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In the physical world, they ask questions such as, "Can I get your latest novel at Dymocks?" That's if you live in Australia. Dymocks is one chain that survived the recent bricks-and-mortar bookstore mass extinction. "Can I order at my local shop?"
It is the duty of every author to make sure their books are available - even if readers must order - in as many places as possible. Online, this poses few real obstacles. In the physical retail world, it's somewhat harder. Many things, however, are possible.
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If eBooks are the thing, it pays readers to create an account at a number of retail outlets online, because sales are rather rapid affairs that come on and disappear quickly. It's generally free to open accounts, so it does not hurt to have purchasing facilities in as many places as you can. Try Kobo, Nook (run by Barnes and Noble), iBookstore (run by Apple), Diesel, Smashwords and the eBookStore at Sony - just for starters.
Where paperbacks or hardcovers are concerned, buying online is often the most economical way. Even though there's a wait involved, there's nothing nicer than receiving your latest choice in a nice brown package, right on your doorstep.
There are those who still love to browse in bookshops, however, and catering to that crowd is essential if you are an author who understands diversity and how it works. More and more nowadays, this means forming a relationship with your local bookstores. Shop owners are people too, and love to understand their public. Access to local authors means their sales can become meaningful, and that they can host signings and launches, where patrons usually buy much more than just the book of the day.
Thinking outside conventional possibilities also works for authors and readers. Do not confine your marketing or purchasing to bookstores. Books can be found anywhere - florists sometimes stock romantic novels and poetry books around Valentine's Day. In the Christmas holidays, newsagents and giftshops offer relevant books to their customers, and many a gift basket or hamper comes with a good choice of paperback. Look on the counters of smart delis and purveyors of fine foods and you are sure to find a cookbook or two.
Readers and authors do well when they consider that age-old cliche, "Wherever good books are sold."