Hi, I'm Ray Evans. I'm a certified copyeditor and proofreader.
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In the past, it was hard to get independent book stores to stock self-published books. Independent book stores didn't want to sell self-published books because they thought that self-published meant that the content or quality of the book was bad.
But that was back then, and this is now.
Self-published authors have not only stepped up their game in terms of content, but the quality of their books is now very close to that of traditionally published books. So, how do you sell your book to stores that aren't part of a chain?
For authors, writing books is both a hobby and a business. For independent booksellers, selling books is both a hobby and the only business they have.
Even though independent bookstores are known for being great places for people to get together and for having staff who really care about the book business, that doesn't mean they can do everything for free. Still, they have to sell books.
In this business, everyone has to make a living, and that's what the independent booksellers need from you and your book so that both of you can sell it. Here are some tips to help you:
1. Bookstores don't want to hear about how well you did on Amazon.com.
It's great to do well on Amazon, whether you're traditionally published or self-published, but before you brag about how well your book is selling there, remember that independent bookstores have to compete with them. It won't help you get your book in your local independent bookstore.
In fact, Amazon is their biggest competitor.
Books published through Amazon KDP aren't carried by independent bookstores because the sales of those books help their biggest competitor.
2. Become a customer.
Don't just know about a store because you looked it up on Google. Get to know them really well.
Build relationships with independent bookstores by buying books from them and telling your friends, family, and fans to do the same. Before you ask your local independent bookstore to help you, it makes sense to help them. It's a way to become a good literary citizen, and it's also a good way to make money in the long run.
Independent bookstores aren't just places to buy books anymore; they are always changing. Indie bookstores are community hubs because they support the local community, make publishing programs, publish and sell their own unique content, and host author events. When trying to sell your book to an independent bookseller, think about the unique ways it helps the store and the community. If you help them, they will be more likely to help you.
Before you talk to a bookstore owner, find out about him or her. Find out who shops there and what kinds of books they usually promote and sell. Check out the store's social media to see what kinds of author events they usually put on. Use this information in your pitch when you meet with the owner. Mention it if they have a certain type of customer who might be interested in your book.
3. Know who shops at a store.
An owner will want to make sure that your book is something that their customers will like. There may only be one type of book in a niche bookstore. Know your genre and the audience you're writing for. Be able to explain what your book is about in a clear and concise way. that way, both you and the bookstore will know if it's a good fit for their customers.
Spend enough time at the store you want to sell to so you can learn who buys from them. If your readers don't shop at that kind of bookstore, their customers won't be your customers. Check out what they already have and see if your book fits in. If an independent bookseller doesn't think his or her customers will buy your book, he or she won't buy it from you.
Cheaper and returnable
If you want your book to sell well in small bookstores, think about offering a 55% wholesale discount and making it possible to return. The book industry is a returnable industry, which means that bookstores will expect to be able to return books that don't sell and get a credit for doing so.
Keep in mind that a store probably won't buy a lot of copies from you right away. Before they buy more than one or two copies, they want to be sure that your book will sell. Print-on-demand services are a cheap way to get your book out there if you publish it yourself.
A bookstore is more likely to buy your book if the distributor can take it back and if the wholesale discount terms are good for bookstores. Aside from the fact that Amazon KDP is run by their competitors, bookstores usually don't sell Amazon KDP books because they can't be returned.
A Good Product
Before they buy a book, bookstores want to be about 90% sure that they can sell it. This means that you need to give the bookstore a good product. Something that stands out in terms of quality and fits the genre well.
Easy to Stock
Your book should be easy for the store to put on a shelf. Booksellers don't want something that looks or sounds so strange that no one knows where to put it. So, if you think your book is the only one of its kind in the whole world, you should go to a lot of stores, libraries, and online sites to find out what people will be looking for when they find your book.
As a self-publisher, it's part of your job to figure out how people will find your book. If your book is labeled or packaged in such a way that the store doesn't know where to put it, you're just making things harder for yourself.
Books that stand out for the wrong reasons don't interest booksellers.
Visit a bookstore near you and take note of the trim sizes, images on the book covers, and the insides. Your book doesn't have to be a copy of everyone else's, but if you notice recurring themes in certain genres, stick with them because they're probably industry standards that shouldn't be changed.
Appropriate Retail Price
Make sure that your book has a good price tag. Some books, like manuals and textbooks, won't be printed in large numbers or are in such high demand that they are called "destination books," and you can charge more for them. There might be others that are more mind candy, filler, or impulse buys, and those might be cheaper.
Here's where your research into the market comes in. You want your book to fit into its category and stand out in terms of quality, so the buyer doesn't get sticker shock when they see how much it costs. "Oh, these other books cost $48.95, but this one only costs $9.95. It might not be very good." Make sure you do your homework to find out which titles are most similar to yours.
A bookseller won't want to deal with distribution that makes things hard for them. Working with distributors lets them order, sell, and bill for a lot of books at once. But when they work with independent authors, they have to do all of this with each author on their own. The bookstore will find it easier to sell your book if you use a reputable distributor. The easier you make it for an independent bookstore to sell your book, the more likely they are to do so.
Help from the Publisher and Author to Sell the Book
What booksellers want to know is what kind of help from the publisher and author they will get for the book to sell. There are a lot of stores and shops in this country, so what will make someone go to a certain store to look for your book?
The job of the bookstore is to sell your book, not to promote it.
Authors may go to busy bookstores often, and they may get a lot of offers to sell their books on consignment every day. You will have to do your part of the deal, which is marketing, to keep the deal going.
The store wants to sell your book, but don't expect them to do all the work for you. Have a good plan for marketing your book and let the owner of the bookstore know about it. It will show that you're independent and sure that your book will sell.
Start a grass-roots book marketing campaign if you want your book to be sold at a certain store. Have your family and friends who live near the store or shop there ask for copies of your book. Have them send you requests at different times so you can keep track of how many copies of your book are sold. If the store has already sold some copies of your book, management is more likely to say "Yes!" when you ask them to carry it.
Make sure people know that they can buy your book through IndieBound.
Your author website, ads, and marketing materials may point readers to Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, but you should also include IndieBound.org.
IndieBound helps local bookstores sell books by connecting people who buy your book to independent bookstores near them. It's important that you talk about IndieBound along with other stores.
By letting readers choose to buy from an independent bookstore, you show local booksellers that you are a smart author and that you want your book to be sold at independent bookstores.
You might have better luck closer to home and the surrounding area. Some small, independent bookstores in your area might just want to buy from you on consignment, since that might be easier for them. Some of them might want to start with an event to see how things go. But at the end of the day, booksellers want to know what kind of buzz you'll make to help sell the book.
Bookstores are a lot like restaurants. If you ran a small restaurant, you'd have to keep turning those tables over during dinner service so you could make enough money to keep your doors open. You can't just leave a book in a bookstore, just like you can't let one person sit at a table for hours.
With the above tips, you can help it get on the shelves, but you also need to help it get off the shelves and into the hands of a paying customer.
Plan ahead how you will sell your book to independent bookstores, and start by going to those stores. Find out what they sell and to whom, and ask each store if your book would be a good fit.