Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bookstores Aren't the Best Place to Sell Books But Bookstands Will Help Anywhere!

Once upon a time I owned a small chain of retail stores. I know how important display is to a product; we used to display our merchandise (like mini pictures) with bookstand and we sold the stands to customers to use in their homes as well. So, I've always used bookstands to display my books on, too. If you don't, you should consider it. Today's guest blogger Sue Freeman has the resource for bookstands and a few other inspiring stories to tell about how and where to sell books. She also has some ieas for their most effective use. You will see my novel, This Is the Place, displayed on a stand in the photograph.

Bookstands Make Your Books Stand Out

By Sue Freeman

We’re all susceptible to the impulse purchase. That’s why grocery and discount stores line the checkout lanes with goodies to catch your eye. It works — you buy more.

One day, I went to a bike shop to buy an odometer for my bike. I waited at the checkout counter while the cash register completed its computation. My casual glance lighted upon a reflective leg band hanging on a small display rack. I grabbed one and added it to my purchase. It got me thinking – why not get my guidebooks displayed where people are forced to wait. People shopping in a bike shop already have, or are buying a bike and need to know where to go biking. My guidebooks would make a perfect impulse purchase.

All we needed was a convenient way to display the books and an incentive for shop owners to place them on the checkout counter. We began looking for book stands. We needed a small quantity (to test the idea), and stands that were durable, attractive, and available at a low cost. We found companies that offered book stands, but finding one that met all our criteria proved to be a challenge. We persevered and created a successful promotion.

The outdoor recreation guides we sell through Footprint Press, Inc., cover trails for hiking, bicycling, and skiing. We’ve gotten them displayed on checkout counters in bike shops, gift shops, nature centers, wineries, coffee shops, and even gas stations.

When we make a sales call we offer a free plastic countertop display stand to retailers who buy at least five books. With the stand -- and some not so subtle suggestions from us -- our books end up being displayed on the checkout
counter nine times out of ten. Our best success has been with face to face sales calls.

We tape a business card to the back of each stand, which gives our customers quick access to our reorder phone number.

Stores Where Stands Show Up

Of course, some shop owners say no — their counters are too crowded already. But, the ones who say yes end up selling many more books and we make our $4 to $7 investment in the display stand back very quickly.

I’ve seen display stands boost sales for other kinds of books also, when publishers carefully target the stores they approach. If your book appeals to grandparents, for instance, you’ll want to target toy and clothing stores where they’re likely to shop. If your book is historical fiction or nonfiction, you’ll want to target stores with merchandise that appeals to people interested in its period, its protagonists and/or its location.

Clearly, this means you won’t want to limit your outreach to bookstores. As I mentioned, even gas stations worked for us, and our books were the only ones they had ever carried.

Once you’ve identified stores where your specific customers are likely to shop, then pitch your book(s) to the owners or managers. Sometimes the offer of a free bookstand is what tips the scales so that they say yes.

Height Helps at Events

We also use bookstands to give our books a lift at festivals, book signings and seminars. And I use the word “lift” advisedly. We’ve spent time and money to get to these events, and often shelled out money for the honor of setting up a table at them. If we spread our books on the table (as I’ve watched many exhibitors do) and sit back as people wander past, they send only a fleeting glance toward our display, and we’ve lost an opportunity.

So we don’t spread the books out on the table. We set them upright on display stands at various heights.

Since we’ve invested in captivating cover designs, we display each book face out to passersby and let their glances light upon our covers, enticing them over for a closer look.

This works well, even for those who aren’t aggressive marketers. I know some publishers and authors can reach out to engage people in conversation as they walk by, but I’m too shy to do it successfully, and I suspect many others are too.

Whether you’re shy or aggressive, displaying books on stands helps entice
potential customers to your table. And at a talk or workshop, having books on display stands on a table in the back of the room makes them much more noticeable to attendees. People are more likely to see them when they come in, and stop to browse. Browsing often turns into buying.

Try it. Use book display stands to leverage exposure for your book(s) at retail stores and at festivals, exhibits, and book signings. Increase impulse purchases and watch your sales increase.

Sue Freeman is the publisher of Footprint Press Recreation Guidebooks and the owner of To see the book display stands it sells, visit

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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