A BMS Books survey of booksellers has found widespread support for self-published authors but with reservations around marketing and sales.
BMS Books called booksellers throughout New Zealand and asked them three simple questions for our survey:
• Do you stock self-published books?
• What sales and marketing support helps?
We talked to more than 40 booksellers. Some were unable to talk to us for good reasons – they were busy in the shop. We are grateful for those who did make space in their busy days to share their thoughts.
Self-published books have grown to be a significant component of the book marketplace but, as NZ Booksellers Associations Media and Communications Manager Sarah Forster says, sales don’t necessarily show up in the current “best seller” lists.
Of the 40 booksellers BMS Books contacted, 28 stated that “yes” they would stock self-published books. Only two gave a flat “no”, while 10 were uncertain.
Those booksellers who were uncertain either cited “messy” sales arrangements or the general difficulty of managing the sales and payments involved, although one was straight up, saying: “Too much work for no return”.
However, with the overwhelming number of positive responses, it seems the tide of self-published books being produced is unstoppable.
Regarding why they stocked the books, many booksellers showed a willingness to support “local” authors. This suggested that the author who is from within the local area or who based the story in the vicinity, may have some chance of linking with local bookshops to discuss them stocking their book.
BMS Books specialises in regional authors with challenging themes, so it was interesting to note that booksellers supported local, and New Zealand authors so strongly.
“Some are incredibly good” was one comment, while another was “we like to support local authors” and “we choose what we like”. A number of others said that self-published books add variety to the store, one adding “We like to support the artist (writer)”.
Sales and marketing of self-published books is an essential component of making sales through bookshops. Booksellers pointed to local media as the most effective, along with social media, launch parties at shops and in-store signings.
However, the need for attractive covers as essential in making sales was underlined, as was a requirement for the books to be professionally produced.
NZ Booksellers’ Sarah Forster agreed with the need to focus on the look and finish of the book to boost its chances of sales success. Pricing was difficult for authors, because they wanted a return on their work and the production of the book. They needed to be aware that the bookseller had to make a profit, as well as the terms of sale required to get the books into shops.
What was the best-selling self-published book on the New Zealand official list? The ‘Dunedin Fonebook’ – a book of photographs published by a local author.
Decidedly local, the book has been produced by Michelle Chalklin Sinclair and Judith Cullen – the name being a play on words given the images in the ‘Dunedin Fonebook’ were taken on Michelle’s phone.
Their inventive approach highlights the comment from booksellers that authors should work with people they know and gear their books to the audience.
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