If you're like just about every other author, you dream of how to get your book into physical book stores.
Nothing comes close to the thrill of seeing your printed book displayed for the world to see on a shelf or table, or better still, in the window, of your favourite bricks-and-mortar bookshop.
This is in spite of the fact that many authors, and the majority of self-published authors, make most of their money from online sales, rather than via the tills of physical stores.
Why Authors Love Bookstores
Why the fixation with conquering physical stores, when the relatively level playing field of Amazon et al, is where anyone can get virtual shelf space for their book?
Because today’s adults grew up in the pre-Amazon age, when bricks-and-mortar stores were where they went to buy their books – and where, as embryonic writers, they saw their writing heroes stocked.
Competition for bookstore shelf-space is fierce. Even authors published by the Big Five aren’t guaranteed space, not even for their newest books, and certainly not for their back catalogues.
For self-published authors, it’s tougher still to get a book into physical book stores, to claim a share of the shelf real estate, except in the rare stores that stock exclusively indie-published books. (Take a bow, PJ Boox!)
But getting your book into physical book stores is not impossible – provided you tackle the challenge in the right way. As with any sales pitch, the critical issue is for the seller (the indie author) to get inside the head of the customer (the bookstore’s buyers).
Not Just About Books on Shelves
An old college friend, training to be a teacher, was once buttonholed in her school library by a visiting assessor.
“So, tell me, Fiona,” he said. “Just how is this library organised?”
To her horror, her mind went blank. “Well,” she said, “the books are on the shelves.” And that was as far as she got.
Too many #indieauthors find themselves floundering, uninformed, when trying to persuade a bricks-and-mortar store to stock their self-published books @DebbieYoungBN
As with Fiona’s school library, there is much more indie authors need to know about a bookstore than the fact that it’s a store with books on shelves. But unless you’ve worked in bookstores yourself, you’re unlikely to know much more.
Thus, too many indie authors find themselves floundering, uninformed, when trying to persuade a bricks-and-mortar store to stock their self-published books. In their eagerness to achieve their long-held ambition, they rush in ill-prepared and blow their big opportunity by mishandling it.
They’re often quick to blame their self-published status (an easy brush-off for a store buyer to use to curtail an embarrassingly bad sales pitch), as they lick their wounds at home, before returning to their comfort zone online.
You Owe It to Your Book to Get Informed
It needn’t be this way. Knowledge is power: if you can only understand what booksellers want, it’s not a giant leap from there to persuade them that you have what they want and show them how to get it – the classic formula for clinching a sale.
To get your #self-published #book into physical #bookstores, you need to understand the bookstore ecology #iartg @DebbieYoungBN
To view your proposition from the other side of the sales counter, you need to understand how the bookstore ecology operates.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to suggest you volunteer for an internship. I’ve packaged all you need to know to make your bookstore sales pitch with confidence in a clear and simple how-to book.
How to Get Your Self-published Book into Bookstores, published by the Alliance of Independent Authors is designed to enable authors to understand how bookstores operate.
Essential knowledge that you must grasp if you are to crack what is still a significant market includes:
- Realising that no author is entitled to have their books stocked in a store, even if your book is newly published and you are a local resident
- Recognising that bookstores are businesses funded by taking a substantial cut, usually 40 percent or more, of a book’s cover price
- Accepting that orders are usually tiny – single figures, tops, and usually made on a sale-or-return basis
The book explains in clear detail:
- the structure of the distribution system
- the bookseller’s business model
- the financial constraints of the book retail trade
Understanding these factors will enable you to:
- ensure your book meets the high standards required by bookstores (standards which should apply to all self-published books, wherever they are sold)
- target the bookstores most likely to stock your books
- approach your target stores in a professional and effective way
More than One Way to Work with Bookstores
The book also delves into other ways that indie authors can work to mutual benefit with bookstores, quite apart from having their books stocked as part of the general inventory.
Bookstores are changing and becoming ever more sophisticated. In order to survive against huge online competition, the best bookstores aim to play an important part in the social and cultural lives of their local communities:
- They host writers’ workshops and book groups
- They hold public events to bring book lovers into the store, such as book launches or topical talks
- They manage or support local literature festivals
- They work closely with local schools to help them curate their book collections
Pro-active authors can find ways to get involved with these activities, all of which provide opportunities for canny writers to raise their profile and sell more books. It need not only be about getting your book into physical book stores: maybe it's about you helping bring more book buyers into the store!
Your Business, Your Decision
One important proviso that the book also makes clear is that many authors, having cracked the code and started to sell via bookstores, find that it remains a relatively small income stream.
Some even find that the reward is not worth the effort, and return their focus to selling online, or, increasingly, direct from their own websites.
But at least they are making that decision for the right reasons, rather than because they’ve fallen at the first hurdle with an inept or inappropriate pitch.
Whether or not you decide to make selling via bricks-and-mortar bookstores part of your long-term strategy as an author, I believe you owe it to yourself and to your book to give it your best shot. Go on, you know you want to…
(Here’s an extra link that’s a bit of fun: an extract from the book that shows how NOT to pitch your book to a bookstore.)
If my book helps you achieve your goal to get your book into physical bookstores, maybe even your favourite, I’d love to know about it! You can contact me via the Alliance of Independent Authors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Get Your Self-published Book into Bookstores by Debbie Young is available to order as a paperback from Amazon and all good bookstores (ISBN 978-1-909888-48-7) or as an ebook from all the main ebook distribution platforms. Paid members of the Alliance of Independent Authors may download a free ebook edition of this and ALLi’s other author guidebooks, as just one of many membership benefits.