I started working at a bookstore this past summer because well, I adore books and bookish things. Also, as a writer I had it in my head that I could learn about the market. Little did I know that when it came to my authoring endeavours, there were many more benefits that I wasn't even remotely aware of.
One evening, I started talking with a coworker while the store was quiet. I was telling him about how this February I would be traveling to Florida to pitch my first novel. He asked me if I was nervous and I responded by saying, "A little, yeah."
"Don't be," he replied, "You literally pitch books to people every day and get paid for it."
I blinked. He was right. My job is to sell books and often times that means elevator pitching books that I've read myself or even ones I've only heard of or read the back cover of. Not only that but the people I'm pitching to are complete strangers. Sound familiar?
Our conversation got me thinking about all the reasons why this job was beyond perfect for me so I compiled a list.
As I mentioned above, you pitch books daily! It's fantastic practice for pitching your own book. You learn what catches people's attention and what doesn't, you learn how to adjust pitching a single book based on the customer. Age and gender matter when it comes to pitching; different people will react differently.
You learn all about the market. Not only can you see what kinds of books are actually on the shelves but you get to watch how the new releases change from month to month. Also you can observe what's selling and what's not.
There was one book in particular at the store I work at that had a ton of advertising. We all thought that the books would be flying off the shelf but we were completely wrong. I haven't seen a single customer with a copy of the book.
Not only do you learn what's IN the market but you learn what's LACKING. Customers will come in looking for something specific to read and there will be nothing that matches their description in our system. Believe it or not, bookstores don't have every type of book out there. It just goes to show that there's still original ideas out there to be claimed!
Some things I've been asked for are secular teen romances without swearing or sex, teen historical fiction that ISN'T about the second world war, or adult mythology fiction (like an adult Percy Jackson). There's a high demand for these things, writers! Get on it before I do ;)
You start to pick up on what type of people buy certain types of books. This is a massive lesson on audience. I've learned a whole lot about who I'll be selling my books too and let me tell you, I was a little off on what I was originally speculating. Plus, as an employee of the store, I get to talk to these people. It's like talking to your future audience and it's so cool! I get to ask them what they liked about certain books and what they didn't like about others. It's fabulous research.
Plot bunnies! The cover art is enough to spur plot bunnies alone but even some cryptic back cover synopses have gotten the ideas flowing. I have a coworker who will try to guess what books are about based on title alone. It's an amazing way to get ideas for new stories in my opinion ^ ^
Marketing strategies are acquired. When new books come out or are reprinted, I get to witness firsthand which of the marketing strategies are best received by certain customers. It's kind of another way to look at your audience and generate some ideas about how you might approach advertising your story within a bookstore.
Publishing houses are starting to become less of a mystery to me. I'm starting to piece together what genres certain houses like to publish. I'm also learning that there's many more houses out there than I thought. Hopefully one day I can be represented by one of those publishing houses and have one of my books on the shelves :D
|Just a small handful of publishing houses I've come across|