16 Jan 2020

Guest Post with Julia Goldhirsh

Introduction

Hello everyone! Today I’m co-authoring a blog post with Julia Goldhirsh, a YA fantasy & fairytale writer. We met on Twitter and decided to combine our collective efforts for a bit. Enjoy! Oh, and make sure to check out our respective blogs: Julia Goldhirsh and Alex Stargazer.

How to pitch your book as the right genre

  1. See what types of people are interested in your book. Who wants to review the book, how old are they etc?
  2. Make a list of the types of tropes you have in your book.
  3. Search on Amazon to see what other books have those tropes
  4. Ask your readers how they would define the book. See what readers say about it during beta reading.
  5. Use the template below to help get started
  6. Look for novels that seem similar to yours and that have similar tropes. How do those writers classify their books?

Age of characters: 12-18 (Typically YA or MG) Time Period: Modern (Urban), Past (Possibly historical) Genre: Science focused, magic and sorcery focused, end of the world focused, love focused, etc.

You can see a further breakdown of genres here.

To craft your pitch

Grab them with the first line- A dark fairy tale with a twist. Introduce an enticing trope- At the turn of the 20th century, a Rapunzel in a greenhouse battles an evil nymph Leave them with something that makes them want to know more- with help from a messenger with a mysterious past.

Here is another hook that I’ve used- An enchanted Rose spellbound to a greenhouse prison.

How to sell books to bookstores

Some of the main things bookstores want when looking for books are retail discounts, ISBNs, and a price on the barcode. This makes selling your book easier for them and will make your book an easier sell in the long run. Here’s what I’d recommend so you can have those things for the bookstores.

  1. Ingram Sparks- Get on Ingram sparks. No seriously. Do it. It will make you a lot more palatable when you approach bookstores.
  2. Bowker- Purchase a barcode from Bowker and have your cover artist put the barcode on there for you. You can get your ISBN there too.

Alright, so now that you have that out of the way, here’s what you can do to reach out to bookstores. Note that this is not a one size fits all approach, but this worked for me.

  1. Library- Submit to your local library.
  2. Bookmarks and business cards-Have some bookmarks made and ask your local bookstores if you can give them bookmarks
  3. Barnes and Noble- Fill out the forms they provide on their website. They even offer the option to get your book reviewed through their website.
  4. Books a Million- Fill out the forms on their website. (They do not accept Print on Demand titles).

One thing I did was that I had some bookmarks designed and printed through Vistaprint. I contacted some local bookstores and cafes to see if they’d be interested in taking the bookmarks. Often when I went in a customer or two would ask about the book, I’d give them a short pitch and the customer would express some interest. This resulted often times in the buyer purchasing the book off Ingram.

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Below are some pictures of my book in the library and on the bookstore shelves.

Alex’s Suggestions for Getting into Bookstores

To begin with, I second Julia’s suggestion regarding bookmarks, and this is something I will be doing myself. Bookmarks give you physical presence, author branding, and credibility. But let’s not forget the most important element: pitching your physical book to the manager. This is exactly what I did at WHSmiths, and it immediately grabbed the attention of the manager. At Waterstones, I was unable to meet the manager in person—and when I pitched him via email, it didn’t work.

Another suggestion, which won’t work for everyone, is Kickstarter. I have been able to successfully meet my funding goal thanks to the awesome folks at Kickstarter. What does this have to do with bookstores, you wonder? Again: credibility. It’s easier to convince a manager to buy your book if you can prove that you raised $1000 (say) for your crowdfunding campaign.

Your author branding should work to support your message—I intend to display the Kickstarter logo along with Fallen Love imagery in my bookmarks, for example.

Regarding which company you use to print your books (Amazon, Lulu or Ingram) this is a tricky question and one which I haven’t figured out yet. Julia thinks you should use Ingram, which is the traditional choice for getting into bookstores. But combining Bowker + Ingram has an entry cost in the hundreds of dollars, and that’s money that can certainly be better spent. Amazon has the best prices—but branding might be an issue. Lulu’s prices are too high, for paperbacks at least, to be realistic. Personally, I’ll plump for Amazon.

How About Genre?

This is easy if you’re publishing something in an already well-defined genre—epic fantasy, for example; thriller; or cozy mystery. Things get harder if you’re writing something a bit more unconventional like what me and Julia are writing. The general advice—shelve your book in the sub-genre of the main genre, so on Amazon that might be fantasy and then “LGBT Fantasy”—works if you know what your main genre is. It may be that you need to categorise your book in more than one genre. This is a case of experiment-and-see-what-works.

I learned this the hard way for Fallen Love. I always knew that, at heart, the story is urban fantasy: the young adult characters, the worldbuilding, the tropes—it’s the stuff of Cassandra Clare or Lauren Kate or (heck!) even Twilight. Yet I hoped it would also appeal to LGBT and Sci Fi readers. The jury is still out on the SciFi part (I don’t have a large enough sample of Sci Fi readers yet) but my experience with LGBT readers is that it’s more often miss than hit. As much as I love the relationship between Mark and Conall, the book has too much complex worldbuilding to appeal to M/M romance readers. For a reader who diets on contemporary gay romance, demons, witches and 26th century Europe are just too much.

You can guess I’ll be heavily promoting Fallen Love as an urban fantasy book before anything else.

Conclusion

So how does the intrepid author go about getting their book into a bookstore, and hopefully selling a bunch of copies? Both me and Julia agree on the business fundamentals: you need a good price and discount for your book; a well-chosen target market; and you should a physical product that communicates your brand. The author’s personal presence is often important as well.

If you have raised money in a crowdfunding campaign, or have already sold a decent number of books online, this is something to emphasise.

Julia Goldhirsh is the author of Spellbound, a fairytale spin on the classic young adult fantasy story. You should follow her on Twitter and Facebook or her mailing list to get the latest on her new books, special offers, and cover reveals.

Alex is an author of some excellent LGBT Urban fantasy books with hints of romance. His second novel is called Fallen Love and he has a scheduled publication date of February 1st 2020. You can check him out on www.alexstargazer.com and follow him on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to get updates on cover reveals, new books, and promotions.

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