There's not an author alive who doesn't dream about walking into a bookstore and seeing their book on the shelf. For many, it's the pinnacle achievement—the feather in their cap after a long and grueling writing process, and an even longer road to publication. But is it difficult to do if you're a self-published author? Not if you follow the 7 steps below.
Getting your book into a bookstore isn't absolutely necessary, at least not where book sales are concerned. But it is a worthy effort, especially if you want to generate local interest for future books or use the visibility as a springboard for other initiatives, like holding book signing events. And yes, let's face it, it's a nice feeling to walk into a bookstore and see your own name staring out at you from the shelf.
But where do you begin? Does your book have to be published by a major publisher to be featured alongside the Gaimans and the Atwoods of the world? Not at all—if you go through an independent bookstore.
Indie bookstores are easy to work with because they are beholden to no one and can sell whatever they want to sell. If an independent bookstore owner wanted to carry a thousand copies of only one book, they could. They probably wouldn't make much money doing that, but they have all the freedom in the world to do so.
This means they also have the freedom to add your book to their shelves, even if you're self-published and have only one book to your credit. You don't have to be a star, or even a high-profile member of the community, to have your book in an indie bookstore.
Just follow these 7 steps...
1. Pay a visit to the bookstore and ask to speak to the owner or manager. This is the hardest part for most authors, but it's the most necessary. Forget about phone calls, and bite your tongue if you even thought the word "e-mail." You have to establish a relationship with the bookstore owner, and you can't do that if you're unwilling to talk to them face to face.
2. Bring at least one copy of your book with you. If you've self-published more than one book, you can bring that too. Just don't bring any more than three titles. You don't want to overwhelm anyone. Put your best book(s) forward.
3. Make sure the books you bring are in good physical condition and are not dog-eared or marked up. You're asking the bookstore to consider carrying your product, therefore the product should be in good shape. You wouldn't try to sell a grocery store your fruit if all you had on hand were a bunch of bruised bananas, would you?
4. Introduce yourself and tell them that you are a local author. Then ask them if they accept independently published books. Bookshop owners are familiar with authors bringing them their titles for consideration, so you won't be taking anyone by surprise or asking them anything they haven't been asked before.
5. Some indie bookstores buy books outright, but that's usually for established titles they know will sell. When it comes to independently published books, most prefer to take the consignment route. This means they'll enter into an agreement with you to carry a certain amount of copies of your book for a specified period of time. When a copy sells, you'll earn a percentage of the sale. But if your books don't sell within the specified time frame, you may be asked to take them back.
6. Expect to split the profits. You'll probably be offered a 60/40 split, with you earning the higher amount. Never expect a store to accept your book without getting anything in return. Bookstores exist by the grace of repeat customers and profits earned.
7. Take action to make sure the books sell. Don't expect the bookstore to promote your book. That's your job. Remember, if the copies don't sell, you'll have to take them back. If you want a bookstore to continue to carry your titles, do everything you can to drive business to that store—even if you could earn more money selling your book directly. It's a mutual partnership. The more copies the bookstore sells, the more likely you are to keep getting invited back.
Have you ever sold your book through an independent bookstore? What other advice would you have for first-timers bringing their book into a bookshop for the first time? Leave feedback in the comments box below!