MAKING RETAIL CONNECTIONS


Making Retail Connections

By Natalie Bright

If you’ve self-published a book, it’s up to you to establish retail connections.

An author once told me that he’d only intended to write the book, and never wanted to be a book salesman. Now he’s traveling around with a car full of books. Welcome to the reality of today’s publishing world.  How are people going to read your book, if they don’t know it exists?

As the CEO of YOU, guess who is in charge of book promotion?

Make the Connection

While the internet offers a multitude of book promotion opportunities, for this particular post, I want to talk specifically about working with retail outlets and how to approach owners or managers.

On cold calls, approach them in a friendly, cooperative manner, introduce yourself and ask if they’d like to see your book. Most bookstore owners are always interested in talking to authors. Ask them if it’s a subject their customers might like. Information flyers and postcards work as well. When I receive inquiries in regards to my middle grade book, OIL PEOPLE, I offer to leave the store manager a preview copy. If it’s an inquiry by phone or email, I always offer to mail a preview copy. Be sure to include promo copies in your budget.

Store Owners Rule

Retail stores have to realize at least a 50% to 60% markup in the items they sell. They have a store front to operate which includes payroll, building utilities, and inventory expense.

DO NOT tell the storeowner the retail price. It’s their store, they set the price. Business owners are independent and territorial. If you tell them how to run their business, you’ll be out the door in a flash. Quote them the price you need, and you can suggest a retail price but ultimately the cost to customers is the store owners decision.

Setting the Price

If you self-publish, you have to leave a little wiggle room when setting your price. I hear this complaint all of the time and it is confusing to self-published writers. Authors quote the price printed on their book or the over-inflated price they paid for printing, expecting that’s the price they are due. Shop around and find the best possible printing deal in order to keep your price per book as low as possible. Hopefully, you’ll have room to make a few bucks, and the store comes out ahead as well.

Retail owners are in business to make a profit. If business owners’ efforts aren’t going to generate dollars to pay for the cost of staying open, it’s not worth having your book take up valuable shelf space.

The key, I think, is being able to offer a low price to retail outlets and being able to negotiate a price without being too pushy.

Consider ALL Possibilities

Major chain bookstores may not be an option to self-published authors for many reasons which are beyond your control. Are there specialty shops in your area? What about possible connections through family and friends?

Think about cross-selling. If you have a book of poetry, why not approach a lingerie shop? If you have a children’s book about horses, drop by a saddle and tack store or the local feed store. Stop stressing over things you can’t control and consider all of the possibilities, and keep writing!

Natalie Bright

Postcards From the Muse


Postcards From the Muse

 

The old house sits on its own little acre of land.  It’s beautiful in its dilapidation, sunburned gray siding, broken windows, roof falling in.  You can’t stop looking at it and wondering about its story.

How many old buildings have you seen as you drive down the road, ancient places full of history and drama?  Do you notice shapes moving around inside?  Do you think that if you listen closely you will hear whispering?  Eerie music?  Phantom laughter?

Congratulations.  You have received a postcard from your muse.

Nandy Ekle

MAKING SENSE OF THE SENSES


Making Sense of the Senses

 

How does the loss of sight affect your hearing?

What color does an orange smell like?

How loud is an inner voice?

Can you describe how the wind feels?

What does sour taste like?

When I am writing, it’s easy to visualize what I want my characters to see and feel or even smell. However putting it down on paper so that the reader can clearly see them is a difficult task. For example, if I write, “He walked into the room and gazed at the beautiful painting hanging on the wall.” What does the reader see? What object is displayed in the painting? What colors make the painting beautiful? How is it framed?

This dilemma came to life for me when the main character of my novel, UNLAWFUL WORDS, suddenly goes blind. Writing what he saw with his eyes came to an abrupt halt. How do I write his experiences now?

A blindfold

Using a blindfold I spent several hours experiencing the darkness. Immediately I began to depend on my hearing, turning my head from side to side trying to capture all the sounds around me. My hands automatically reached forward hoping to feel something familiar and my feet slowed their steps to prevent stumbling. The objects once identified by sight now had to be described by feeling the texture, or the smell. These are the details that help the reader understand what the character is experiencing.

