added not just to B&N but to any book seller) Make sure your email is concise and professional. Be sure to include something like this: My name is…. My book is (title)… The ISBN # is… (yes you must have the ISBN #) Give a one or two sentence synopsis. (Very important- he said these sentences must be written in the style/voice of your book.)
- Include in the email your contact information—the phone number you can best be reached on.
- Approach every Barnes & Noble separately. Follow the same steps listed above.
- Next, you must wait a full week before you follow up. If you have not heard from the CBDM after a week, you may send a second email. When you do this, forward your first email, so it will be attached as a reference. Write your new note saying something like this: Hello (CBDM’s name), I would like to bring you a copy of my book. When would be a good time? Thank you, (your name)
- Wait another full week and if you still do not hear from them it is OK to call them and set up a time to bring in a copy of your book.
- Once the CBDM has your book, give them a full week to peruse it. He told us all B&N’s are making a rule of evaluating books by this process: the CBDM will open your book to a random page. If he/she likes the writing he/she will turn to another random page, same thing and a third page. If they like what they have read, they will contact you by email and let you know they will order 5-7 books to put on their shelf and see how the sales go.
- If your book sells well (which doesn’t even mean you have to sell all five or seven, just a few), then… keep your hat on… you will be invited to have a book signing in their store!
- P.S. I wasn’t sure where to fit this in, in the instructions, but a very major thing to booksellers is the appearance of your front cover. It must be eye-catching. My CBDM told us our books will be set face-out on the shelf. If we were John Grisham or Janet Evanovich, etc our books will be sold even with the spine out. (This is my personal paraphrase of what he told us: if your book doesn’t have curb appeal it will not be chosen for their store. It’s all about marketing. Nothing personal.)
My CBDM told us if we get a book signing at Barnes & Noble, they will post about the event on their Facebook, Twitter, event page on their website, any other social media they have. They will send out a press release. They will make signs to put up in the store. But you must do these things also. (Maybe not the posting signs in their store but all the others.) Post the heck out of it on your social media accounts. Make a press release (find out how to do this) and send it out. If you have bookmarks/ postcards made of your book, bring those in and you can have them placed at the check outs. (Ask before just placing them on the counter.) We were told that as the author we cannot hide behind the table and just sign books, we need to interact with the crowd, step out from behind the table. (It’s okay to sit at the table when you are signing the books.) The CBDM will be watching how you conduct your signing, and how you interact with patrons is very important in being invited back.
Another important thing to note: My CBDM told us on the day of the book signing, make sure all of your friends and family attend. It doesn’t matter if they don’t buy a book. They need to be there to support you, but also, when there is a big crowd in the store, other patrons get curious and want to know what is going on. Then you may reach people you don’t even know who may buy your book and hopefully they will tell their friends …and soon the whole country will be buzzing about your book! (The stars are the limit, right?)
What happened for me? After class my CBDM asked to see my book. Right away he told me how much he loved the cover. (Yay!) He asked to keep it. (Of course!) My class was on a Wednesday and he told me he would peruse it and let me know by the beginning of the following week. On Monday mid-morning I received an email from him letting me know that he was going to order a few books for their store. (I was floating along on a cloud all day.)
I hope my post was helpful. Good luck to you all!