How to Get Your Self-Published Book into Big Retailers

When most people dream of becoming an author, they image their book displayed on the shelves of their favorite bookstores and picture readers picking it up, looking at the cover, flipping through the pages. They imagine the smell and feel of their book in print. Despite the popularity of ebooks, there is just something magical about a paper book.

Many people think self-publishing only means creating ebooks and selling books online, but choosing self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to give up your dream of seeing your book in print in big retail stores.

So how do you get your self-published book one of those highly coveted spots on the large retailer shelves? The short answer: one step at a time. These step-by-step strategies can get you closer to your bookstore goals:

  • Start with online and in-person sales. Sell at book fairs, on your social media sites, at local events and any place you can set up a table and take payment.
  • Market your book. Set up a clear plan for marketing and publicizing your book so you can gather interest and increase sales.
  • Establish that your book is desirable. Track every sale and look for patterns of growth. This information is appealing to book retailers.
  • Use those sales figures. Once you’ve established that you have, or are heading toward, positive sales trends, start talking to local bookstores, seeking a commitment to carry your book.
  • Tailor your product. Armed with your bookstore commitments, work with your self- publishing company to change your trade discount and retail price and add retail returns, so bookstores can carry your book.
  • Expand to larger markets. Put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts and approach larger markets about getting your self-published book on their shelves.

Getting into big retail stores can be a difficult process, but if you keep your eye on the big picture and work consistently toward your goal, it’s doable.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 4 – Rights

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

This week, I’ll discuss book rights. (In case you missed the last three reasons, be sure to go back and view those posts: Control, Money, and Trade and Distribution.)

As a self-publishing author, you maintain all rights to your book. This gives authors the freedom to sell or keep the rights as they see fit. However, it is important to note that self-published books will be considered “previously published” if the author later chooses to sell the book to a traditional publisher.

Owning book rights such as translation rights and film rights can have a significant impact on an author’s profitability.

Authors who use traditional publishing firms often give up most of the book rights but are usually entitled to a small percentage of the profit if the firm sells the rights to someone else. Self-publishing authors have the opportunity to choose if and how to sell their book rights to ensure they are getting the best deal possible.

I’d love to know, how has owning the rights to your book influenced your publishing decisions?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Top Four Reasons to Self-Publish: Part 3 – Trade Discounts and Distribution

Last month, I did a series on the most popular questions self-publishing authors ask. The posts were such a hit, I’ve decided to do another series this month. Each week in August, I will discuss one of the top four reasons why you should self-publish your book.

This week, I’ll discuss trade discounts and distribution. Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishing allows authors to choose the type of distribution that is appropriate for their material and marketing goals.

When thinking about distribution, it is important for authors to understand how the process works. For starters, “trade discount” is an industry term for profit margin. This rate impacts who buys and sells your books as well as the profits you will make off of your book.

For instance, shelf space in a brick and mortar chain bookstore has very specific requirements: the books must have a very high trade discount (50% to 55%). Therefore, if you buy a book at one of these bookstores  for $14.95, 55% of the retail price ($8.22) is divided between the store and the wholesale distributor for their profit. When you subtract the $8.22 from the $14.95, you are left with $6.73. This remainder covers the cost of the actual book. The balance that is left after the price of the book is the author royalty. Typically, authors receive very low royalties in these scenarios.

In addition to needing a high trade discount, authors also need to provide the bookstore with a “Retail Returns Program.” This program allows the bookstores to return books to the wholesaler and get their money back if the books do not sell. You must provide this program to the retailers, but having it is no guarantee that they will agree to stock your book.

Conversely, authors that elect to focus on internet sales may select a much lower trade discount as the internet book sites do not require as large of a profit margin. So that same $14.95 retail priced book under a 25% trade discount would look like this mathematically: $14.95 – $3.74 (25% of the retail price) = $11.21 – the actual cost of your book = your royalty. Obviously, $11.21 is a larger number than $6.73. Therefore, your royalty will be greater if sold by an online distributor, assuming the cost of your book remains the same in each equation.

Freedom to choose your trade discount and distribution center is just one of the many perks of self-publishing. To learn more about trade discounts, check out Cheri’s post titled Trade Discounts 101. It provides a great overview of industry standards and questions to ask yourself before setting your discount.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

How Far is Too Far? — Extreme Book Marketing Efforts by Joan Rivers

Did you ever think about chaining yourself to a Costco shopping cart to promote your book?  No?  Well, if you had, I’m sorry to tell you Joan Rivers beat you to it.

According to Rivers, Costco refuses to stock her book, “I Hate Everyone … Starting with Me,” which has made the New York Times bestseller list. The store reportedly banned the book because it has “naughty” words on the back cover. Fighting back, Rivers chained herself to a shopping cart in the store and shouted through a bullhorn, protesting the ban and (simultaneously) promoting her book. Police were called to the scene, but no citations were issued.

Many believe the protest was a staged publicity stunt to help promote the book. Rivers had her own film crew present as she protested, and she willingly talked to the media after the event. Whether the intention was to protest or promote, the story is creating a lot of buzz about the author and her new book. Some might say the old cliché “there is no such thing as bad publicity” is true.

Rivers shows the extremes to which some authors are willing to go in order to market their books, but she also teaches self-publishing authors an important lesson: not every retailer will be willing to stock your book, even if you think they should. Retailers do have guidelines they follow when it comes to which books they stock in their stores.  If a celebrity such as Joan Rivers can’t get her book (which, I remind you, is a New York Times bestseller) onto the shelves at Costco, self-publishing authors will most likely experience similar hurdles.

If one of your book marketing goals is to get your book onto the shelves of a major retailer, think about the marketing efforts you are currently making and learn from your experiences (and rejections, if you have had any). I don’t encourage you to chain yourself to a shopping cart in a bookstore parking lot, but if a bookstore tells you no, consider what other avenues you might take in order to accomplish your goal.

I’d love to know, what do you think of the Joan Rivers protest?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press.  In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.