Getting Into Local Bookstores: Tips For Getting a Spot on the Shelf

Is getting your book in a local bookstore hard to do?

Getting your book in a local bookstore isn’t as easy or as difficult as many authors think. Unless you’re lucky, you usually can’t waltz into a bookstore unannounced and come out with a deal. Selling your book in a local bookstore isn’t rocket science, however. It’s as simple as having two things, the right perspective and a good book. With these two things, you put the odds in your favor of a “yes”.

What should I do to get my book on a local bookstore shelf?

The first step in pitching a book to your local bookstore is adopting an entrepreneurial mindset. Get in sales mode. Some key pointers to remember:

  • Approach the right person. Make contact with the person in charge of buying books. In independent bookstores, this is usually the owner. You can call or meet them in person. If it’s a franchise (such as Barnes & Noble), you may need to make a request through a corporate website.
  • Establish your case When you get in contact with the right person, establish why your book belongs on the shelves. Share your track record of sales. Local bookstores love to promote authors, especially local authors who have a record of success
  • Be ready to make a deal If a bookstore offers to buy your book, they will want a cut of the profits. That cut may be a little larger than you expect because the bookstore has to pay the bills. Here’s a blog post on Dave’s Chesson’s site that discusses the two basic payment arrangements bookstores consider.

The second step in pitching a book is establishing strategic relationships. Very rarely does a bookseller accept an author’s book in the first conversation. It may take more than a few conversations before that bookseller is ready to make up their mind. As an author, you can tilt the odds in your favor by investing some time. Here are some ways you might do that:

  • Spy on the competition As an author, don’t make the mistake of walking into a local bookstore and demanding a book be placed on the shelf. Visit the bookstore, if you can. Look at the books the bookseller has already put on the shelf. Think about how your book would fit in and share that insight with the bookseller.
  • Get to know the bookstore Bookstores, especially the independent ones, have their own vibe. Visit the bookstore to see if this place would be an ideal environment for your book.
  • Connect with future readers at the bookstore One way to improve your chances of success with pitching your book is to already have an audience at that bookstore. How do you build that audience? Get involved. Try a book signing and see how things go. Connect with readers in groups at the bookstore. If space is available, hold a workshop at the bookstore.

The third way to get your book on a local bookstore shelf is to go through the back door. Despite the growing popularity of self-published books, some bookstores will not accept from someone who walks in. In those situations, go through the back door.

Some publishers and distributors (yes, self-published authors can use distributors) have options that put self-published books in publications that booksellers buy from. Check into those options to see if you have access to these options.

Some companies that will distribute your book to independent bookstores

Relationships and resources are the keys to getting your book in the bookstore

As an author in charge of getting the word out about your book, it is up to you. You have to develop the relationships and connections that will get your books on the shelves. You have to put in the hard work. By taking the above steps into consideration, you should be able to turn that work into the awesome moment when your book is placed on the bookstore shelf for the first time.

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