Martin Latham is the longest serving Waterstones Manager, having been appointed by legendary entrepreneur and founder, Tim Waterstone. He has authored 130 entries in the Oxford Guide to English Literature, and regularly features in the Bookseller. If that isn't enough, he somehow found the time to start a highly successful writing group at his Canterbury Branch, and author a few books himself.Martin recently came to speak to the Chiltern Writers on getting your book featured in a bookstore and how to promote it. I was there, pen in hand. Slated is out in 44 days, after all...not that I'm counting. So any tricks of the trade I can learn are very welcome! I even broke my usual 'don't sit in the front row' rule in the aid of accurate blogging. More amazingly I not only remembered to take my camera along, I also remembered to use it.
Canterbury Waterstones opened in 1990. Since then employees have included Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell; Hollyoaks script writer and author Matt Evans; James Henry, co-author of scripts for Bob the Builder, Smack the Pony and many others; and an ever growing list of literary notables (more here).
|Neil Gaiman: sigh....|
Looking at the names might make a new author nervous: can we get our foot in a door like this? Should we even try?
Martin's answer is YES. Local authors are particularly welcome. And this is in part due to this:
The biggest change in the book trade in the 20th Century? Publishers aren't in charge anymore.
Martin says the balance has changed. In years gone by, publishers would tell them what books they were going to stock and how many of them they were going to get in. Not so anymore.
Top tips for getting yourself and your book in your local bookstore:
- no stalking allowed: booksellers are stressed and hard-pressed. Email the manager first. Follow it up if you don't hear back, arrange to go in and give them a copy of your book or proof
- NEVER bother them in December. They're busy
- don't be too pushy; always be professional
- manners count: be nice to the staff. Hearing that an author was rude to employees will not make a manager favorably disposed to you or your book
- make fliers on your book to be placed near the till: they'll generally take them!
- signing sessions don't work unless you are famous: you need to stage an event. Give a talk, or hold a launch party. Also note that you may not manage to persuade press to come along, but if you send them a report with photos, they may very well report on the event
- plan at least 2 months in advance: booksellers need that kind of notice
- readings are not always the best idea: unless the author can read with dramatic flair, they may fall flat
I'd love to tell you some of Martin's author anecdotes, but I couldn't possibly. It would be horribly indiscreet. Suffice it to say that not drinking wine before giving an event sounds like a very, very good idea