If you’re one of many authors who have self-published a book and you want to get that book into bookstores, have a plan and persevere. While it may not turn into a bestseller, you will have the satisfaction of readership and local representation for your work.
1. Start promoting your book before contacting bookstores to show that you’re serious, then continue promoting it and directing potential customers to the stores that are willing to stock your book.
- Create a website or blog for the book.
- Create a press kit for the book with a description of the book and your contact information. Include only the most influential or glowing reviews. Leave out irrelevant information such as your personal resume. You have about 60 seconds to make an impression with it, so make sure your strongest selling points are on the first page.
- Send press releases to local newspapers and bookstores. It will be much more effective if you send these to individual contact people, so make some phone calls or do some research to find out the specific person who reviews books in each company.
- Advertise in local publications. Let your bookstore contact person know that you’re marketing the book locally.
- Offer to put an “available at …” line in future ads if they will accept the book for sale.
- Contact local TV and radio stations for interviews. Again, having the name of a contact person will make your efforts more productive. If you have mutual friends, ask them to recommend you to media people they know.
- Offer to hold author readings at libraries and writing conferences to increase your visibility.
- Create flyers containing information about your book. Include the ISBN and a brief synopsis. Leave the flyers on public bulletin boards to create local interest.
- Ask your friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers-to request the book at their local bookstores. Then resist the temptation to sell your book to those people yourself. Ask them to wait to buy it from the store so that there is a history of good sales.
2. If your book is available through national distributors such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, the bookstore can order directly from the distributor and may be willing to do so just from a phone call. Taking books one-at-a-time on consignment from the author, on the other hand, is much more time-consuming (and thus less profitable) for bookstores than going through an established distributor, which automates reordering, returns, and payments.
3. If you are distributing your book yourself, call the bookstore and ask who handles their “consignment” or “local author” books. Start with chain bookstores to get experience with the process; then approach independent bookstores, which are more likely to have a Local Authors section. If you are a local author, the bookstore will be more likely to accept your book as a community service than if you’re some distant author who will not be doing local promotion. Ask if you can make an appointment to come in and show them the book.
4. At your meeting with the bookstore contact, be respectful. Although you may be a long-time customer of that store, you are now the seller and they are the customer. You can say how much you love a bookstore without pressuring them to take your book because you’ve bought a lot of books from them in the past.
- Be prepared to leave a copy of the book with the manager or buyer for evaluation. Let them know that you would be available for author signings and readings when the time comes (meaning “if the book sells”).
- Ask the bookstore contact person if they would like a complimentary copy of the book, but don’t ask them to read it; they will read your book if they are interested in it.
- It is naive to suggest that the store should put your book on their Staff Recommendations shelf, or that they display it at the front counter. Marketing decisions are made by the bookstore, and only amateurs ask to be placed on the store’s top-selling, most visible locations before there is a history of strong sales.
- Check back periodically with the stores that have taken the book and ask if they need more copies. (Every 6-8 weeks is sufficient.)
- Don’t be grudging when the contract time is up and the store asks you to take back unsold copies. They took a chance, and if the book didn’t sell, it is largely because the author didn’t promote it or send people in to look at it. If you’re cheerful and respectful, the bookstore will be much more likely to accept your future work.
- Distinguish yourself from other authors by being professional, respectful, and easy to work with.
- If you’re in a busy bookstore, get in and out as quickly as you can. Once the store accepts the book, you no longer need to “sell” it by talking about yourself or the book. It’s actually counter-productive to monopolize staff time and doesn’t work to get the staff to hand-sell your book. Like every other reader, the bookstore contact person will take a quick look at the book and make their own buying/reading decisions.
5. Once you’ve gotten your self-published book into bookstores, don’t stop working. Push the book as hard as you did before to get people to buy it. Your book will be restocked, especially by larger chain bookstores, only if sales are good.
==Additional Tips ==
- Create a marketing plan. Whether you are seeking a traditional publisher or self-publishing, it’s important for you to understand the marketability of your book and your selling points.
- If self-publishing, get an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and bar code for the book. If you don’t have one, the individual bookstore will need to assign one for their in-house use.
- Before you publish the book, ask someone from your local bookstore to meet with you to give you guidelines on what kind of books they take on consignment, and what special requirement they may have — such as a title on the spine of the book.
- Before you publish, contact the major book distributors about carrying your book, which will make it easier for bookstores to take a risk on it. While distributors are paid a portion of the sales, they make it much easier for bookstores to try the book and then return it to the distributor if it doesn’t sell.
- Also research smaller distributors that might work specifically with the type of book you have published, but be aware that a bookstore will not set up an account with an unknown distributor just to have access to your book, so you may need to ask the bookstore to carry it on consignment even if you do have a distributor.
- Attend publishing trade shows held by national and local booksellers associations. Hand out a business card for the book and your contact information; follow up with a PR packet if they show interest. Trade shows also give you the opportunity to meet buyers, distributors and others working in the publishing and book-selling fields who can offer advice as to how to get a self-published book into bookstores.
== Warnings ==
- Be prepared to take off your “sensitive artist” writer hat and put on your “savvy marketer” distributor hat. It’s a different skill set.
- Don’t take it personally when a store won’t stock your book. For a variety of reasons, most of which are out of your control, some stores may not be able to take the book. Be friendly, thank them for their time, and move on.
Savvy Authors: What tricks have you used to get your book into bookstores? How did you prepare in advance?
== Sources and Citations ==