Two examples from this week have reinforced this for me. One related to my upcoming release of THE BETWEEN, the other from my personal life. (Which I won't talk about specifically here because it pertains to one of my kiddos.)
So I decided to write an email to our local indi-bookstore to ask if they'd be willing to stock my book. I knew at the outset that self-published books have an uphill at best battle to get into brick and mortar stores. But I knew it was worth asking the question. My family have been buying books at this store for more than 10 years.
This is the email I wrote (names redacted).
You may not remember me, but I think I may have been one of the first customers to welcome you to ########. I had been so worried when #### told me he was selling the store and was so thrilled to find that it was going to remain in good hands.
I am writing to ask you what your store's policy is on stocking independently published books. I am a local novelist (I also write an occasional Op/Ed for The Tab) and while I am represented by Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency, I am releasing my debut YA fantasy novel independently. I'm sure I don't have to tell you about how difficult the world of publishing has become over the past several years. THE BETWEEN made the rounds of the big NY houses, garnered glowing praise by every editor who read it, but ultimately no one made an offer, citing fears of a large enough market to take the risk on an unknown writer.
So, with the blessing of my agency, I have done the hard work of bringing this story to market; hired a freelance editor, consulted with a book designer, worked with a professional artist for the cover design.
THE BETWEEN is set to be released on January 13, 2012. A brief blurb follows:
I would very much like to speak with you at your convenience to talk about the possibility of having ########### stock copies of THE BETWEEN. I would be happy to do this on consignment or in any other way that would work. I am also available for speaking/signing and would be happy to energize my network to attend a release event at your store. I have also run writing workshops for young writers in the ###### schools and if that is something ############# is interested in hosting, I would love to put a class together.
If you would like, you can read the first chapter of THE BETWEEN here, in mobi, epub, or pdf formats. http://www.ljcohen.net/
downloads.html. I can also drop off a proof copy for you.
It was professional, specific, and I asked for what I wanted in clear language, and let the store owner know that I could bring my expertise in workshopping with young writers to the table for the store.
I gave it my best, most optimistic shot, even knowing that the answer might easily have been a polite rejection or a blanket policy that the store did not carry self published books. So why did I bother?
Because I believe that if there's even a small chance, even when others might say no chance, I will give it a try.
"See, there's a big difference between mostly dead, and all dead. Now, mostly dead: he's slightly alive".
I guess I'm like Miracle Max from The Princess Bride. Mostly no means slightly yes.
And the reply I received?
Here's an excerpt:
More than slightly yes.Congratulations on the book, and we'd be happy to host you for a release
party (and carry the book afterwards, of course.) We can work out a
consignment deal that benefits us both.
I know the publishing world is nutty these days, and I'm glad you were
able to find a way to get your book out into the world. Happy to help in
whatever way we can.