Getting Stores to Carry Your Book

One of the goals I set for myself for 2016 was to get my books in physical bookstores. Or at least try. I actually forgot about this goal (whoops) until I was editing The Independent Author: Year One. I touch on the results a bit in that book, but I wanted to dive into the topic further here.

For an author, seeing your book in a bookstore is fantastic. For an indie author with no real way to distribute to bookstores, sometimes that dream never becomes a reality.

Let’s back up to May 2016. I was editing The Independent Author: Year One when I read that I wanted to get my book into bookstores. Figuring that that was a dream to be shelved for 2017, I side-stepped it in my reflection for that post.

I moved on to the next post and, like I often do when editing, I got distracted and ended up on Facebook. That’s when I remembered seeing a call for local authors from an independent bookstore about a half an hour away from me. They were having an author event in August so I figured I’d at least call about it. The worst they could do was tell me no thank you.

One of the first things the guy on the phone asked was, “Do we carry your books?” I told him no, and then begrudgingly told him that I was self-published (waiting for the sour response). He just said, “No problem! Most of the authors who do these events are self-published, so you’ll fit in just fine.” He told me to bring in three copies of each of my books so they could get me in the system and they’d set me up for the event.

When I dropped them off, I filled out a small slip of paper that basically listed my books, ISBN, retail price, and my contact information. Just like that, my books were listed with an independent store.

Well, this inspired me, so I called six other places to see if they’d be interested in carrying my book. Three indie bookstores, two Barnes & Nobles, and one 5&10 store.

Basically, the secret sauce to getting my books in bookstores was: I asked.

The people I needed to talk to at Barnes & Noble weren’t there (I guess there’s a specific rep at each store that handles community relations) so I had to email them. I got responses back that same day. The one woman told me that since I publish through Createspace, and therefore my books are “non-returnable” from a bookstore, they couldn’t carry my books. Barnes & Noble doesn’t do consignment like indie bookstores.

What she did offer me was a chance to be a part of an author event later this month. I’ll have to bring copies of my books, but they’re happy to have me.

The other Barnes & Noble rubbed me the wrong way. After insulting my intelligence and my experience (“You know, being an author isn’t just writing a book and uploading it to Amazon…”), she asked me several unrelated questions (“What magazine do you work for?” and “What are you doing to promote your book?”), but basically told me no. Since I was a little pissed, I replied with, “I’m very well aware of the challenges of promoting a book. Thank you for your email. I’ll be focusing my efforts elsewhere.”

Besides the Barnes & Nobles, I was able to get my books into stores in the surrounding area. Unfortunately, there isn’t a bookstore in Batavia (although I’m working on changing that), so the best I can do is 20 miles out.

For all of these places, my books are listed on consignment. We do a 60/40 split, so I get 60% of the profits. They don’t do any special promotion for my books, other than offering to have me for an author event (although I’d have to do the legwork to get people there).

It might not pay off at all, but it’s good visibility. I’ll post about my stats with these stores later.

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