Thursday, January 12, 2017

Love Your Indie Booksellers by Jessica Ferguson

Last year I heard a bookseller speak at a conference. She was very specific about how self-published authors can help local independent bookstores. I’d like to share her info with you, along with some of my own experiences and observations.
First, she advised to make certain our books have a spine with a title and author name on it. It helps the bookseller shelve our books. It’s to our advantage. We can’t all be facing outward on the shelf.
Our books need an ISBN, barcode and price on the back to expedite checking out and helping the store add to and maintain their inventory.
When planning a book signing at a particular store, we have to know the bookstore’s process and follow their procedure. Each independent bookstore is different in the way they handle things. During our initial visit, we’ll meet the person in charge and ask for their guidelines. In our small Christian bookstore, we have a “reader” who vets all books to make certain they’re adequate for their customers. Most Indie bookstores know their customers well.
I shouldn’t have to mention this, but we should never enter any bookstore with demands—before, during or after our signing. I’ve heard horror stories about temperamental authors with an inflated view of their own talents and importance. Those authors make two hour book signings seem like four hours—for everyone involved. I’ve also heard one bookseller say because of the way one best-selling author acted and treated her sales people, when her books sold out, the store never re-ordered. They had no desire to promote that hateful, obnoxious author. If a customer requested a specific book, the seller would order it, but she wouldn’t stock them. See how much power a bookseller has?
Sometimes we authors don’t put ourselves in a booksellers place. We’re thinking the store is the one benefiting from our signing, that we’re introducing our customers to their store. We believe they’re the ones who get the repeat buyers. Remember, booksellers owe us nothing, but they do have the ability to hand sell our books over and over and over again.
Here’s a biggie from the bookseller’s mouth, and I admit I’ve never thought of it. We should never brag to our booksellers that we’re #1 on Amazon. Or that we’re anything on Amazon. They doesn’t care and they don’t want to hear it. Amazon is the #1 enemy of the small independent bookstore. Maybe we should think twice about sitting in our independent bookstore, handing out bookmarks with Amazon links. Wouldn’t it endear us to our independent booksellers if we created a special bookmark with their store’s name on it?
Do you schedule several book signings in your small town? The store owner I heard speak suggested we invest in one area, and do it right. Invite people to our event—don’t leave it all to the book seller. Can we guarantee 25 people into their store? They’d love it!
Last but not least, we should support other author’s book signings in our indie stores. I know we can’t purchase everyone’s book, but we can show up. And sometimes that book we might not be interested in will make a good stocking stuffer or birthday gift for a friend or relative.
Let’s put our thinking cap on and ask ourselves how we can support each other as well as our small town bookstores.  We’re all a team in this marketing business, helping each other. And our booksellers have the power to make our books live on … and on … and on.

The Bucket List Dare
Four best friends—Texas A&M grads—challenge each other to revisit the bucket list they made in college and tackle one daring item before they turn thirty. Living in different parts of the country and with birthdays on the horizon, the Aggie girls choose their adventure and work toward making it happen.

Arabel, recently unemployed and with a new genealogical certification to her name, takes off for Scotland to discover the answer to a mysterious hole in her ancestral tree. 

Annie, a wedding photographer whose reputation is her pride and her job is her life, crashes the most extravagant wedding in the country.

Kat, an army veteran and amputee, has always dreamed of climbing the most challenging terrain she can find. Now that her life and body have been drastically altered—does she dare?

Jojo is a country veterinarian who has never jumped out of a hayloft much less an airplane. How did that get on her bucket list?

The young professionals, facing unknown dangers and risks, call on their strong faith and Aggie spirit, and walk away with love. 

Jessica Ferguson is a staff writer for Southern Writers Magazine. Her story, Save The Groom, is available now in The Bucket List Dare collection. She is a contributing author in Legacy Letters with Lindsey’s Story, and the author of The Last Daughter, The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes and other novella and short story collections. Jess has written for newspapers and magazines in Texas and Louisiana. In her spare time, she coaches and mentors new writers, and plays with her recently retired husband. Jess blogs at For more information on coaching, visit her website at



  1. GREAT advice Jess!
    thank you so much for sharing
    Good luck and God's blessings

    1. Thanks for popping in and leaving a comment, Pam.

  2. Great article, Jess. I certainly have room for improvement here. These tips are a good place to start!

  3. Thanks Heather. I don't often stop to think bookstores and Amazon are competitors. 😳

  4. Good advice and to the point, as always.

  5. Thanks Jan! So much to know and learn.

  6. Very helpful, Jess! I'm actually meeting with the manager of a Christian store - a chain - this weekend to talk about a book signing. I've already been thinking of what I can share in terms of supporting the store - not just the other way around. So far, we've only talked on the phone, and although open to a signing, she also seemed a bit hesitant. I'm sure it's because I'm self-published and she doesn't know me or my work, so a face-to-face meeting will be a great help. All she knows is that the store's district manager and I have had some initial contact and he's all for the signing.

    I do think it's very important to focus on building a relationship with the store and go in with a humble attitude.

  7. Dawn, I'll think of you this weekend. I hope this is the beginning of a wonderful author/bookseller relationship. 🙏🙏

  8. Thank you for this information! I'm a new author, so everything is new to me. I stopped by our local Christian bookstore several months ago, and the owner talked to me about Amazon and how it has impacted her store, that it is more a gift store now than a bookstore. I never thought about that before!

  9. Karen, thanks for stopping by. If there's one thing I've learned about this business it's that we never quit learning! If we do, we'll be left behind. We sure need to keep our indie bookstores propped up.

  10. Jessica- I loved this post! As an indie author, I never thought about what I can do for indie booksellers. I'd like to build a good rapport with the local bookstores.

    You gave me much to think about. Such as the not mentioning Amazon and the bookmark idea. Thanks for the words of wisdom and advice.

    1. Thanks so much, Terri. And thanks for the opportunity. I hope we can do it again some day! 😍

  11. So informative! Thanks for sharing. I haven't done a bookstore signing in years. Guess I ought to get on the ball!

  12. Good stuff. It's so hard to know as an author exactly how assertive to be. You certainly don't want to come of as a nasty egotistical sort, but you don't want to be a total wall-flower either.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Charles. I'm definitely the wallflower! 😬


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