Getting Your Self Published Book Into Bookstores

Online sales (and a royalty check) may signal achievement, but nothing feels as validating as seeing your book displayed at your favorite bookstore.

Having your book in brick-and-mortar stores not only offers credibility but also presents opportunities to connect with potential readers, build your brand, and increase your visibility in the literary world.

In 2007, Amazon opened up its virtual shelves for authors to self-publish, and then in 2008, Smashwords followed, and that changed everything for writers. Gone were the days of expensive (and exploitive) vanity presses. Authors now have the power to become their own publishing companies, and those who learn the business of publishing have a much greater chance of finding success.

Even for traditionally published authors, the competition for shelf space is fierce. Bookstores front the expense of stocking their shelves and constantly have to gauge what their customers will want to read. An unknown author trying to break out of the crowded sea of new releases represents risk.

What makes a book marketable? It’s well-written, professionally edited, and professionally formatted. The cover speaks to the genre and uses stellar graphic design. The physical quality (paper, typeset, and cover material) is a joy to hold and read.

Begin by minimizing the store’s risk.

Bookstores are often wary of stocking new titles, especially those from self-published authors. Provide the store’s buyer with a free copy, allowing them to verify the quality and content of your book. Offer to sell your book on consignment, which allows the bookstore to stock your book without any upfront costs. If the book sells well, the bookstore may agree to purchase additional copies.

Daniel J. Tortora suggests asking friends and family to go to their local bookstore and ask them to order your book so they can purchase it. If enough patrons ask for a title, then stores are more likely to order several to add to their shelves.

Share your marketing plan.

Communicate how you’ll help sell the book in their store. Bring your fans to a book signing, a Q&A or a reading. Don’t put the entire burden on the store to attract fans to buy your book. 

A strong author platform also makes it easier to attract the attention of bookstores. Build a following through your website, social media, and public speaking engagements to demonstrate your potential for driving sales and attracting readers.

Build connections and collaborate with other authors.

Connect with local bookstores and literary organizations to build relationships and promote your book. Attend local book fairs, signings, and author events to network with bookstore owners and build your visibility.

Collaborate with other authors to promote your books and each other’s works. Consider starting a local writing group or organizing a joint book launch event to raise visibility for all participating authors. 

Present a unique selling proposition backed by reviews.

If your book offers a unique perspective or solves a specific problem, highlight that in your pitch to bookstores. Demonstrate how your book stands out from the competition and why it will be of interest to potential readers, specifically to those in your area.

Positive reviews from respected sources, such as newspapers or literary magazines, increases the credibility of your book and makes it more appealing to bookstores. Encourage your readers to leave reviews on your website, Goodreads, and other book review platforms.

From author to entrepreneur.

bookstore interior

When it comes to selling books, veteran publishing professional, author, and keynote speaker, Jane Friedman literally wrote the book. The Business of Being a Writer is an essential read to move your messy manuscript into mainstream book sales. Learn from her years inside publishing and avoid newbie pitfalls.

Think like a bookstore owner – you want to show how your book either appeals to a broad audience or fans within popular genres. The quality and reading experience should be excellent. You can’t fall back on “it was the publisher that missed the typos” when you are the publisher.

Be persistent: Getting your book into brick-and-mortar bookstores can be a slow and challenging process. Persistence is key. Keep promoting your book and reaching out to new bookstores until you find the right fit.

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