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paperbacks to game shops.

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by robertbevan, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. robertbevan

    robertbevan Troubadour

    here's the situation... i recently got around to getting the paperback version of my novel, Critical Failures, made through createspace. i ordered a copy for myself, and i'm very happy with it.

    i paid for the extended distribution, but i'm still waiting for it to even get up on amazon.

    now i've read enough to know that it's tough to get indie bookstores to give an unknown self-published book any shelf space, but due to the nature of my particular book, i was thinking i might have a chance at getting space in a shop that sells RPG paraphernalia. (it's about gamers, and there's a big fat black 20-sided die right there on the cover.)

    stop now and tell me if you just plain think it's a stupid idea.

    having no idea how to even go about this, here's what i was thinking...

    i'd purchase a box of 20 or so books, and get them delivered to my parents' house (we live in korea, we're on vacation here in the states right now). then i'd find ten likely candidates on the internet, write them each a letter asking them if they'd be interested in selling this book in their shop (and if not they can go ahead and keep the book, thank you for your time and all that), tuck the letter in the front book cover, and mail them out. i'm figuring this will cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 bucks.

    so let's say, for the sake of argument, that one of them bites. how does it work from there? having absolutely no idea, here's my guess...

    1. shop expresses interest.
    2. we talk about price. books cost me $4.64 plus shipping to order for myself. maybe i'd try to get seven or eight bucks per book out of them, and then they go on to sell it for whatever they like (i've got it listed for purchase at $14.99.)
    3. they say they'd like to order x-number of books. and pay the appropriate amount of money into my account.
    4. i place an order from createspace, just like i would for myself, but use the shop's address rather than my parents'.
    5. i buy a small island and retire there.

    how far off the mark am i? (not taking into account the island thing)

    please be gentle in your responses. i'm claiming complete ignorance up front, so there's no need to call me a delusional idiot.

    thank you.
  2. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Well, the plan seems reasonable enough. I have some latent plans for trying to get local bookstores to carry my books as well (I live in Ann Arbor, which is traditionally friendly to local business/artists).

    The one sticking point I see is what you hope to get them to pay you for the books. Without some decent Amazon rankings to increase your clout, I'd say you probably need to offer a pretty good deal at first. Still, I suppose it comes down to the bargaining.

    Best of luck! I hope a few of 'em bite.
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I think you could get shelf or counter space at a local gaming store, or even an indy book store. I think talking them into buying your books for resale might be tough. There's a local store here that has space for such things, but basically what they do is let the author bring in the physical copies of the books, purchased by the author from the printer, and then they sell them and set aside the money for the author. I'm not sure if they take a cut - probably do. It's basically a consignment type of arrangement.
  4. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

    I don't think it is a stupid idea, and I would definitely give it a shot.

    However, my experience in the bookselling business (managing a B&N for five years), leads me to believe it will be a hard sell.

    The problem is this, I managed a ~$9M/year box store and most mid-low range author average titles sold ~1-2 copies per week. The store you are looking to sell to is probably nowhere near $9M and even though the subject ties into the theme of the store, I bet you're looking at maybe 1-2 copies per month (maybe more the first month, but will probably even out at 1-2/month).

    My other observation about most RPG stores is that they are generally patronized by a smaller footprint of customers. My B&N might see 1,000 transactions a day of which maybe ~3-4% are "regular customers" whereas an RPG store is of such a specialized nature that maybe 30-40% of their business are "regulars". This means that you have a smaller number of fresh "eyes" on the product.

    The bigger issue is that most "brick and mortar" bookstores (even RPG stores) are struggling. This means that making an investment, no matter how large or small, into a relatively unknown author is extremely risky, even at 1-2 copies per month.

    Next, many of these stores have systems in place to order from publishers and ordering in local books that aren't paid out of already established accounts is a huge pain in the ass.

    With all that being said, I think you can increase your chance of getting your book into the shop by:
    1) Gifting copies of the book to the store owner/manager for them to read. If they like it, they might be able to handsell it for you.
    2) Setting up a time to do a signing or do a meet and greet.
    3) Establishing a consignment setup (You drop 10 books off February 1st, March 1st you show up and the store pays you $8.00 for each book sold)


  5. Jamber

    Jamber Sage

    Hi robertbevan,

    I hate to be a nay-sayer (so I'll try not to be), but my feeling is that most bookstores are heavily contracted in terms of what books they put up and where (and for how long in a particular spot). I'm not a bookseller, so don't quote me.

    However you might have an edge with approaching those specialty bookstores if you volunteer things like book signings or have another selling point (like the fact that you're a 'local author' or a terribly nice person). Maybe you could do a little giveaway, like a sample chapter with a pretty cover and stapled spine, just a cheapie the bookseller might not mind sitting on the counter in full eye-view.

