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Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

Of the Writing of Book Review Requests, There is No End

To be fair, that’s out of 30,535 emails, and some of them were read on another device.

The number of emails in my in-box is increasing.

I’m not sure if it’s because of Christian Book Shop Talk, or because of Thinking Out Loud, but the volume of mail asking me to promote books is noticeably increasing.

Most if not all are self-published titles. I think it’s ironic that these authors are begging me to mention them, while on the other side of my email app, I’m begging major publishers to let me review their books, with a promise of a trifecta consisting of a trade mention here, a review at Thinking Out Loud, and a chapter excerpt at Christianity 201.

They aren’t interested.

In the meantime, I’m left with a collection of indie authors who, while they may be sincere and doctrinally orthodox, haven’t been vetted by a process that includes acquisition editors, proposal meetings, first draft editing, final editing and more. And decent graphic art. So much I could say about the last one. Yes you can judge a book by its cover.

Much of this mail includes a link to the book’s page on Amazon. I don’t know about you, but I think that sending an Amazon link to a trade bookstore is insulting and triggering. There. I said it.

If I have the time and inclination to pursue that, I always look very carefully to see if there is an ISBN embedded in the URL of the page. Often, there is a just a B-number and that means the book doesn’t have an ISBN and any other searching is going to prove futile. It can also mean the book isn’t in print at all, but they’re asking me to promote an e-book. To an audience of trade bookstore owners. Go figure.

Then I apply the ISBN to Ingram or BookManager to see if there is any trade distribution. Often the books have no availability to the trade bookstores. At that point, it’s game over as far as I’m concerned.

If the book is part of Ingram Publisher Services or Baker and Taylor’s equivalent (which often are listed at Parasource) I then check three things.

First, Is there a decent trade discount? Books which are 10% or NET are never going to get stocked in inventory in our stores. Shelf space is too precious. Orders, maybe. On a NET price item, maybe not. 20% or 30%, possibly.

A 25% discount at Ingram is an interesting case. It often means that the book has been published by an Amazon subsidiary. For some reason, a lot of their titles land at 25%. Do I want to support them indirectly? I take these on a case-by-case basis.

Second, I check the BISAC cateorgy or Ingram category or Dewey category. Is this even a Christian book? You’d be surprised at the requests I get — and now we’re including customer special-order requests — for books listed as new age or parapsychology with no reference to Christianity at all. Unless it’s for a pastor or seminary student doing research, this item isn’t going to find its way to my shelves.

Third, assuming discounts and categories work, I check the page count. It’s amazing how many books are doing well up to this point and then fail the content test. Generally I’m not legalistic about this, but I consider 10-cents US per page to be reasonable. $19.99 US for 106 pages means the book is overpriced. Or $14.99 US for 72 pages. It’s too high, and we haven’t even done the conversion to Canadian dollars. This particular check is often the reason why the discount is generous. Conversely, some books with shorter discounts offer a good volume of reading and assuming the US list price is not printed on the back, will sustain a higher-than-normal markup for a special order.

In terms of my email however, there is often a sixth sense that comes into play. Call it discernment. The book checks all the boxes, but I still have red flags in my head. A look into the online life and other works by the author often supplies clues that this isn’t a book I want our store to be associated with.

Having said all that, for some of you it’s a different process that involves customer reviews. For something you’re considering in inventory, that’s a good thing to research if you have time.

Another good question to ask is, What other Christian retailers are carrying this product? I have some go-to websites for this including Parable or ChristianBook in the US and Koorong and Eden Books overseas, especially if it’s a writer from outside North America whose books have impacted in far away places. North American Christianity can get really myopic.

Finally, I know there are some people who are thinking, ‘Don’t open the emails.’ Yes, the cream rises to the top, but only in a fair distribution system. Finding a hidden gem or two that will really work in your market gives you a competitive edge against anyone else your customer buys books from, but you need to follow up your decision to inventory the book with mentions on your store Facebook page, your store newsletter, and your store blog. Differentiating a genuine ‘find’ such as these titles is harder to do on BookManager where every book gets the same treatment, and that’s why I recommend having a store blog and using a newsletter and social media to especially create some buzz for a unique title.

 


Today’s title with apologies to Solomon in Eccl. 12:12

Resource for Prospective Writers Marks 4th Edition

Although our target audience here is retailers, not writers, Sarah Bolme’s blog Marketing Christian Books has been a helpful resource which helps me maintain balance between our needs as booksellers, and understanding the needs of authors. I often refer aspiring writers in my own community to check out her blog.

So if you’re a writer, here’s word that the 4th edition of her book, Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books is now available.

Read more at this article at Marketing Christian Books.