Unboxed Avenues to Book Sales

1. Unbox your thinking

Books are sold in bookstores, both brick-and-mortar and online, and in racks that you find at drugstores and airports and big-box stores. Right? Yes, but if you can identify an audience with an enhanced interest in an aspect of your book, there could be more places to sell it if you unbox your thinking just a little.

My novel, The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles, is narrated by a calico tomcat. Cat lovers (or “cat people,” as we think of ourselves) are very interested in cats and their goings on. So where could I find a venue that has cat lovers streaming through it on a daily basis?

My local veterinarian’s—the animal hospital here in Pullman, Washington. I asked them if they’d take a local author’s book on consignment—they get 40% of the sale, just like a bookstore—and they agreed.

My book is featured on their front counter with a display that I provide. It includes a quote from a 5-star Midwest Book Review and a notice that the copies are signed by the author. The folks at the Alpine Animal Hospital report that customers like having that personal touch. In the last 7 months they’ve sold a dozen copies. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s next to the candy dish.

Recently, when I was waiting to talk to the manager of another veterinary hospital in neighboring Moscow, Idaho, a cat person noticed the book and bought a copy right then and there. And the vet took a display.

2. Unbox your book

Take it out of the carton and off your shelves and get it out there. I’m lucky to have a venue where people are especially interested in books—I do workshops at writers’ conferences. But there are a lot of books at writers’ conferences, so I’m just one of a crowd, and simply taking my books along and displaying them doesn’t give me an edge.

Except to that sharply focused demographic audience, cat people, who are everywhere, including at writers’ conferences. In a workshop at the February 2012 South Coast Writers’ Conference in Oregon, Pat Piper, owner of the Book Dock just down the coast in Brookings, Oregon, was in my session.

During a break, the cover caught her interest—she’s a cat person. She took a liking to The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles and bought 3 copies that day. By July she had bought 12 more—and this is in a town of 6400 people. The last shipment was also signed, at Pat’s request.

Pat displays the book on her front counter with a wire stand, and cat people ask about it. She’s read the book, so she can testify that it’s a fun read. And she tells customers that it’s good for young adult readers, too. By the way, there’s an official Book Dock cat on duty at her store, pictured here.

So, simply by being on display in the right places, The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles reaches out and engages its natural and best prospect. Well, not just “simply”—an eye-catching cover design and title that single out your special demographic are pretty darned necessary.

So, know your audience and then take your book to where they are. Then, as Patch, my cat character would say, “It is to purr.”


About Ray Rhamey

Ray Rhamey is the author of five novels and one craft book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. He's also an editor who has recently expanded his creative services to include book cover and interior design. His website, crrreative.com, offers an a la carte menu of creative services for self-publishers and Indie authors. Learn more about Ray's fiction at rayrhamey.com.


  1. says

    Haha! Enjoyable post, Ray! Wish I could have a writing kitty. Alas, my allergies keep me from having an adorable feline to pet while I write. Very thoughtful suggestions for playing into your target demographic in creative ways! I loved it. :-)
    L.M. Sherwin´s last blog post ..Seriously Cool Idea

  2. says

    Hi Ray,

    So good to meet you here. Did not know we are neighbors! I am the regional adviser for The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in our area. Sorry, not a cat person. And very angry at my neighbors’ cats at the moment, for what they do in my vegetable garden. But, they are fine in books. :)
    Mary´s last blog post ..Why Writers Need a Green Thumb

  3. says

    I’d say not only get your books at writer conferences, but at library ones as well. At this last ALA, we spent a good portion of one panel lovingly mocking ourselves for our cat-sweater-wearing stereotype. The thing is, that stereotype is based on a truth. A lot of us like kitties, even if most of us younger ones are trying to get away from that particular stereotype.

    If you can get librarians excited about your book, you’re likely to get it into libraries as well, making the audience even bigger.
    Kristin Laughtin´s last blog post ..Back from Comic-Con!

  4. says

    Kristin and Jan, good suggestions! I’ll see what I can do–Kristin, is there a low-cost way to reach librarians as a group?

  5. says

    What clever ways to get your books in front of readers. We writers always hear the advice that you have to identify and market to the readers who are going to like your work and not just network with other writers, but I could never figure out how to do that. You’ve really opened my eyes. Now if I only had a hard copy book to sell. Thanks for a very useful post.
    CG Blake´s last blog post ..Writing About Yourself in Fiction: Right or Wrong?