    Perhaps another way to look at selling the book might be to approach reviewers with free copies and some kind of sales package (a pitch is essential). If you already have some positive reviews, get more—you can never have enough of them. And aim higher, too—established bloggers who do reviews are a good resource, as are fulltime paid reviewers. Sadly the whole online review thing is becoming very compromised (in terms of honesty) so I'm not sure I can say this is going to win sales—once readers have been burned a few times they get a bit flighty—but it may be worth the trouble.

    If you haven't done this already, you might also go on some reader chat forums like Goodreads etc; you can often meet dedicated readers there, and if you establish a rapport and some common ground (and if they like the book) you might well find yourself acquiring a readership and a build in sales. A lot of 'how to sell millions of ebook' type people claim Twitter is another great resource, the idea being that you interact with and acquire a bigger and bigger email list you can use to mass-email upcoming book release details. Personally speaking, I dislike and ignore such emails unless the author is very very generous and engaging and fabulous—I'm a seller's worst nightmare—but people do claim it works. (Then again those are the people are making all their money out of 'how to sell millions' ebooks... You have to be skeptical.)

    Sorry if none of this applies to you or if you've tried it all. I've self-published on Amazon (albeit not with a printed version), and frankly I'm inclined to go back to trade publishing.

  6. robertbevan

    robertbevan Troubadour

    hey guys. thank you for all the responses. i made this same post on another forum as well, and after reading the responses from there and here, i've decided to hold off on this sort of thing until i better understand the publishing industry.

    so thanks for saving me a few bucks (and maybe a bit of dignity.)
  7. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

    It's unfortunate about being in Korea, really. This type of thing can be very successful for *local* authors, but I don't see it working very much beyond that. Also, Steerpike was on the money when he talked about consignment. That's not just local authors, that's most bookstores. And the big'uns don't even return the unsold books, they rip the covers off and return those (the theory being that the books are worth less than shipping).

    Still, there's nothing to stop you from reaching out to the gaming community. If you develop a relationship with gaming stores, they are more likely to buy your book themselves. Everything I've read about indy author actual book selling (as opposed to electronic) is that it is mostly "pounding the pavement" type of work where sales are motivated more by actual encounters with the author than advertisement or word-of-mouth.

    Of course, the goal being that eventually the hard work pays off and word-of-mouth starts to do your job for you :)

    Good luck though!
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Robert - ever thought of selling the electronic form of the book on a site like RPG Now. I've sold a D&D-style adventure there. Pretty good site for selling stuff, and I think they have a fiction category.
    Devor and Zero Angel like this.
  9. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

    No idea this site existed! I know it was for robertbevan, but thanks for the heads up!
  10. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

    How about sending a few copies to the editors of gaming magazines, a bit like you would send to reviewers? If they read it and like it, they'll write about it in the magazine. If they pass it all round the office, they'll end up tweeting and facebooking about it all over the gaming world and you'll be packing for that island in no time :)
  11. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    If you haven't already, you definitely should market at www.boardgamegeek.com.

    I think they have a separate RPG site as well. There are a lot of geeklists for books. Add yours.
  12. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I have a cousin, who way back in the 90's was the technical editor for one of the big computer magazines back then. The various manufacturers and dealers sent him so much free stuff the company had to designate an office as a storeroom to hold it all. He showed it to me once when I went to visit him. Boxes of computer stuff stacked literally chest high.

    That said, I've considered sending a few free copies to various game shops - and the local public libraries. My area's last remaining new bookstore also promotes local authors, one of whom has copies of her fantasy novella on a table near the door.
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    In a word, you're a bit off. I think you'd be better off trying to give them a single copy of the book for display, and a stack of business cards for people who are interested in ordering it. (Cover art on one side, details on the other.)

    If you ask too many logistical things, they'll just tell you no. You want to make it really simple for them to say yes. Don't try and present it as a "business deal" for them. You will never get them to think of it that way. Present the idea as a novelty, a really cool way to make the place feel more like a "local store," and don't try to oversell yourself.

    Then, after a while, check in to see if they're out of business cards, and get a feel for whether they'd be interested in doing more or not. If so, ask if he'd like to buy a few copies (think: 3-10, no more than that).

    What's your hope here? It's not what you think it is.

    These stores have vendors which come by two or three times a week to restock their shelves. Sometimes they're owned from the top (i.e., the ones working for Warhammer or Wizards of the Coast will never pay attention to you). Others are small scale local shipping.

    There's an outside chance you can find a backdoor connection to a buyer at one of those vendors by making friends with the small shop owners. No joke.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013
    Zero Angel and BWFoster78 like this.
  14. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver


    I think that this is outstanding advice. Thanks!
  15. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

    Agreed. Very good marketing and backs up most of the advice I've deemed sound from other sources. And it's good not just for the applied situation but anywhere you think it makes sense to maybe have your book featured as a novelty.

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