Mara Purl promoted her books through signings at The Chinook bookstore before it closed.

Lots of people want to write a book that gets published, but despite advances in technology and the growth of e-books and Web retailing, little has changed when it comes to capturing an audience.
Chain book stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders keep competition high by selling display space. Barnes & Noble calls it a co-op between the store and its publishers.
John Kremer, a book marketing consultant and author of “1001 Ways to Market Your Books,” said grocery stores use the same merchandising technique for selling shelf space.
Depending on where a book is on display in the store and how many stores are carrying it, the cost can range from $1,000 to $10,000, Kremer said.
Authors seeking a smaller market often look for independent book stores to market their prose.
Local author and speaker Mara Purl said The Chinook bookstore, before it closed about two years ago, was a popular place to find her books. She held several book signings there.
Now, Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver is the closest major independent bookstore, she said.
“Patrons of the indy bookstores tend to be more devoted and particular about their reading,” she said.
Lydia Griffin, president of Colorado Independent Publishers Association, said most of her groups’ members have their own Web sites because they make more money from online retailing and can link to online stores.
Author Jim Ciletti, whose wife, Mary Francis, runs Hooked on Books, said he doesn’t buy the hype about Web sites, because if a Web site has no marketing reach, no one knows about it.
“Me, a small-town poet, who is going to even know to look up my book if I had a Web site?” he asked.
Griffin agreed that’s a challenge for small authors.
“Independent and self-publishers are facing an uphill battle just to get the word out,” she said. “They are competing against larger publishers.”
And even if your book is in a chain store, it doesn’t mean it will sell, Griffin said. So, perhaps it is all a popularity contest when it comes to keeping the shelf space at places such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.
“These stores actually keep very little inventory shelved, rotating inventory through quickly — so effectively all my books can be ordered through the chains, but not often found there,” Purl said.
With the chain stores running the show, the Indys have to narrow their collections as well.
Doug Clausen at Clausen Books is working on two different books. One is about his father who started the company in 1946.
Clausen said he has to be particular about what books he’ll carry. One of the reasons he sells used books, he said, is because he can’t compete against Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart.
“They can undercut every bookstore in the country,” he said.
So, he focuses on a specialized niche. Shoppers will find few modern fiction novels in his store, but he does stock books about rocket and space technology and early American history. Even with local writers he is picky, and only carries books about local history or the history of individuals that lived and died here.
But even with the ease of self-publishing and books in electronic format, it is still tough to get people interested in your books, he said.
“Everybody wants to be a published author,” Clausen said.
And because almost anyone can become an independent author with the purchase of an international standard book number, the competition in the industry is not decreasing, he said.
Ciletti said the key is to get signings at book stores and workshops at colleges and universities — the same as it was before the Internet.
“I encourage everyone to keep writing,” he said. “Finding your audience — that’s what writing is for, to communicate with other human beings.”
Joan.Johnson@csbj.com