Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Book Store For Self-Published and Indy Authors

A book shop for self-published authors

Jon Renaud has a different kind of book shop. Back to the Books is the very first bookstore to stock only Independent Titles by self-published authors and small press titles where authors still own all rights to their books. If you are looking for a place to market your book, Back to the Books may be just the spot for you.

This book shop owner and independent author (Dereliction of Duty ) is a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer and former CID Special Agent who earned two Bronze Stars for tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2005. 

Back to the Books had its grand opening March 2012.

From a recent interview:

1.     Tell us a little about Back to the Books… does it only stock Indie books, or traditionally published as well?

      Thanks for taking the time to speak to me about Back to the Books. I           believe we are the very first bookstore to stock only Independent Titles. Now, please don’t misunderstand, these are not all self-published titles, but also small press titles where the author still owns  all the rights to their own book.

2.     Where did you get the idea for it? Are you an author yourself? Have you worked in book retail before?

      The idea came to me a few years ago shortly after my own book was published. I wrote and published Dereliction of Duty  to use to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. During the process I discovered how difficult it was to get Indy books into bookstores. Anyway, during that process I also met a lot of other Indy authors who had some incredible books but were faced with the same problem. I always felt that if bookstore would just give them a chance, and if we could get the prices competitive, they would sell. So, the idea was there for some time and then one day I was talking to friend who owned two storefronts in Manitou Springs and he offered me one. Idea met opportunity and I jumped on it. 

3.     What made you think an Indie bookstore would be a viable/profitable business venture?

I always knew it could be a viable business plan if I could just find the right location, and Manitou Springs is the perfect location. Nobody will go out of their way to drive to an Indy bookstore but Manitou Springs is 95% foot traffic and when people walk in and see all of the great books, most stop, look around and buy books. As for profitable, I never thought, or said, if would be a profitable business ventureJ My goal is to get the store to a point where it is self-sustaining and new titles are rotating in and out to give Indy authors the exposure they need. If the first month is any indication, that goal will be met and maybe there could be some profits left over.

4.     Tell us a little about Manitou Springs, and why you thought this would be a good home for BTTB.

Like I mentioned before, Manitou Springs is an amazing little town that draws millions of visitors every year. All of the stores in town are trendy art galleries, cafés, and other similar type business. It is almost entirely walking/foot traffic through the town and has a culture that embraces everything independent and dislikes corporate. It is the perfect location to attempt something like this.

5.     How long did it take you to set up the whole venture, including your online store?

The plan has actually come together very quickly but I could not even begin to count the hours I have put into this project. The storefront became available on February 10, 2012 and I have been running since that day. So, in about one month I was able to get the physical store loaded with books and ready for the grand opening, the website and online store up and running, and arrange the pull off a spectacular grand opening. So, it has been a crazy few months but everything has come together perfectly. I finally got the employees trained so things should be slowing down for me a little.

6.     For a long time, authors have struggled against the stigma of self-publishing… In your experience, what does the general public think of self-published books?

There is no doubt there is a stigma out there for some. The biggest problem is quality and price. People believe that SP books are too expensive and poorly edited. I am working hard to help change that stigma. Although it is impossible to read every book I get in, I will read a few chapters of every book to make sure the formatting is professional and there are not a lot of typos. Unfortunately, I have had to decline a few titles because I feared they would not help our cause and just perpetuate the stereo-type. But overall, the customers that I have met do not care how the book was published as long as it is a good book.

7.     Are you still accepting new authors? How many titles do you plan to stock at any one time?

I will continue to accept new author as long as my doors are open. That is part of the business plan to continue to roll the inventory. Although Mantiou Springs is a big tourist town, I have also been very warmly received by the locals who have purchased many books already and have expressed their happiness at having a bookstore in town. They will continue to come back as long as I keep new titles coming in for them.

If you are interested in having your books featured at Back to the Books complete the form on this link.

8.     What genres of books are selling best?
So far, children’s books, Young Adult and Self-Help/Improvement books have been the best seller. And surprisingly poetry books have also been very popular. I expected the children’s books to be hot sellers as we just finished the Spring Break season and lots of kids and parents were in town during the week. I also publish a weekly bestseller list at www.backtothebooks.net so authors can see what is selling and share their strong sales with friends and family.  I expect the fiction titles to start to pick up as the tourist begin to arrive and are looking for good books to read while sitting out by the pools.

9.     How important is a good cover?

There is nothing more important than a great cover except maybe great content, but if you don’t have a great cover, no one will ever see your content. The unique thing about Back to the Books is it is designed so every book is face out towards the customers. No books are hidden on back shelves or just have the spines facing the customers. So because of this, the cover has to be able to grab attention. It is fascinating to me to watch what books draw the most attention simply because of the covers.

10.  If you could give three pieces of advice to Indie authors trying to sell their books, what would they be?

The first piece of advice is what I stated above, design a great cover. Don’t do it yourself or have your friend that is really good with Power Point do it for you. Find a great cover designer and spend the money to have a fabulous cover for your book.

Second, price your book competitive. Customers do not want to pay $25 for a 300 page paperback fiction novel. You will never be able to get your price point where it needs to be if you use most of the online publishing services because that is how they make their money, buy charging high prices for the print books. Work with someone that knows the industry a little and can help you navigate the process. I provide free advice to authors everyday.

And finally, just keep producing the great books that I have seen come through my store. Be persistent in your marketing and people will buy your work and sometime, come back and buy the sequel.

Thanks for the opportunity to share this new venture with all of your readers. If I could add one last piece of advice, if you want people to take a chance on you as an Indy, you have to do the same. Commit to only buying Indy books and then recommend them to all of your friends and family. We only succeed if we are willing to do what we want customers to do.

Jon Renaud  Owner/Author
Back to the Books



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