Authors often ask how to set up a book event. As a former bookstore owner and an author, I can give you some pointers:
DO your homework: location, hours, type of store, and so forth. Check the store’s website and social media pages.
DO stop by in person. Bookstore folks want to meet you.
DO browse around for a bit and get a feel for the place. Talk to whoever is working, when he has a moment, and find out who you need to talk to schedule an event.
DO buy a book. Show interest in the bookstore, outside of it being a potential venue for you to sell your own books. It’s a partnership, after all.
DO expect to bring your own books, particularly if you’re self-published; even if you have a name for your “publishing company.” Sometimes indie stores will order books from their suppliers, if they’re offered at a standard discount, are returnable, and the store believes they can sell them. Sometimes, they’re just doing you a favor and will adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Bookstores will often sell on consignment during your event, with 30-40% of the retail price going to the store. Deal with it. Sometimes they’ll even buy a couple afterwards.
DO ask about what advertising they’re going to do and what you should do. Ask about posters, fliers, bookmarks, etc. Bring what the store asks for, when they ask for it. No more, no less.
DO promote your event, online especially, but in person too.
DO call to confirm a couple days ahead of time.
DO show up 10-15 minutes before your scheduled time. You need to set up and get ready, but many indie stores are quite small and don’t need extra people in the way—they’re planning on a certain time and so should you.
You can and should do all these things at other venues too: cafés, retail shops, restaurants, bars, bowling alleys—be creative!
However, we also have the don’ts:
DON’T approach stores that don’t carry your genre or type of book. We often had authors come in with urban fiction—our customers weren’t interested. Some stores specialize in romance, some in sci-fi.
DON’T barge in and think you can call the shots. Unless you’re Stephen King. The real one, I mean. And SK, if you’re reading this, please return my Facebook message—please? Okay, maybe you don’t want to sell on consignment; that’s cool. But maybe the store won’t order your books. Either change your mind quick, or thank them and move on. Don’t argue. It won’t help.
DON’T ask if you can leave fliers or bookmarks or rack cards or anything else. Unless it’s a book. You can leave a book. ONE book. Maybe someone who works there will read it; maybe they’ll stick it on the shelf and see if it sells. But the other stuff? There’s probably no space for it. It’ll sit on the counter for a while and then go into the trash.
DON’T bring stuff either before or the day of the event unless the store has asked for it. Again, it’s a space issue. And for God’s sake, don’t decorate your table with glitter. That stuff sticks in the carpet FOREVER. Chocolate is nice. For the bookseller. And you. But maybe not for kids. Kids and sticky fingers don’t play well in a bookstore.
DON’T forget to show up! It sounds like a no-brainer, but it happens. And don’t be late. Or too early.
Unless you plan to shop.