From the Archives: “Self-Publishing Authors Can Get Their Books on the Shelves of ‘Traditional’ Bookstores”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: April 27th, 2011 ]

Even with the recent changes in the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this presence, authors are able to target an audience that is passionate about books. Think about it — people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to go into a bookstore. Most likely they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance at being the book they buy.

How can you work toward getting your book into that bookstore, though? Is it a matter of luck? Can self-publishing authors make the cut? The good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a “lucky streak”, it’s still possible to successfully target placement in “traditional” bookstores. However, you must have a solid plan in place for doing so. Here are a few action items to put on your list as you get started:

  • Make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, there is great risk involved for the bookstore. For example, if they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year, they are losing money. If the book is returnable, though, the store can simply send the book back that doesn’t sell. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book.
  • Offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s sufficient? Typically that will be around 50-55% (or higher). Of course this does cut into your profits, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves. No incentive? No cigar.
  • Build proof that your book is desirable. This is probably the most difficult (though not insurmountable) part of it all because authors often have a bias view of their book. However, the best indicator of a desirable book is exponential sales figures. If the amount of books you sale doubles, triples, quadruples, etc. 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. You can find others specifically on their websites, but Barnes & Noble can be reached here:

The Small Press Department
Barnes & Noble
122 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Other bookstores can be found through Google. Another popular site for locating independent bookstores is Indie Bound.

Do you know of any other bookstores that are small press/self-published friendly?

by Wendy Stetina

When Wendy first posted this article back in 2011, the publishing industry looked rather different––and in many ways, it looked to be stumbling down the path to utter self-annihilation.  Borders, once a behemoth of the bookselling industry, went out of business in 2011, leaving many readers and authors questioning what––if any––place the brick and mortar bookstore held in the future of their industry.  In the heated discussion that followed in the post’s comments section, various Self Publishing Advisor subscribers pointed out the rise of online retailers as the cheapest and most effective sales platform for indie authors.  In response, SPA moderator Elise L. Connors wrote that “[T]his post wasn’t written with the intention of persuading authors to go after bookstores. It was actually written to let authors who are going after that avenue know that they shouldn’t give up on that ‘dream’ because of the current landscape of the industry.”  (The italics are mine.)

It’s true that Amazon has continued its meteoric rise to the top of the bookselling industry since 2011, and it’s also true that Amazon’s expanded offerings to self-publishing authors have captured much of the market and spurred much public dialogue about the world of indie publishing.  It’s true that Barnes & Noble’s online presence, the Apple iBooks Store, and a whole host of social media platforms and numerous self-publishing companies have sprung up in recent years to diversify and stabilize the market.  And while there have never been so many ways to buy and sell a book as there are in the year 2016, it is true too that ebooks and e-readers have done nothing to lessen customers’ appreciation for the pure tactile pleasure of a brick and mortar store.

Even Amazon has come around to seeing a street presence as importance, as evidenced by the launch of the first Amazon Books shop (in Seattle) last year.  Yes, it seems mostly a kind of marketing gimmick, but it’s one that works.  As one skeptical self-publishing expert learned, even the store’s critics often walk away with an Amazon Prime Membership or a physical book or two.  (These are true stories, people!)  There is, apparently, nothing that quite beats the “instant gratification” of beholding actual physical books on an actual physical shelf.  And while the jury’s still out on whether Amazon Books stores will do anything specifically geared to boost sales of self-published works––like installing Espresso Book Machines, for example, or offering curated collections of Print on Demand (POD) editions of Kindle favorites––one can’t help but notice the wide swathes of shelf space dedicated to Kindles in pictures of the interior.

amazon bookstore

And Amazon’s not the only company with a brick-and-mortar presence that can make a difference for indie and self-publishing authors.  In fact, many independent bookstores and even larger chains like Denver’s Tattered Cover go to great lengths to boost sales of local indie authors.  On my last visit to one of Tattered Cover’s several stores, I stepped inside the doors and made my way toward the coffee bar––only to find my progress impeded by a series of low bookshelves that blocked out the cafe’s seating area.  These shelves were the first thing every customer sees when walking in that store, and they were positively packed with self-published books, placed there on consignment.  (If you live in or near Denver and are interested in knowing more, visit their website.)

