Peanuts! Popcorn! Page-Turner!

BOOK WAREHOUSE, VANCOUVER, BC (PHOTO © READ LOCAL BC)

BOOK WAREHOUSE, VANCOUVER, BC (PHOTO © READ LOCAL BC)

When you self-publish a book (and, in many cases, even when you go the traditional route), you need to wear many hats: writer, self-editor, proofreader, design consultant, marketer, publicist, and yes, sales rep. The truth is, you can (and you should) build a team to help you with most of this task list, but when it comes to “selling” your book to stores, well, no one can do that better than you.

Today, even if you have a distributor (there are several Canadian ones that specialize in small press and independently published books), telling bookstores how and why to order your book is still part of your job. Sure, distributors send out catalogues and attend book fairs, but large, personalized sales teams are a thing of the past, and booksellers are inundated with promotional materials and stacks of ARCs (advance reading copies) that they are expected to wade through in order to make their choices. Trust us – they do not have the time or resources to adequately familiarize themselves with all of the new book releases, and that’s where you come in. Nothing gets a bookseller more interested in a new read than having the author right in front of them, delivering a sales pitch for their own book.

When we were in Nanaimo for the Spring Writes Festival, we met with Barbara Pope, owner of The Mulberry Bush bookstores in Parksville and Qualicum for the past 25 years. There was a time, she told us, when sales reps would visit and tell her exactly what she needed to order, stocking both stores completely for her specific clientele. It was that easy. Today, she spends the equivalent of two whole months paging through catalogues, scanning sell sheets, and skip-reading (if time permits) ARCs to choose the right books for her stores. That’s why a personal visit to your local bookstores with a few copies of your book should be at the top of your to-do list. And for those bookstores that are more far-flung (in your province and beyond), mail them a copy, with a personal letter and a sell sheet, then follow up with a phone call.

At The Mulberry Bush, every customer receives a bookmark that says “Thanks for shopping at your local independent bookstore. Here’s what you just did”:

  1. You kept dollars in our community.

  2. You embraced what makes us unique.

  3. You created local jobs.

  4. You contributed to the tax base.

  5. You supported our local schools.

  6. You created more choice.

  7. You took advantage of our expertise.

  8. You supported local and BC authors.

  9. You made us a destination.

  10. You helped our community gifting program.

All good reasons to make sure your book sits on their shelves. Most independent bookstores are supportive of independent authors. After all, it takes an indie to understand an indie. We’re all in this together.

For a comprehensive list of bookstores in BC, visit Read Local BC. For the rest of Canada, click here, or visit the Retail Council of Canada’s Find an Independent Bookstore page.

Thanks for the Rejection

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We’ve all felt the sting of rejection, whether it’s yet another “no thanks” from an agent or publisher, or a “try again” from a writing contest. Writing is such a personal endeavour that perhaps authors feel rejection more keenly than most.

Every writer who has ever published any writing at all has faced rejection. Even Stephen King, in his 22 lessons on how to be a great writer, includes as his second point: “Prepare for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with.” In fact, King famously collected all his rejection letters and hung them on his wall with a nail – until he received too many to hold. How we deal with rejection – now that’s where it gets interesting and empowering. Think of rejection as a much-needed kick in the pants.

The only stories about rejection worth retelling are those that have a silver lining. A recent article in The Globe and Mail really made us stand up and cheer: “Hooray! A positive story about self-publishing in our ‘oh so traditional’ national newspaper, in the Saturday edition no less!” They had us at the title: “Meet the self-published Canadian cookbook author who outsold Jamie and Ina.”

Greta Podleski’s latest cookbook, Yum & Yummer, has been reprinted twice since its first publication in 2017 and has sold more than 310,000 copies. It was Canada’s top-selling cookbook of 2018, besting new releases by Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten, and Yotam Ottolenghi. Sales of all her cookbooks together tally more than 2.5 million copies. How did this success story begin? Rejection. Having been turned down by every publishing house she approached for her first book, Looneyspoons: Low Fat Food Made Fun, she and her sister Janet went the self-publishing route. For her latest book, she didn’t even consider working with a publishing house: “In hindsight, being rejected by those publishers was the biggest blessing in disguise of my life,” says Podleski. “If we had landed that big publishing deal we were dreaming of, we’d be right back at our day jobs now. Two authors could never survive financially by sharing a modest author royalty.”

So when you’re faced with rejection, instead of wallowing, use it as a reset button to improve your writing, enter another writing contest, polish your manuscript (or toss it and start a new one), or even publish your book yourself. Know that you are in good company and that rejection just might lead to greater things down the road. Here are a few rejection-to-success self-publishing stories to cheer you up: 5 Famous Books You Didn’t Know Were Self-Published and 11 Books That Prove There’s Nothing Wrong with Self-Publishing.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

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At the beginning of this month, the Whistler Independent Book Awards opened for 2019 submissions, and it got us thinking about how the increasing recognition of self-published books in the awards arena is yet another positive change in the book publishing landscape. The WIBAs recognize excellence in Canadian self-publishing, and two years ago, we sat on the shortlisting committee. The quality and professionalism of the work we judged was undeniable, and last year, one of our client’s novels, Return of the Jaguar, was honoured as a WIBA nominee.

There is no doubt that, whether you’re nominated for an award or, of course, you win one, it’s great publicity that will lead to increased attention – and yes, sales – for your book. And good news: there is, in fact, an extensive list of awards for which self-published books are eligible. The Writer’s Union of Canada has done a nice job of compiling them here. And if you’ve written a children’s book that you feel is an awards contender, check out this list that The Canadian Children’s Book Centre put together. Not included on this CCBC list is the Vine Awards, which our client Deborah Katz won last year in the children’s/young adult category for her book, Rare Is Everywhere (taking home a very welcome $10,000 prize to boot!).

These lists are not necessarily comprehensive, so do a little bit of homework on awards available in your genre – even a quick Wikipedia search for Canadian book awards will bring up a pretty decent list to supplement the ones provided here. And don’t assume that any awards shut out independently published books; check their eligibility requirements (along with their deadlines) regularly to see what doors have been opened. Another one of our clients recently submitted his mystery thriller to the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, which is open to self-published authors. Who knew?

The opportunity for self-published authors to now be recognized for their work by literary awards is another positive way that the divide between traditional and independent publishing is closing, and let’s face it, being a winner feels good too!