Over the years, several authors have written to me, sharing a “unique” idea they had about getting bookstores to stock their books. They walk into a store, pull a couple of their books out of their purse or jacket, place them on a shelf, and walk away. It’s like backwards shoplifting. We call it shopdropping….and it’s a very, very bad idea for these reasons:
1. Even on the off chance somebody found and purchased your book, you are going to lose money. You won’t make any money on the sale and you’ll have spent money to buy those copies of your book to begin with.
2. Your books will be surrounded by other books that are competing with yours for readers’ attention. Sure, it might eventually sell but chances are it’ll sit there for weeks or months gathering dust before a clerk pulls it to be “returned.” Of course, there will be no place to return the book because the store will have no record of ordering it. This will cause headaches for the store. If they, per chance, search for your name online when trying to solve the mystery, and if they then notice you’re a local, they’ll figure out what you did (bookstores have indeed seen this done before) and you may get blacklisted. And, no, having a friend from out of town do this for you won’t fool them, either.
3. On the off chance somebody does try to buy your book, the barcode isn’t likely to work with the store’s scanning system because they haven’t configured their system with your book and price. This will cause confusion and delay at the counter, headaches for the clerk, and wasted time for the customer. The store may even refuse to sell the book because they won’t be able to figure out what’s going on. Again, there’s no faster way to get blacklisted by a store than trying to trick them into selling you book.
4. Trying to give away copies of your book in this manner isn’t likely to create future sales for your book. Even if the reader is successful in getting your book out the door of the bookstore, chances are that one reader’s interest isn’t going to result in any significant press for your book. You’ll be lucky if they tell a friend or two about it. Tricking stores into stocking a free copy of your book isn’t an effective way to generate publicity.
5. Trying something so many other desperate authors have tried in the past will make you look like…a desperate author. That’s not the impression you want to give bookstores or book buyers. You are a professional author and professionals don’t try to trick bookstores by sneaking free books onto their shelves.
6. It takes far more time and money to buy copies of your book and sneak them into stores than it does to sit at home and interact directly with your potential readers online. You can get free tips on how to do this on WritersWeekly.com. A link to my series on free online book marketing is here.
Don’t try this with libraries, either. Many libraries accept donations but they must process incoming inventory, just like bookstores. If you must give away a free copy of your book, do the ethical thing. Donate it according to the library’s donation guidelines. The library may very well refuse your donation. That’s okay. Marketing to readers directly online sells more books than library giveaways anyway. See the link in the previous paragraph.
If your publisher hints about sneaking free books into bookstores and libraries as a way to generate publicity and sales for you book, run the other way screaming. Unethical publishers will say and do just about anything to get you to buy copies of your own book. If they can trick you into doing that, knowing you are not likely recoup your costs, they win and you lose. And, the really bad ones just don’t care.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker.com is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I’ve ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re selective and won’t publish any manuscript just because it’s accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors’ books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know.”