Previously, getting independent booksellers to shelve self-published books was difficult. Booksellers were reluctant to sell self-published books, because self-published meant poor content or poor quality. Now, self-published authors have upped their game when it comes to content, and the quality of self-published books can be as good as those of traditionally published books. So just how do you get your book into an independent bookshop?
Booksellers need to sell books. Selling books is our passion. We love the industry, we love what we do, but if we cannot make a profit then there is no business.
Be a good customer.
The best way to know an independent books shop is to know them as a customer. Don’t just know a shop exists via Google searches. Actually, know them. Cultivate relationships with booksellers by purchasing books from their shops and encouraging your friends, family, and fans to do so as well. Book shops want to see your social media promoting independent shops not Amazon. They are more likely to support you if you are supporting them.
Independent bookshops are more than just a place to buy a book; they are constantly evolving. Indie bookshops can be community hotspots—supporting the local community, creating publishing programs, publishing and selling their own unique content, and hosting author events. When pitching your book to an indie bookseller, ask how your book tie into supporting the bookshop and the community.
Before you approach a bookshop owner, research his or her background. We cannot tell you how often we are approached by people who clearly know nothing about us. At best it’s lazy, at worst, it’s lazy! Find out about the shop’s customers and the types of books the shop typically promotes and sells. Take a look at the shop’s social media accounts and see what kinds of author events they typically host or are involved with. When you meet with the owner, use this information in your pitch. If they have a certain type of customer that will be interested in your book, mention it.
Know the shop's demographic.
A bookshop owner wants to make sure your book aligns with their customers. Niche bookshops may only carry a certain genre. Know your genre and your target reader. Be able to accurately and concisely explain what your book is about. That way, you and the bookshop will have a better idea if it fits with their readership. Spend enough time at the shop you're targeting to understand who their customers are. Their readers won't be your readers if your readers don't shop at that kind of bookshop. See if your book fits in. If an indie bookseller does not think their customers will buy your book from their shop, they not going to buy it from you.
What are the terms?
If you want your book to flow easily into independent bookshops, then consider the 40% wholesale discount and make it returnable. The book industry is a returnable industry, which means bookshops will expect to be able to return books they don’t sell.
Keep in mind that a bookshop is not likely to buy numerous copies from you outright. They want to be sure your book will sell before they take on more than one or two copies. If you're self-published, print-on-demand services are a cost-effective way to get your book out there.
Bookshops want to be about 90% sure that they can sell a book before they buy it, so that means that you have to give the bookshop a quality product. Something that stands out qualitatively and fits in beautifully genre-wise.
Where does it fit?
Your book needs to be easily shelved by the bookshop. Booksellers don’t want something that looks or sounds so unusual that no one knows where to put it. So, if you have the idea that your book is completely unique and there is nothing like it out there in the universe, you need to visit a lot of shops and libraries and go online and figure out what people will be looking for when they discover your book.
It's one of your jobs as a self-publisher to figure out how people will actually discover your book, and if your book is labelled or packaged so uniquely that the bookshop doesn’t know where to put it on the shelf, then you’re just creating difficulty for yourself. Booksellers aren't interested in books that stick out for the wrong reasons. Visit your local bookshop and take note of the trim sizes, book cover imagery, and interiors. Your book doesn’t need to look like a clone of everyone else’s, but if you notice themes for certain genres, think about how your book will fit in with that.
The Right Price
Make sure your book has an appropriate retail price. There are some books that are more manuals and textbooks where you won’t be printing very many or there is such a specific demand for them they’re what some people call a destination book and you can charge a premium price for them. There are others that might be more mind candy or fluff or impulse buy and those would have a lower price. This is where your market research comes in. You want your book to fit into its category and stand out qualitatively so that the end buyer doesn’t end up with a shock. “Oh, all these other books are £48.95 and here’s one that’s £9.95. It probably isn’t very good.” Make sure you do your research to find out with which titles yours could be compared with.
Make it easy to order
A bookseller won't want to deal with inconvenient distribution. When they work with wholesalers and distributors, they can order, sell, and invoice books in bulk. But working with indie authors means they have to do all of this individually with each author. Using a reputable distributor for your book will be more convenient for the bookshop, and the easier you make it for an indie bookshop to sell your book, the more likely they are to be willing to try.
Get an ISBN
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique product identifier for books and related material. It is used by publishers, booksellers and libraries for ordering, listing and stock control purposes. Systems used by publishers, booksellers and libraries all rely on the ISBN to identify books ensuring they select and stock the correct title and edition. Reputable bookshops will not sell books that do not have an ISBN Buy it here. https://www.nielsenisbnstore.com/Home/Isbn
It's the bookshop's job to sell your book, not market it. Busy bookshops are approached by authors often, and they are inundated with offers on any given day. You will be expected to fulfil your end of the bargain in regards to marketing. The bookshop wants your book to sell, but they will not do the legwork for you. Have a solid marketing plan, and let the bookshop owner know what it is. It will shows that you take initiative and are confident that your book will sell. Put up links to indie bookshops when you are marketing on social media and if you have a website
If you want your book to sell at a specific shop, start a book marketing campaign to make it happen. Have your friends and family request copies of your book. When you approach that shop to ask if they'll stock your book, management will be more likely to say, "Yes!" if they've already sold some copies of it.
Some local indie bookshops will just want to buy from you on a consignment basis because that might be easier for them. Some of them might want to do an event first to test the waters. But ultimately booksellers want to know what kind of buzz you’re going to generate to help achieve the sell through. You need to not only help it get onto the shelves, but you also need to help it in the arms of a paying bookshop customer.
If after getting through this you think you have a book to pitch to us, we would encourage you to do your homework and be bold. What have you got to lose?
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