Independent Thoughts-Discoverability-January 2015: Mining for hidden gems Print
Written by Dave Sheets   
Friday, 05 December 2014 01:54 PM America/New_York

Create an exciting sense of discovery in your store as customers learn of independent books and authors

DaveSheetsPeople walk into brick-and-mortar stores because they want to buy some kind of product. But is that the only reason? When it’s just as easy to purchase something online—and often less expensive—what really draws customers into your store? In one word: discovery.

People want to discover something new and different—maybe even a product they weren’t looking for. Christian retailers can help their customers discover the next great author or book series by being the launching pad for independently published books and their self-published authors.


Assuming that you currently stock independent books and promote self-published authors (and if you’ve been following this column, you probably do), you understand the importance of drawing attention to the newest indie titles in your store. Just as you’d set up a special display or allot shelf space with attention-grabbing signage for new, traditionally published titles, you should put the spotlight on newly released, independently published books.

Get creative with this! Emphasize the excitement of discovery. You can do this by posting fun directional signage either at eye level or on the floor in your store that leads to new indie books. Or create special shelf-talkers that identify new indie titles as “New Discoveries.” In other words, encourage your customers to make their own discoveries by building anticipation and excitement in your store.


Sure, pointing customers to authors or books similar to what they already like is a tried-and-true add-on sales technique—but it works. Readers naturally tend to gravitate toward writers with similar styles and voices. One way to introduce your customers to a new self-published writer is to compare that writer’s style and subject matter to that of a more recognized author. Or you can compare books within the same genre. You can do this via signage or by creating a display that integrates traditionally published books with self-published books within the same genre/subject matter. This can also be accomplished by training your staff to start conversations with customers who gravitate to certain genres or authors.

“I see you enjoy reading Jane Doe’s books. If you like historical romances, you may want to also check out this great new novel by John Smith, an up-and-coming self-published author.”

Through that type of customer interaction, you let your customer know that you acknowledge his or her reading preferences—and you “let them in on” a great new author. You’ve assisted them in discovering something new.


Do you know who your best customers are? If you’ve been in business for any length of time, more than likely you do know your best customers. They’re the ones who keep shopping at your store because, hopefully, you’ve built a rapport with them through the years that has won their loyalty. But do you know what they read?

If you’ve been keeping track of their purchases through customer relationship software (CRM) and/or your point-of-sale (POS) system, you already have the data you need to understand their preferences. You can also communicate with your customers via email marketing—if you’ve gained their permission to send them email, of course. Then there’s the good old-fashioned way to get to know your customers’ preferences—by talking with them when they visit your store. Once you know their preferences, you can suggest new independently published books and self-published authors that may be of interest to them.


Who doesn’t like being an insider? There’s just something special about a waiter at your favorite restaurant remembering that you like lime in your water or that you prefer balsamic vinaigrette on your salad. That extra bit of customer service makes you feel welcomed as an insider—you’re more than just a customer; you’re part of the family.

Providing personally tailored service will help your customers feel extra special, and letting them know about new authors and books that they may not otherwise learn about will make them feel like you’ve let them in on a great secret.


When someone is touched by a book’s content, they often will let their friends know about it, encouraging them to read it—or even buying it for them. This word-of-mouth marketing, which is extremely helpful for traditionally published authors, is even more crucial for independently published authors. More often than not, self-published books have little to no marketing budget, so word-of-mouth and social-media marketing are two cost-free ways to help these new authors gain recognition and sell their books.

Ask your customers how they enjoyed the self-published books they’ve read. If they were particularly touched by a book, ask them if they could provide a quote saying as much. Include that quote (with their permission, of course) on your website or on in-store signage near the book.


In previous Independent Thoughts columns, I’ve discussed the value of setting up a “Meet & Greet” with a local and/or self-published author in your store. You can do this either by contacting the author directly or his or her independent publisher.

Besides the opportunity to build a greater sense of community in your store, you will also be giving your customers the chance to meet an up-and-coming author face to face. Just being able to get to know someone personally can create a connection wherein the reader feels more intimately acquainted with the author’s writing, which can lead to additional sales.

In addition to in-store Meet & Greet events, you can also introduce new indie authors and their books on your website. Include a special “Discover an Indie Author” section and ask the author to either provide a few introductory paragraphs or conduct an interview and post it so your customers can get to know the author before they come into your store.


People continue to shop in brick-and-mortar stores for a variety of reasons—one of which is the sense of discovery they feel when they find something new and different. Carrying independently published books by self-published authors offers you the opportunity to help launch these writers’ careers, while providing books to your customers that they might not find anywhere else. Delight your customers and help grow Christian publishing at the same time!

Dave Sheets has worked in the publishing industry for more than 20 years, garnering experience in all areas of the publishing process. He now serves as CEO of BelieversMedia, a services company that assists content creators in the production of books, films and other media, as well as distribution, promotion and management. His background includes work with Tyndale House Publishers, Multnomah Publishers, Send The Light Distribution, Harvest House Publishers and Snowfall Press. Reach out to him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..