 

But ultimately, I’m not here today to defend the bookstore as a vital place to sell your books.  I’m here to help those of you who already know you want to get your book into a bookstore somewhere … to do so with the least amount of fuss.

To return to Wendy’s original post, most bookstores now either mandate her first point (“Make sure your book is fully returnable“) or take any guesswork out of the equation by relying on a consignment model (as with Tattered Cover, above).  And Wendy’s second point holds true: when an author is given the option, it’s a wise idea to “Offer a sufficient trade discount.

In many ways, however, Wendy’s third point is the most important.  Aside from keeping your name and work in the public eye, simply by virtue of placing your book in a bookstore, there are several ways you as an author can help “Build proof that your book is desirable.”  Most bookstores have stringent standards for the self-published books they stock: the title in question must dots its is and cross its ts in that it must have an ISBN, a cover that exudes professionalism and sound design sense, and so on.  Striving to meet these standards in order to appear on Barnes & Noble’s or Tattered Cover’s shelves can only do good things for the “desirability” of your book on a larger scale.  I guarantee you that an attractive, professional-looking book will sell better online as well as off the shelf.

Last but not least, a fantastic way to sell readers on the value of your book is by building relationships with them––and one of the best ways to make contact with your readers is to host events … at your local bookstore.  If you pursue hosting such an event, many bookstores will offer additional opportunities to feature your works within your stores, especially since good attendance at your event will likely translate into a solid spike in general sales for them.  (More foot traffic always equates to more sales when it comes to a brick-and-mortar bookstore.)  And the flipside of the coin is also worth examining: if you have already managed to clear a bookstore’s consignment standards, they are more likely to agree to partnering with you on hosting such an event.  Readings, Q&A sessions, and book signings are fertile ground for the indie author!  ♠

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.

Online Retailers Gained, While Brick-and-Mortar Lost In Wake of Borders Exit

Bowker recently released a study detailing the sales of online and brick-and-mortar retailers after Borders’ exit from the market. Here is a summary of the results:

  • Online retailers — led by Amazon —  earned 44 percent of America’s book dollars. This is up from 39 percent in 2011.
  • Barnes & Noble, including BN.com, remains the second largest bookselling outlet.
  • Women increased their lead over men in book buying, accounting for 58 percent of overall book spending in 2012, up from 55 percent in 2011.
  • Men are bigger hardcover buyers.
  • Ebooks continue their steady upward trend, with an 11 percent share of spending in 2012, compared to seven percent in 2011.
  • Despite the growth of ebooks, traditional print book output grew three percent in 2012.

This information is important for authors who have already self-published or who are considering self-publishing. It is essential that authors are aware of industry trends, so they can use the information to make the best publishing and marketing decisions for their books.

These results show the importance of offering an ebook version of your self-published book. Despite the popularity of ebooks, there is still a demand for print books. For many authors, the best option is to offer both a print and ebook version in an attempt to reach the largest market. However, this varies greatly from author to author and depends on the target market as well as the author’s personal goals.

To learn more about the Bowker report, visit http://www.bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2013/pr_08062013.shtml.

I’d love to know, how do the results in this report impact your self-publishing decisions?

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.

Print Books Will Endure

Digital books are great! You can carry around a library in your purse and read anywhere. Plus, digital books are often cheaper to produce (and therefore, cheaper to buy) and are environmentally friendly. Still, paper books will endure. Here are three reasons why.

They Make Great Gifts

Print books make great gifts. I often give friends and relatives books for holidays and birthdays. There is nothing better than the gift of reading.

They are Easy to Share

People love sharing books with their friends and family. How many times have you read a great book and passed it along to someone else? The ability to share is one of the pleasures of reading. Sharing digital books is possible, but it’s not as easy.

There is Nothing Like a Print Book

Many readers love the feel and smell of print books. Reading is an opportunity to escape our chaotic lives and enter another world. There is just something about sitting outside or laying on the couch with a paper book and getting lost in a story. Reading a digital book just isn’t the same.

If you are considering publishing, your best option is have a print and digital copy of your book. This will make sure you please both types of customers. Which do you prefer: digital or print books?

ABOUT WENDY STETINA: Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and 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, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.