Your book is out! Congratulations. Now…how do you get your favorite indie bookstore to sell it?
Any author can understand what a bookstore owner or buyer looks for when evaluating new titles. Here are 7 tips for asking an indie bookstore to carry your book.
1. Professional design and editing are a must.
Impressing a buyer starts with the fundamentals: an appealing design, and error-free content inside and out. Neither customers nor bookstores want ugly, typo-ridden books.
“You want to grab someone’s attention with a professional package,” says Shawn Donley, New Book Purchasing Supervisor at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. “People spend years writing a book. Then the final things – cover, blurbs on the back, title – they blow it. Maybe it’s a great book, but no one will ever know.”
2. Ask your readers to request the book.
With so many books on the market, never tell a bookseller “I just wrote a book.”
“There were over two million self-published books in America in 2012 alone,” says Scott Landsfield, owner of Tsunami Books in Eugene, OR. “There is not enough money in turn-key bookselling to stop and talk with every person who just wrote a book and wants to sell it.” Instead, Landsfield recommends authors encourage others to request the book.
3. Ask for an email address to send a “sell sheet.”
Instead of taking up the owner’s time in person, Landsfield suggests emailing the book’s details. This is most often done in the form of a “one-sheet” or “sell sheet” – title, cover image, pricing, discount, ordering information, ISBN, a short description, and relevant blurbs. Once submitted, a follow-up email is considered appropriate. Anything beyond that can be pushy and counter-productive.
4. Wholesale distribution is a must.
Make sure your book is available through a major wholesaler/distributor.
“One thing that’s a big help is if the book is available from a distributor such as Ingram,” says Donley. “It’s easier for us to take a chance.”
Working with individual authors can be a drain on time-strapped personnel, says Donley. “The amount of work our accounting department does for a two-book order or a two-hundred-book order is about the same.”
Note: BookLocker.com offers automatic distribution through Ingram, as well as listings on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, BooksAMillion.com, and many other physical and online bookstores across the globe.
5. Visit the section where your book would appear.
What do the other book covers look like? How is the cover copy written? After all, a regional guidebook isn’t going to have the same look and feel as a fantasy novel. Make sure your book’s design has something in common with the other books on the shelf. If you must make changes to your book, what can you do to make it better compete with the others?
6. Understand the bookstore business.
“The more authors understand the business, the better chance they’re going to have of getting their books carried,” says Donley. “It’s obvious when people have done their homework. They know discounts, returnability, wholesalers. They know the lingo.”
All publishers provide a discount to the bookstore. Donley recommends indie authors provide similar terms. “If we can get at least a forty percent discount, we’re happy with that.”
Warning: You may not want to make your book returnable. HERE’S WHY.
7. Talk up marketing around your book.
If you blog, have a social media presence, or are doing interviews or appearances to support your book’s release, it helps to share your marketing plans, too. “That all can influence our decision on whether or not to bring you in,” says Donley.
Want to make an extra splash? “Have a gala book-release celebration at the local bookstore where you do most of your shopping,” Landsfield suggests.
“A lot of people are not well educated on what it takes to bring a book into a bookstore,” says Donley. “They don’t know the industry. Spend time in bookstores. Look at the competition. Look at covers, typesetting, book design. There’s a reason publishers put so much time and energy into those things: It makes a difference.”
Follow that advice, and maybe you too will find your book on the shelf at your favorite indie bookstore.
Fantasy author and beer writer Anthony St. Clair has walked with hairy coos in the Scottish Highlands, choked on seafood in Australia, and watched the full moon rise over Mt. Everest in Tibet. The creator of the ongoing Rucksack Universe series, Anthony has traveled the sights and beers of Thailand, Japan, India, Canada, Ireland, the USA, Cambodia, China and Nepal. He and his wife live in Eugene, Oregon, and gave their kids passports when they were babies. Learn more at anthonystclair.com.
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