Booksellers for Authors - The Differences and Why They Matter

Barnes & Noble bookseller
Barnes & Noble bookstore offers in-store book displays and opportunities for author appearances. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images Entertainment

For book publishers and authors, the relationship with any bookseller is symbiotic. Authors should be aware of the fact that any type of establishment that helps put a book into a consumer's hands has a role in the success of a book — and that competition between booksellers for consumer dollars is fierce and politically charged from a book publishing industry standpoint (this is why it's bad form to say, flaunt your Amazon.com sales ranking to an indie bookstore).

Different Booksellers for Different Consumer — and Author — Needs

From a consumer standpoint, different booksellers do have different strengths and appeal to different consumer needs — and have different advantages for authors. 

Large Bookstore Chains

Barnes & Noble superstore offers a broad and deep selection of books and sidelines with some discounting in a pleasing, highly navigable retail environment — and they have Starbucks. The Books-A-Million (or BAM!) chain also has a wide selection in its many store.

Large chains offer opportunities for author appearances, and provide robust across the board display placements and cooperative advertising for select and seasonal books - this is more and more valuable as bricks-and-mortar stores become scarcer. 

Amazon.com Online Retailer

The first and largest online retailer Amazon.com offers deeper-than-average discounts, unprecedented product depth, a great search engine, shopping in one's pajamas, free print book delivery with Prime membership, and the Kindle — but there's no handling the book ahead of time and browsers always have to provide their own cappuccino.

 

For authors and publishers, the relationship with Amazon is fraught - as Amazon has been known to institute practices and policies that have threatened publisher health and author livelihoods, the are sometimes looked at as a predatory giant. 

However, authors ignore Amazon at their own peril. They should take advantage of both Amazon Author Central as a promotional tool and the Amazon Associates Program to provide 

Independent Bookstores

Quality independent booksellers offer a locally-curated, highly personalized — sometimes idiosyncratic — experience, benefits to the community at large (view their unique benefits for more on that) — and some even do offer caffeinated beverages. Indie stores also provide authors with an associates program (IndieBound) and are, in general, extremely welcoming to loyal, local authors. It behooves authors to establish a relationship with their local independent bookstores - and here's how both traditionally published and self-published authors can get their indie booksellers to love them

The demise of the Borders store chain, the contraction in the number of B&N superstores, and a few polarizing actions on the part of Amazon are just some of the market forces that have created more focus on the role of the independent bookseller and indies have many advocates in the publishing community. 

(On a related note: here's one literary agent's take on children's books and independent booksellers.)

Specialty Booksellers

Specialty booksellers offer certain genres and types of books exposure to distinct communities, which is an advantage for authors in those genres. For example, mystery booksellers like The Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca / New York City is known for hosting numerous book launches and signing events and for sending out comprehensive new release catalogs to their passionate audience of readers - all great for authors in the genre.

Other speciality booksellers range from CEO Reads — which specializes in selling print business books to C-suite staffers — to Jane Austen Books, which offers comprehensive coverage of books by and about Jane Austen and the Regency period. 

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