Author bookstore drop-ins

>> Monday, April 20, 2009

There's a great piece by bookseller Josie Leavitt on today's Publisher's Weekly ShelfTalker blog, in which she breaks down successful--and not so successful--strategies for authors to introduce themselves when popping in unannounced to a bookstore.

An example of a successful introduction:

I had been cleaning the middle grade section on a slow day, and in walks this stately woman. She offered her hand and said, “I’m Katherine Paterson.” I was star struck immediately, responding with the cool of a seasoned bookseller, “Wow, I just dusted your face.” Perhaps this sort of thing should be kept to oneself. Katherine had a good laugh over that one and I stopped blathering and showed her around the store.

And a not-so-successful introduction:

The sneak attack visit is my least favorite. This is when the author neither introduces themselves nor re-arranges. They come up to the counter and ask if you carry a certain book. So I look the book up and sometimes we have it and sometimes we don’t. I convey that information and then they say, “I’m the author.” Well, why didn’t you just say that upfront? This way, it’s just awkward all around. I’m put on the spot and the author is being disingenuous.

Which puts me in mind of a story that became legendary at the bookstore where I worked during grad school. A self-published author pulled a sneak attack like the one Josie describes in one of our sister stores in Memphis, and was rebuffed--mostly because of his approach. A few years later, he became a HUGE BESTSELLING author (the Memphis locale will give his identity away to some), but never scheduled his hometown signings at our sister store--Memphis's biggest and best indie bookstore--choosing instead, out of spite for being sent away, one of the big box chain stores in town for all his events.

Had he approached the booksellers in a less tricky way, they probably would have carried his book, and everyone would have been happy. Instead, the whole thing created bad blood that took many, many years to dissipate.

Read Josie's whole column here.


tanita davis April 21, 2009 at 12:46 PM  

Oy. This is good stuff to know -- I've only done a couple of drop-in visits, but being as geektastic as I am, I am just awkward and too nervous to just wander up and say, "I'm here! I'm here! Love me!" On the other hand, it's nice to know that's kind of what's expected.

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