Recently, I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Deborah K. Frontiera, the Coordinator for Kroger’s Bookseller Program, by way of the Lexicon Writers Conference Facebook Fan Page. A seller for over five years, she was then passed the torch by Kim Hill – the Program’s founder.
With over 700 Kroger stores participating in this Program throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and east Louisiana areas, it’s the book marketing industry’s best-kept secret in the region. Usually authors trickle in a handful at a time, according to Frontiera, and considering the sheer number of stores, not many authors have signed up.
“The most I’ve ever had in a single Workshop was five at a time. I’m excited that we are getting more authors into the system. Depending on time of year, genre of book and the pre-eminent marketing efforts of the authors, some of them do really well on a single weekend. On a local, organic level, this can be a real boost to an author’s bottom line during holidays. Kroger’s too, of course.”
The program itself is simple, but there are a lot of guidelines. When I first reached out to Debbie, she emailed me back with a long list of Program requirements, and when I inquired further, an even longer list. Why all the rules?
“Kroger, in reaching out to the community, still has to make sure that there are guidelines in place to cover themselves.”
No pornographic scenes; not a LOT of cursing and use of foul language; nothing politically charged; no ‘preachy’ religious, though spiritual and inspirational are ok. A popular local sports figure was turned away for excessive swearing on every page.”
And she says, “The hard part can be that [the books] need to be well written and properly edited. It’s hard to turn away an author’s ‘baby’ when I’m well aware that professional editing services are expensive. But it’s about quality control, and frankly, to keep Kroger pleased and happy with the products they are endorsing. It’s not personal.”
“Before I became the Coordinator, I was just a seller, starry-eyed with my successful sales in the Program. I was really upset at first; heartbroken, really. I didn’t think Fighting CPS was controversial at the time until they explained in more detail how it could be misconstrued as overly political. It took me a while to get over it, but I see now that it’s more important to not jeopardize the Program over a single book submission.”
Turns out, Kroger does have their preferences: “Family oriented stuff, mysteries, PG or R rated romance, most other genres and nonfiction, children’s books, including YA, but probably not the ‘edgy’ YA stuff.”
Sounds like a lot of work to make it work. Is it worth the effort?
“Sure, as long as authors pass the litmus test of Kroger’s standards. Sometimes it’s good to get out of the bookstore environment and stand out among the produce.”
Ralph’s Design & Deli is stepping up to help organize the Dallas/Fort Worth Workshop while she’s out of town, scrambling to get authors’ books and money in house so books can be reviewed, processed, mailed to Kroger, plugged into their bar coding system, and ready to sell in time for the 2012 holidays. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for local authors to get their books out to the community, and we’re trying to avoid missed chances to get in Kroger stores in time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.
But even if authors don’t get their books in for the 2012 holidays for whatever reason, they can still attend the Oct. 20 Workshop – once their books are in the Kroger system, Frontiera says, they are in for all 700 stores, indefinitely.
Some authors feel they are “old hands” at book signings so why “pay to play?”
Frontiera tells me that the Workshop is important because there are so many details that the authors need to know, and she’s really the only way in. After all this time, she says, she still has a question or two to take back to Kroger Corp. to get the straight scoop. It’s a bit more ‘permanent’ than just a one-off book-signing, and both the authors and Program Coordinators are held accountable. She says, “It’s a long-standing relationship, and Kroger makes a lot of effort to accommodate every author. Commitment is important here.”
When: Saturday, October 20, 2012; confirmed time 3:00p – 6:00p
Cost: $40, covers Workshop fee and three selling weekends; $10 per weekend thereafter
Contact Andi@RalphsDesign.com ASAP to start the review process for selling in 2012.
Learn more details about the Program Workshop at Meetup.com.
Visit Ms. Frontiera’s web site to learn more about her works.
To learn more about Ralph’s Design & Deli marketing, promotions, editing and design services, click here: http://www.RalphsDesignandDeli.com
© 2012 Ralph’s Design & Deli. Kroger logo trademark of Kroger Corporation.