Thursday, April 17, 2008

Small press authors have a hard time gettting in bookstores

A friend went to a coffee shop last night that is next door to a book store. He suggested I try to get a book signing there. I tried a few months ago and it got nowhere. So today I went there and spoke again with the store about my novel, Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries. The clerk tells me that they have very few signings, but the author last night was with a press they recognized and guaranteed a certain number of guests and even provided their names. She says all this in the rudest tone possible. Meanwhile this dear, sweet patron looks at my book and says, "My mother-in-law just loves shoes. The cover is so pretty. What's your book about?" I step over to the side and explain the book, then she says, "Well, can I buy it here?"

I explain that I tried to get in and that the store favors authors with the big presses. She asks for my card, then reads the blurbs and says, "You know I think I want a copy for myself too. I'll call you. And my brother is writing a book and my sister-in-law writes some too. I know my family would just love this book." I thank her and make my way back to the clerk who is watching this whole thing. By this point the clerk apologizes a bit, saying it's very hard to get a book signing at their store. I'm so ticked at her that I say, "I understand, but you have no idea the challenges new authors face...and rattle off some of my awards and stuff," then cut myself off and ask if she knows where my review copy is since the store has no apparent interest and if I could have it back. And then she can't find it.

I leave the store. Twenty minutes later she calls. I hope that maybe they've decided to carry my book since that patron wanted it. But no. She just found my book.

It's so hard out there for authors with small presses. Last month was Small Press Month and that organization complied a list of 31 one ways you can support the small presses.

Things to do for Small Presses:

Contact your local bookstore or library and suggest they put together a special display for National Small Press Month. You can obtain posters from: Small Press Month Coordinator, PMA, Independent Book Publishers Association, 627 Aviation Way, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266; 310.372.2732; Orders come in units of five.

Suggest that your local bookstore offer a discount off Small Press titles this month. Offer a special discount on all of your titles.

Hold a seminar on "How to Get Published" or on a subject related to your books. You might wish to cooperate with other small presses in your area to get this event off to a roaring start. You might wish to charge a nominal fee for the seminar.

Contact the Book Review editor at your local daily newspaper about any events that you plan. Also speak to the Features Editor. The Business Editor is usually interested in a successful publishing story.

Send PMA a list of participating bookstores and libraries. PMA can send them publicity and display material.

Be sure to inform PMA and the Small Press Center about any activities you have planned for the month. That way, we can include your plans in their national database and mention your events when we are in touch with the media. Please e-mail

Get in touch with weekly papers and magazines in your area about readings or events and submit the information to the Listings Editor.

Approach an interviewer at a local radio station about airing a segment on, for instance, the problems and rewards of running a small press, or set one up for an author.

Make arrangements with any local non-bookstore outlet that is appropriate for any of your books. For example, if you publish cookbooks, a grocery store might display them up near the check-out for National Small Press Month, particularly with a special discount as an incentive.

Try for an interview at your local daily or weekly paper, remember that the media is always pleased to find to find that there are successful publishers and writers in the neighborhood. So pitch not only yourself, but also your colleagues.

If you have a personable, articulate author who is available to speak in his or her area, set up interviews with local television or radio stations.

Schedule an interview for yourself at your local television station for National Small Press Month. Be sure to offer visuals if available. Footage of an author doing research in a foreign country, or a sports book author on the ski slopes, for example, would be helpful to getting TV time. Focus on the unique angles of your books and authors.

Band together with other small presses and compile a combined exhibition of titles in a subject area. Offer your library the ready-made exhibit of locally published books in the areas you choose.

Find a college or university that would be receptive to a roundtable discussion on a topic like: "The Growth of Independent Media", "What is a Free Press?" or "The First Amendment and Mainstream Media"

A talk to elementary, junior high, or high school students about being an author could be a highlight of school programs during the month.

Use excerpts from a current or upcoming book on your website. An entire chapter is more engaging than just a short passage.

Arrange readings and signings from your list to be held during National Small Press Month at your local bookstore and library.

Plan a group reading or event with other local independent presses and make night out of it.

Take National Small Press Month posters to your local bookstore or library and be sure that they are displayed and distributed.

Join with other small and independent presses and take out a co-op ad in your local newspaper.

Be sure that every local organization to which you belong to displays a poster about National Small Press Month and has your catalogue available as a handout for Small Press Month.

If you have one, keep your alumni magazine up to date about you and your small press.

Host a wine and cheese party in your office for the press, booksellers and other friends of your publishing house. Celebrate National Small Press Month!

Gather together all your press cuttings and document the successes of National Small Press Month and please send to Mark Kohut for use next year. Send care of the Small Press Center, 20 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036.

Link to the Small Press Month website from your own:

Send out e-mails to your customer mailing list announcing the approach of National Small Press Month, and the events you have planned. A weekly digest of news would be an effective way to keep the momentum going throughout March.

Contact other small and independent arts organizations in your area- record labels, theaters, and art galleries, for example- and link to each other's websites, promote each other's events, and support the independent arts community!

Run a contest through your e-mail newsletter, asking for ten titles of famous independently published books. The winner can receive one of your books, or a collection of them.

Contact other independent publishers and set up together a small book fair during the month at a local college or community center

Evaluate authors' pitches - offer to set up a program at a bookstore or library where authors, on the understanding you are there to give general advice, can make a five minute pitch to you about their manuscript.

Look over the previous 30 suggested ideas and let us know which ones provided the most response.