Summer’s Gone in a Blink

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As back to school is now fully upon us with trips to Staples (More erasers? Really?) and Sport Chek (Another backpack? Seriously?), we get caught up in our teenagers’ spirit of preparation and organization and dig out our own pencils and notebooks (or we at least clean up our messy desks). This past long weekend that ushered in the start of school also coincided with a new moon. Shortening days bring longer nights and a move to indoor activities. This moon phase is a natural time to set a few intentions beyond beaches and outdoor patios. It feels like a time to turn to new goals, and to clear our minds as well as our work spaces. Plant some dream seeds. Even though school is not on our agenda, we too get caught up in the inkling that it’s time to commit, buckle down, and focus on our ambitions.

While to say that we are excited by the end of summer would be a stretch, we can’t help but look forward to what the fall will bring – new clients that will find us and new projects that existing clients are ready to launch. This season of looking forward also puts us in the mood for stories of looking back – memoirs and real-life narratives. Honest and true accounts by regular people who happen to be excellent storytellers. Here’s a couple we are enjoying right now: I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott and Boy Wonders: A Memoir by Cathal Kelly.

Happy almost fall, everyone!

Join the Party

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When we tell our authors that one of the best ways to promote their books (and themselves) is by connecting with other writers, we’re not talking about the “7 Secrets to Mastering Online Networking” or the “10 Most Powerful Networking Skills to Build Rapport Quickly” (although there’s nothing wrong with these approaches if they work for you). What we are talking about is actually joining organized groups of other writers – in your community, online, or both!

We recently joined CWILL BC, a group of published BC children’s writers and illustrators who share, among other things, rights and contract information, conferences and retreats, book deals, launches, and reviews, writing tips, awards, etc. These are real people offering information and experiences with other like-minded creative types who share a common love of writing and illustrating kids’ books. You can decide how engaged you want to be and jump in if a topic resonates with you or if you have something to add to the conversation. There’s no obligation to participate – you can simply be an active “observer.”  

On Facebook, where authors’ groups abound, we’re members of Canada Writes, Women Writers, Women Books, The Write Life Community, and The Indie Author Group. These are not places where we promote our business, ourselves, or our authors (although there are some opportunities to do so within their parameters). So how, then, is this helpful? Through these groups, members have the opportunity to learn a wealth of current, first-hand information about what’s happening in the publishing industry nationally and in specific regions, and more importantly, there are other authors to bounce ideas off of for book concepts, titles, covers, marketing ideas, etc. These are communities where you can share your successes and your failures – even a negative book review. Think of it as one big support group and learning opportunity all in one.

Whether writing is a full- or part-time gig for you, it is solitary by nature, and engaging with other writers will only help to enhance your craft and bolster the success of your book. There’s a village of people out there willing to help you create and market your next book. All you have to do is join the party.

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.