If you want to get your your book in bookstores – and what author doesn’t dream of seeing her book on a store shelf? – there are a few key things to know.
I’ve spoken to my own local indie bookstores, as well as chatted with managers at chains like Barnes & Noble (where stores are increasingly doing more of their own ordering). Combine that with my own years of publishing experience, and I’ve gathered a few tips to help you navigate your approach to booksellers in your community and beyond.
Things to Do and Things to Avoid When Getting Your Book in Bookstores
DO have your own ISBN before you even start making inquiries. Bookstores are not likely to ever want to order your book from Amazon. It’s a direct competitor to their business. So if bookseller shelf space is important to you, don’t neglect this in the publishing phase! You can check out our blog post about ISBNs here!
DON’T approach a retailer on their busiest days or at their busiest times. If the store is crowded, this is not the time to try to have a conversation. Visit the store at hours that are likely to be calm – mid-morning on a weekday is a good bet.
DO scope out the store to make sure your book is a good fit. One bookseller told me they sell primarily children’s books, and a memoir, for example, would not sell well, no matter how well-known the author was. So they’d never consider taking one from an indie author, still making her name. She also told me that they don’t sell any kind of erotica or controversial books. Visiting the store and checking out the inventory and vibe will help you get a lot of this information without saying a word!
DON’T forget about the financials, especially when it comes to the matter of returns. If the retailer is ordering your book through Ingram, they may require the option to return books. It is what it is, you can’t do much to change this. However, if you’re selling your books directly to the store, you have the chance to negotiate the terms. The discount rate and the return policy are two places you can try and do that. Consider a note on your invoice stating “All sales final: no sale or return policy.” The store might not agree to it (and if they do, they may order fewer books at a time), but if you handle it professionally during your meeting with the manager or owner, it’s worth a try to avoid the financial impact of returned books.
You might have to reach out to a number of stores to see results and practice your patience. But with a smart approach and a strong book, you can find a great home on the shelf at your local bookstore!
BONUS TIP: The last Saturday in April is Independent Bookstore Day (or Indie Bookstore Day) in the US. If you’d like to help your local store celebrate target the store with that plan in mind. You might suggest a signing event, or similar festivities to help bring new folks into the store – it’s a win/win. In 2022, Indie Bookstore Day is April 30, so mark your calendar!
To learn more on this topic, check out our interview with one author who built a relationship with her local bookstore owner and is reaping the benefits! Part one : Getting Your Book into Bookstores