Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guest Post: Claudia H. Christian - 5 Reasons Why Bookstores Matter

About a month ago we talked at the #bookmarket twitter chat about how to connect with bookstores in order to get books out there. It was a fantastic and informative chat where two bookstore owners shared some great tips of what to do and what not to do when contacting this important figure of the publishing market. However, the topic was so interesting that I felt I needed a complement, so I invited Claudia Hall Christian, the mind behind that great chat, to write a post about bookstores and writers. Enjoy her wisdom, she has plenty of it! 

Claudia Hall Christian is the author of the sweet and crunchy serial fiction, Denver Cereal and the heartfelt thrill ride, the Alex the Fey thriller series. She is a co-owner of Cook Street Publishing and the leader of #bookmarket, Twitter’s only chat on Book Marketing, on Thursdays 4 p.m. ET. She can be reached at her personal blog – On A Limb, Twitter at @ClaudiaC or on Facebook at


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that bookstores are dead. Conventional wisdom for a new author says you should not waste your time with bookstores. After all, the US Census Bureau estimates bookstores sell 16.6 billion dollars in retail book sales and non-book sales while and sell over 10 billion dollars in books alone. Amazon and Barnes and Noble capture almost half of the book sales in the US. It’s easy to see why you’re encouraged you to focus on selling books online.

Conventional wisdom is wrong.
Authors need bookstores. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Bookstore employees put books into people’s hands: Literally, bookstore employees walk people to bookshelves and put a book into someone’s hand. When a book is put in a person’s hand, they almost always buy it. Who wouldn’t love having their books set into a customer’s hand for the customer to trot on up to the cash register with it?

2. Bookstores are gathering places: A bookstore is a wonderful place to talk about your book. Once the book is written, edited, bound and printed, you will need places to talk about your book. Your local bookseller will love to have you come to talk about your book.

3. Bookstores sell books: It sounds simple. But selling books is the entire reason bookstore employees show up for work. Even if the floor cleaner works on the floors to create a comfortable environment for the sale of books. You want to be a part of that stream.

4. People who shop bookstores read: Everyone shops at and People who read books, join book clubs, and talk about books shop at bookstores. Your market is walking the aisles of your independent bookstore right now. Your book should be there for them to read!

5. An infectious environment. As an author, once the book is completed, your job is to develop your audience. Bookstores are your first audience. Give copies of your book to your local independent bookstore. Let them read what you have to say. If they like your work, you’ve got your first customer. Like a virus, they will pass your book on to the book readers in your community. The book readers will pass the book along to their friends who read books and your audience will catch your reading bug.

So drop by your local bookstore today. Drop off a book for them to review. Ask them how you can become apart of their collection.

Get going! Your audience is waiting!


  1. Thanks for guest posting Claudia. Great info you share here!

  2. I agree Mari - great info!

    I hope I never see the end of bookstores. There's nothing quite like them - the whole vibe is incredible. I love hearing the opinions of the booksellers - they're wonderful!

  3. My favorite place to be in my local bookstore and my local library. Both heavily promote local authors and host events for booklovers.

  4. My husband always say that when in a bookstore, I'm like a child in a sweets shop !

  5. Great post and so true. Long live bookstores! There is nowhere other than a library that holds so much of life and wisdom (and evil-ha)

  6. Visited two bookstores last weekend. As much as I'd like to believe Claudia about clerks, I didn't see any of them recommending books or even interacting with patrons outside of taking cash and credit cards. I do agree about the environment of bookstores (and libraries) promoting an atmosphere of reading. I wanted to read even more than I'd already been doing just by walking along the shelves. Centers for literacy inspire deeper feelings for literacy, and the cycles that spin out from there are a definite help. The rest, like a maven clerk or lazy clerk, I guess is up to the individual.

  7. The 5 points are good reasons to put books in bookstores, but sadly they seem like wishful thinking or part of an older era. Customer service today pales compared to customer service decades ago. Bookstores need to concentrate on point #1 or they are doomed. I live in a city full of independent bookstores, and #1 is rare today. (There's a couple good ones here.)

    Point #4 is somewhat true. Bookstores struggle to make money, and that means pushing products that sell (including candy and coffee.) Low volume books must step aside for popular, even more in big chain shops. Avid readers have read nearly everything in many bookstores, so they often must order books. Many of the best books I have ever read weren't found in bookstores, and thanks to a lack of #1, they can't help me find these wonderful treasures. (In fairness, I've found a couple in a bookstore I couldn't order anywhere.)

    The sad part about #5 is that many bookstores don't have time to read everyone's book. Get to know the people at the bookstore first. Be an avid customer and find that rare #1 clerk. Libraries might be better: get books into libraries and spend some time there. I have more faith in libraries than bookstores (except for the rare #1 shop.)

    I hope bookstore operators and book publishers read this post and others like them. (Or not-if more shops fail then good shops will thrive.) Until bookstores and publishers understand their core audience-instead of going after the popular sell-I can only partially agree. I'm not convinced I want my books in traditional bookstores.

  8. My apologies for taking so long to reply to the great comments on this post. You might have noticed that I've been scarcely on twitter and facebook, and that I haven't posted #fridayflash this week. In fact, I haven't had the mind to think much about Randomities or writing in general.

    In the next few days/week I intend to keep visiting friend's blogs, but I'm not sure I'll have much to add here at Randomities. This is one of those times...

    --Jemi, Catherine (ganymeder), Ellen and Jodi: I too love bookstores, although it's kind of a torture for me. I want to buy almost everything, or at least usually an entire section even though I obviously can't. Yeah, a child in a sweets shop is quite the perfect imagery, heh.

    By the way, belated welcome to Randomities Ellen! :)

    --John: I've had good and awful experiences when it comes to bookstore clerks, so I guess you're right that it depends on the person's dedication. On the other hand, it'd be neat if a warm service were the bookstore's prime policy, wouldn't it? ;)

    --David: You make very good points and you're lucky to have a nearby bookstore of the type #1 nearby.

    I agree with your reasoning about #4. I believe that the more #1 clerks, the more money the bookstore will make, benefiting the writers by consequence. I can only hope that they are aware of it.

  9. What an encouraging post. And thanks Mari for having Claudia on your blog.

    I used to sell books for a distribution company to stores, libraries and schools. The stores I sold to usually catered to a niche market, and held a solid and loyal following within the community. The owners and managers of these stores were inspirational, to say the least. They knew their books. As a writer and sales person, I learned plenty from them.

    Yes, these stores are scarce but they're out there. And as Claudia so aptly puts it, there is nothing quite as infectious as a bookstore spreading the word and promoting a book.

  10. --Karen (moderndaystoryteller): I tend to believe that niche markets are more personal, which is why you had such a great experience. The smaller the most personal, right? ;)

  11. Love my local bookshop and it will be a sad day if we see the end of it. Completely agree that booksellers play an important part when it comes to selling your book. If they like it, they will tell others; after all books are often sold by word of mouth. And bookstores are such a great gathering place; yes completely agree. It's so much better picking up a book at the store, than ordering it on Amazon, although I'm not knocking the latter!

  12. --Olive: I won't deny that I frequently buy books through Amazon too. This is mostly due to the great difficulty to find books in original language here in Italy. Books in Italian I most certainly buy at the local bookstore, even if it means waiting more to receive it, so I totally agree with you.


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