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  • mcharlier1953

Hooray for indie bookstores!

The coolest people in the world, without a doubt, are independent bookstore owners and their staff.

Among them are Brian and Amy Exstrum, owners of the Ouray Bookshop, and Nancy Nixon, who handles things when they’re out hiking with friends.

I stopped in the store in this beautiful southeastern Colorado town after what I considered a brutal hike (the Exstrums probably do it before breakfast) in the mountains surrounding the beautiful Box Canyon of Ouray. And despite my appearance (which is generally poor and, on that day, particularly so), Brian greeted me like an old friend. I signed the copies of The Rebel Nun that he had displayed prominently on his front table, and we talked a bit about marketing and publishing.

A couple of days later, I stopped by again to deliver some tote bags and bookmarks and met Nancy. She was gracious enough to pose for a photo with me.

Over the next 45 days, I’ll be making a number of bookstore stops—in Denver; in Lawrence, KS; in Des Moines and Ames, IA; Valentine, NE; and Deadwood, SD. It is fun, but it’s also necessary. Marketing these days is primarily the responsibility of the author, even when the author’s book is published by a “traditional” (not self) publishing company, like is mine. I am also blessed that my best friend in Iowa, my sister in Iowa, and my niece in South Dakota have also invited some people over to their houses for wine and “book launch” events.

Unless the author is the best-selling equivalent of James Patterson or Nora Roberts or Stephen King, the author is on her own in arranging bookstore tours these days. In fact, other than Amazon marketing, the author must arrange any events, presentations, interviews, reviews and other in-person marketing that involves something other than pushing buttons on a keyboard and printing bookmarks. And even bookstores expect the author to market their events for them. I lost one opportunity for an event in a bookstore in Minneapolis because I couldn’t afford the advertising and publicity the manager wanted me to provide, even after I pledged to buy and donate 20 tickets for the event.

Of course, some authors get a lot more support from their publishers, so I generalize. I would love to hack the formula for that, but I still have some learning to do. (I think some of it’s the luck of the draw … what publicist you are assigned, for example.)

And while I, for one, would much rather be sitting at my desk at home writing another novel than marketing, the best part of all of this is the bookstore stops. And book festivals! I will be attending the South Dakota Festival of Books the first couple of days in October in Deadwood, which will be a wonderful way to end my short, self-organized tour.

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