Pre-sell vs. Handsell

Handselling is an art at which independent booksellers excel. It builds a trusted relationship between bookseller and reader and ensures loyalty. But to build a bond, you must take handselling to the next level: pre-selling.

The difference between handselling and pre-selling is the time at which the customer comes to mind. The book is already in the store when you handsell, and more than likely there has been an appropriate amount of media coverage.

But when you pre-sell to a reader–when you give them a call because you wanted to share your excitement about a book and thought immediately of them–you’re able to build a level of excitement, anticipation and ownership. From the customer’s viewpoint, they are relevant as readers and not considered an afterthought. When the reviews begin appearing just before the release date, they will feel like they have insider knowledge.

The best time to pre-sell is after you’ve finished a book. At that time, think about your customers and make a list of who would like it. Then look to your database to see who already has a track record with that author or other books like it. Then give them a call and tell them you’re going to hold one back for them when it arrives.

You can also pre-sell even if you haven’t personally read the book. You already hear the industry buzz and know if a book is going to be sought after. You can come up with a potential reader list just by looking at your sales records and by paying attention to the comparables in Edelweiss.

If you think about it, handselling and pre-selling are actually only separated by a few weeks. But the results from relationships built can be immeasurable.

Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay