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Pen IN Hand
Refined Author's Guide
By Peggy Bechko
September, 2007, 15:30

E
tiquette. How often it seems we forget about it these days in times of rush and distraction. But, the way you behave toward booksellers and others will have a direct impact on everything you do, not to mention book sales and where your writing career is heading.

There are many places where this applies, but for purposes of this discussion I'll just consider bookstore etiquette.

Wait, you say. It's just a bookstore.

Well no, not just a bookstore. Its one doorway to your reader. I worked as an assistant manager in a small bookstore for a number of years early on in my writing career, so I am well aware of the grass on both sides of the fence.

Now, plainly the bookseller is one of the major pipelines through which your book reaches the reader. These are the folks who put your book into the hands of readers, possibly many readers. They can do it indirectly by placing books on shelves face-out, or in a prominent position on the shelf, or more directly by literally handing your new book to a new reader with a high recommendation while perhaps telling the reader a bit about you, the writer.

So, aside from common courtesy you have even more reason to be polite to these folks. When you arrive at the bookstore, glowing with the knowledge that your new book is now in print and available, introduce yourself to a salesperson and ask to speak with the manager. When I say introduce I mean tell the salesperson who you are. Don't play coy or any guessing games. It's not like you're trying to keep a secret. Simply state you're an author, either local or visiting, and you'd like to speak with the manager or person in charge of the section where your book will be if available.

When you meet that person, reiterate what you've said to the salesperson briefly and add a little about yourself and your newly available book. In case there isn't already a copy of your book on the shelf I suggest taking an advance copy along with you. Now, most of us can't afford to give free copies of our book away everywhere we go, so I also recommend going prepared with a few postcards prominently displaying the book cover along with your contact information. That way, if the book is not in stock, you have the option of either leaving a copy of your book or the postcard.

At this point I usually ask to see the section where my book will be displayed (romance, western, mystery, science fiction, whichever). If my book is already on the shelf I offer to autograph and sticker (bring along a few "autographed copy" stickers of your own just in case) the copies they have in stock. Remember booksellers and readers generally prefer autographed copies. Books that are autographed tend to have a longer shelf life and are frequently placed in face-out, prominent positions.

But here's something else to remember. Once you're alone among the books and the manager has gone back to pressing matters, browse, but leave the books exactly where you find them. No, you can't move another author's book to give your own more prominent display. And no, if your book is displayed spine out instead of cover, you can't put it cover facing out. If you do, once you leave the store the bookseller will re-arrange the books back to where he or she wanted them, and you'll get known for your lack of manners. And remember booksellers talk. They talk to each other. They talk to publishers, they talk to jobbers. The arrangement of the books is to expedite sales and as much as you'd like to expedite the sale of your own, it isn't your place to decide how they should be arranged.

Oh, and don't forget. When you leave, send a thank you note to the person who spent time with you. Amazing how small things like that get remembered and after all, it is the polite thing to do.

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Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworksfantasies (eBook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/


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