Direct Marketing to Indie Bookshops

Today was a momentous day for me. Why? Because, I finally sent my email brochure, colourfully illustrating our Jack and Boo children’s books, to 490 independent bookshops in the UK! Phew!

But is it spam? Technically – well, yes but very polite spam. I checked with a number of bookshops on the etiquette of emailing details of books and all were fine with it – how else would I tell them about our fantastic books without a huge advertising campaign and Hollywood movie? It was interesting that many of the bookshops I contacted learned of books on Twitter and Facebook, as well as the traditional channels of reviews, the media and good old word of mouth. If it’s done politely, sensitively, stylishly, and from the heart, I think it’s a valid option for the micro publisher.

I have to say a huge thanks to my mum, who became an honorary member of Beachy Books, and spent the last few months adding bookshops to our database. I then went through the list and filled in blanks, got email addresses and networked on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s taken ages to compile the list and I admit I got very distracted visiting bookshop websites and Facebook pages, virtually browsing and marvelling at some of their cosy interiors, innovative marketing ideas and mouthwatering cakes in the bookshop / café combinations.

I might write a blog post or two on a few of the more innovative or interesting bookshops I’ve discovered in the future, but all in all, it was encouraging to see many of the bookshops obviously still thriving, despite The Booksellers Association reporting an overall decline, in 2006 there were 1500 independent bookshops, falling to 1099 in 2011. It was encouraging to learn 50 new independent bookshops opened across the UK in 2011, however 72 closed.

Most bookshops that seemed to be doing well were selling food, providing additional activities for customers and creating real community spaces. Inevitably there were many I came across that were no longer trading, the owner sadly having died or retired. One was now a tattoo parlour!

This’ll make you laugh (or confirm your view I’m an idiot) because a small batch of bookshops received an email addressing them as “Dear <INSERT NAME>” when I got briefly distracted by my daughter asking for a snack. When I returned to the computer I just sent the emails out! Doh! The lesson is, check your mailshot and then check again. Then check again. Then send it. And then don’t keep hassling them or put them on a mailing list. I sent mine from my email client in small personalised batches with a little message saying I’d never darken their email boxes again if they preferred.

And to my surprise I got some immediate responses complimenting me on my mailshot and our books. I’m happy to say I’ve also already had a few confirmed orders of Jack and Boo children’s books from independent bookshops! Whoop! I’m not planning to retire just yet as I know that a typical response rate from a direct marketing email campaign is around 3-5%, so taking the worst case, that’s a response from around 14 bookshops – assuming none of the emails were invalid, which some were.

Email responsibly kids…

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