In Your Corner: How do you get your books in bookstores?

Despite the evolution of ebooks and ereaders, as well as other changes within the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this brick-and-mortar presence, authors are able to reach readers that are passionate about books. Think about it—people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to visit a physical bookstore. Most likely, they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance of going home with them.

Campus Bookstore at University of Pennsylvania

But … how can self-publishing authors work toward getting their books into bookstores like Barnes & Noble and local independent bookstores? Is it a matter of luck? Can we make the cut? What does that even mean?! Well, the good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a lucky streak, it’s still possible to place your book on the shelves of bookstores. You must, however, have a solid plan in place to do so. You must, for example:

  • … make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, you are requiring the bookstore to assume a great deal of risk—and many of them simply won’t be interested for that very reason. If they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year and they cannot return the extra copies to you, they lose money. If the books are returnable, though, the store can simply send the books back that don’t sell for you to find better and more successful placements. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book … and as a necessary component of setting up a healthy long-term relationship with the bookstores which will sell not just this one book, but all of your books, present and future.
  • … offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s a sufficient discount? Typically, I recommend discounting your books around 50-55% (or higher) for brick-and-mortar booksellers. Of course this does cut significantly into your profits per book, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves … and sell more books in total. No incentive? No sales.
  • … prove that your book is desirable, and has legs. This is probably the most difficult—though not insurmountable—part of brick-and-mortar sales, as authors often have a biased view of their books. The best indicator of a desirable book isn’t opinion … it’s exponential sales figures! If the amount of books you sell doubles, triples, or quadruples month-after-month, that is something that can work in your favor. If you aren’t a professional marketer, you may want to seek the services of a book marketing consultant. Make sure they are able to help you draft a marketing plan and go forth on planning your publicity.

After you’ve done all of the above, you must put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts. But we’ll tackle that in a separate blog post, since it’s a whole other animal unto itself. Stick around next week for my musings on how best to reach out to reach out to the stores, once you have published your book and are on the path towards wrapping up your publicity campaign!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process 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, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

News From the Self-Publishing World: 10/26/15

This week in the world of self-publishing:

This has been a huge week for self-publishing, in that there doesn’t seem to be a large media outlet left untouched.  Take this October 23rd article in Publishers Weekly, for example, in which contributor Alex Palmer demystifies a few tried-and-true self-marketing methods.  Why is this such a big deal?  For starters, when an industry giant like PW dedicates significant page-space to a (for lack of a better term) “self-help” piece specific to self-publishing authors … well, this is a tacit acknowledgement that there are enough self-publishing authors out there to make them a significant reading bloc that PW is clearly willing to go to great lengths to woo.  Ten years ago, or even five, PW would have been far more likely to publish “discovery” pieces aimed at readers (past, present, or future) of self-published books and traditional publishing experts, rather than self-publishing authors themselves.  So this is exciting.  And the tips Palmer lists (like: “call ahead to make an appointment with the librarian or bookstore owner rather than just appearing unannounced” and “build […] ties to communities long before books come out so [authors and librarians or booksellers] won’t be strangers when the time comes to ask for arranging author events and distribution”) pack a punch and are backed up with useful insights from a variety of experts.  This has to be one of the best (and most interesting) assistive pieces I’ve read this year.

Talk about making serious press with serious media outlets; this week in The Bookseller‘s “FutureBook” section, contributor Porter Anderson walks us through a variety of self-publishing related news items (some of them in the lead-up to a #FutureChat Twitter event on Oct 23), but far and away the most interesting (I find) is his commentary on the divisions and contentions that exist between the different players in publishing today, and between traditional publishers and the self-publishing author.  He asks the question: “Is independent publishing ‘the contrary’ of the Trade?” by which he means, “Do we really have to frame every conversation about self-publishing and traditional publishing as a case of binary opposites?”  (My wording on that one.)  This is partially in response to some comments made by Hachette Livre’s Arnaud Nourry at the recent Frankfurt Bookfair (in which he described self-publishing as “the contrary of my business. We look at books and decide what we do and do not want to invest in”).  Anderson comes to no conclusions, leaving the field open to conversation in the “FutureBook’s” #FutureChat and at the upcoming Author Day conference on November 30th in London.

You thought it couldn’t get any bigger, didn’t you?  Well, it did.  And by “it,” I mean “self-publishing authors making a big splash in major headlines this week.”  Take this October 20th article for People Magazine‘s online edition by contributor Drew Mackie, in which we are presented with exactly what the title promises: seven movies that have their roots in the self-publishing book industry.  The Martian has gotten plenty of press lately, and Still Alice made the rounds and raked in a whole bunch of awards as both a book club favorite and an indie film darling, but some of the other titles might surprise you: Legally Blonde, for example.  Who knew?  Not me.  And I certainly am excited to hear that Hugh Howey’s Wool has FINALLY been moved out of “Development Hell” and into pre-production.  Mackie quotes Howey as saying, “Traditional publishing is much too restrictive. I don’t want to pump out the same book over and over. I want to challenge myself and produce the work that I feel is missing from the marketplace.”  And that, dear readers, is exactly the kind of rip-roaring rallying cry we all need to hear once in a while!

This one goes out to those of you from across the Pond––no, the other pond.  Australian media supergiant Yahoo7 highlighted the accomplishments of a self-publishing Aussie in a detailed October 21st article by contributor Sophie Smith.  Beau Taplin, a native Melbournian, has been making waves not just in the self-publishing industry Down Under, but among celebrities the world over.  He counts Kim Kardashian, Jessica Stam, Sophia Bush, Bindi Irwin, and Lauren Phillips among his many readers, but far and away he can credit his social media prowess with garnering him a wide readership.  Writes Smith, “Mr Taplin is making a living from the full-time occupation [of writing] despite choosing not to refer his work, which has attracted 281,000 followers on Instagram, 16.3K on Twitter and 10,000 on Facebook, to a commercial publisher.”  Taplin, who self-professes to “lean toward the shy end of the spectrum,” sees the novel as falling naturally in line with the traditional publishing model––but he wanted to do something different.  His book, Buried Light, comprises only 100 pages of prose, but it has rapidly eclipsed Taplin’s previous two books in sales.  Of finding his voice through self-publishing, Taplin has much to say: “I was lost before this.”  You can read more about his book at the link.


As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive 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, kellyschuknecht.com.

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.

Promoting your Self-Published Book to Barnes & Noble

Sometimes the hardest part about promoting your self-published book is knowing where to go. The good news is, the Internet can help you find the locations of all the Barnes & Noble (and B. Dalton) bookstores in the nation.

It’s easy! There just might be one right around the corner from you.

Just go to:
barnesandnobleinc.com/stores/find_a_store.do

Good luck and have fun!
Kelly Schuknecht
selfpublishingadvice.wordpress.com