Recently, I chatted with a bookstore owner who lives and sells books in a small tourist community nestled near the Atlantic Ocean. Beth generously offered me her perspective on self-published authors who pitch their books to her bookstore.
Self-published authors approach her and her co-owner frequently, hoping to get their books on their shelves. I got the distinct impression they rarely agree to stock their books. Her experience is one we must consider and learn from.
She’s observed many local self-published authors looking for her to sell their books don’t shop at her store, or any other indie bookstores.
Takeaway Tip: Stores are more likely to support you if you support them. Make a habit of shopping at and supporting local businesses.
Know Your Comps
When authors approach Beth with a book they’ve written about their experience battling cancer or the loss of their spouse, she asks them right off what other books they have read similar to the one they are promoting. But, unfortunately, most of the time, the author hasn’t read any. This begs the questions, if you aren’t reading in your genre, how can you know what readers want from your genre?
Takeaway Tip: Knowing your comp authors – and reading their books – is an important aspect of marketing. Just as you need to research your comps before setting up Amazon ads, you also need to know your comps before approaching a bookseller.
Shelf Space Is at a Premium
Most noteworthy, stores only stock books popular with their customers. They are running a business and they need to turn a profit. If the bookseller doesn’t think your book will appeal to their clientele, they aren’t likely to stock your book.
Takeaway Tip: If you want a bookseller to stock your book, you need to be prepared to tell them how and why your book can keep their customers happy and make them money.
Accept Rejection Gracefully
Beth shared that she often turns authors away because she doesn’t think a book will sell well in her store. (Memoirs in particular are not big sellers for her, so she doesn’t keep many on the shelves.) At times, indie authors have gotten angry with Beth if she declines to stock their book in her store. This kind of behavior gives self-published authors a bad reputation.
Takeaway Tip: When an author is turned down, it’s important they accept a “no” gracefully. This isn’t personal for the bookseller. It’s business.
Additional Insider Tips
- Customers (and booksellers) expect professionally written, edited, and packaged books.
- Bookstores like Beth’s look for regional titles, mainly non-fiction.
- The title must be on the spine, and the cover art must meet industry standards.
- Book sellers must be able to easily stock the book. This means having a book with an ISBN, priced barcode and availability through major distributors.
Self-published authors inundate bookshop owners with requests to stock their books. The problem is, they often pitch a subpar product— which customers will not buy. If authors hope to have a chance of being carried in their local bookstore, they must take the time to professionally publish, package and market their book.
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