In your writing, use the basic senses such as taste, touch, hear, see, smell. Be careful not to give the reader sensory overload by giving a long string of description using all five sense on every situation, when generally the use of two or more different senses can tie the picture together for the reader.

Rory C. Keel

BREAKING BAD: Lessons in Character Profiles


BREAKING BAD: Lessons in Character Profiles

Natalie Bright

Arriving late to the party, I’m just now into the second season of BREAKING BAD on Netflix. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s the story of a desperate high school chemistry teacher who begins cooking meth to make money. His reasons are valid and Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) is one of those villains who you love to hate and who you hope wins at something. I stray far away from drug-related and junkie stories. I have never liked that world, but I finally gave in during this pandemic isolation at the suggestion of my sons. I find myself cheering Walt on and hoping he can cook a batch of meth. The writers throw everything they have at these characters until there is no way they can possibly get out of the unbelievable mess they’re in. 

If you HAVE watched Breaking Bad already, I urge you to watch the first season again with a creative writer’s eye and take notes. Pay attention to character traits and how they are used in the plotting. 

Spoiler Alert: What makes Walter White so fascinating?

Walter White is a brilliant chemist whose college mates went on to make fortunes in successful corporate ventures. He teaches high school kids. His younger wife is pregnant,  unplanned. His brother-in-law is a DEA agent. Walter has just been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and the treatments cost $90,000. How much worse could his life get? Hang on, because it does.

One good example of traits and plotting is Jesse Pinkman, (played by actor Aaron Paul) an ex-student of Walt’s who becomes his reluctant partner in the drug trade. As a junkie, Jesse coordinates the deals and maneuvers through the underbelly of the city. In one episode, a couple rolls Jesse for the product and steals his cash. Walt tells him to fix the problem and get their money back. 

Jesse gets their name and address and goes to the house armed, prepared to do what he has to do. At this point in the story, what is the worst that can happen? There are numerous combinations of scenarios that could be played out.

  1. Jesse threatens the addicts, finds his money and builds a rep as someone you don’t want to double-cross.
  2. The man and woman overtake him in some way and injures or kills Jesse.
  3. Walt arrives to help.
  4. They have no money and no product. What can he do? Is he forced to kill them?

What is the absolute worst that can happen to Jesse? How can the outcome be so bad that it’s next to impossible for him to come out alive? We know Jesse is a junkie despite Walt telling him to not use the product. He makes horrible, stupid decisions but he’s a good guy at heart. He got thrown out of his parents’ home for the third time because he took heat for his little brothers joint that was found by the maid. So how can we show Jesse’s decent side but at the same time make his options seem unsurmountable?

SPOILER ALERT: The druggies aren’t home so Jesse waits on their living room sofa. An unkept, half-dressed child emerges and turns the television on. Jesse tries to talk to him, but he obviously lacks communication skills from his situation. Jesse tries to find him cartoons to watch, but the there is only one channel. And then the dirty little child turns to Jesse and says, “I’m hungry.”  Long story short, the kid gets food, the parents come home and promise to pay Jesse back if he’ll help them break open an ATM machine they had stolen. Jesse gets knocked out by the woman, she takes his gun but doesn’t kill him, instead gets high. Jesse comes to. The man is drilling holes into the bottom of the ATM. The couple argues, she tips the machine over and crushes her husband’s head, and the ATM door swings open! Jesses takes the cash and calls 911. He hurries to the back bedroom and carries the little boy outside, sits him on the front porch and wraps the blanket around him, “Have a nice life,” he says.

YOUR HOMEWORK

This would be a fun exercise with your writing critique group. Analyze the characters from Breaking Bad and identify their good traits and bad traits. Every hero has a bad trait. Every villain has a good trait. Then have a brainstorming session on plotting. What is the worst that can happen? What happens next? What’s worse than that? Next, make it so horrible your main character has everything at stake with impossible odds. Don’t you love stories like that?

Have fun!