How to Approach a Book Store to Sell Your Self-Published Book

How to Approach a Book Store to Sell Your Self-Published Book!

Many of our eBook authors at ‘eBooks International’ have also published their eBook in print form via POD. So we want to help you in selling more copies of your book. But how can you get your book into a bookstore if you are a self-published author.

Trying to get your self-published book in to the bookstores can be a very daunting task that is time consuming and also costly. This is often the biggest challenge faced by self-publishers and is why many decide to follow through with the traditional route of going through a publisher who has the established relationships and power to have your book distributed to these chains of bookstores.

Many of the largest book sellers will make those decisions at their corporate headquarters when it comes to buying and what books will be sold in their chain stores.

Rarely will they take on or distribute a self-published book because they know the chances of selling a lot of books from an unknown author are very low.  And if they do a print run then they will at risk of having to take on the cost of receiving the unsold books back from the stores.

Don’t forget that there is also a large market of independent bookstores that you may wish to pursue. The obvious challenge here is that you may have to approach each individual store to be if they will take your book.

You will need to offer the owner some incentive or reason to take on your book. You may do a book signing, in store promotion or even local marketing for your book listing the store where your book can be bought.

Many authors believe that once their book has been published that it will automatically end-up on the bookshelves of all the major book stores. Unfortunately only a small percentage of published books make it to stores for sale.

Each of the independent book stores will decide, based on various criteria, which books to stock on their shelves. It is a constant challenge to decide which books their customers will likely buy.

The books that have been promoted and marketed heavily will be more likely to make it into the stores. It is the books written by celebrities, famous athletes, politicians and well-known authors that have that major advantage.

Many of these books are published through the major publishing houses that use their power to get their books on to the shelves.

One essential factor for independent authors is to build their own author platform and brand. This is where some pre-launch marketing can go a long way. If you have a successful following on your website, your blog or on a social media site then this can be used to help convince the book stores that you do indeed have a following of fans who are keen to buy your book.

Those books that sit on a bookshelf without selling will be removed after a 2-3 month period and returned. This is not the outcome you want so you will need to be prepared to get some sales early on.

If your book starts to sell then the buyer or bookstore will be likely to place additional orders of your book in order to keep their shelves stocked and prevent the loss of potential sales.

Benefits of a Store like Amazon for Independent Authors
One of the major benefits of going through Amazon is that take care of the ordering, order fulfilment and shipping of your book. It is important to take note that Amazon will take a hefty chunk of royalties so be sure to know exactly what you will receive when a book is sold and how much Amazon will be keeping for themselves.

Understanding Consignment Sales Option for Self-Published Authors
It is important you understand how consignment works as your book will most likely be sold on consignment. The way a self-published book will be sold to a bookstore is on consignment. Consignment is a common practice for stores where they will take a few copies of your book to display in the bookstore.

Take note of stores who will charge you an up-front fee just to cover the expenses of listing and inventorying your book. This fee may just be too high and you will need to calculate how books you will have to sell just to recover this up-front cost.

If any of your books do sell on consignment, the bookstore will pay you a ‘pre-agreed’ percentage of the list price. Be sure to have this in writing to avoid any future issues when it comes to getting paid. Many smaller bookstores do not have their own consignment agreement forms so you should be prepared to take one into the bookstore.

Another up-front agreement with the bookstore will be with regards to how long they will display your book for and how any unsold books will be returned. On the positive side, if they do sell out of your books then they will want to know how they can order more in a short period of time to meet demand.

You should also have a structured and precise system of invoicing the bookstore when they let you know that your books have been sold. They will probably not be too proactive in chasing you to pay you.

How to Approach the Owner of an Independent Book Store
Let’s start by stating the fact that bookstore owners are busy people and are constantly being approached by independent authors who are trying to get their books on the shelves of their independent book stores.

Cold call sales often do not go well if you think you can plan on walking into a store and trying to get your book accepted without providing any over powering reason for the owner to do so.

So let’s take a look at the bare minimums required for you to have in order to get your book past the first stage.

1. Many small independent stores have their own website so that should be your first point of call to see if they provide any information with regards to accepting books from authors. This may just save you a lot of time and effort.

2. Every book in a bookstore must have an ISBN and a bar code

3. Every book must be priced to fit the market and not what you think you should earn from it.

4. You must take note of independent book stores special niche of topics. If your book matches that niche then you will have more chance of getting it to that store. For example; a Christian book store will not accept certain types of books so there is no need to even approach this type of store.

5. Book Quality – your book must be presented as all other books in the stores are. It must be professional bookstore quality otherwise the owner will take one look at hand it back to you regardless of how good your content may be.

6. Your hard cover book must a have a dust jacket. The binding of any soft cover books must meet requirements. Do not try to go to your local office supply store and wire bound your own books. They won’t be accepted.

7. Be proactive and save yourself some time by sending an email to the book store manager or owner in advance. You will want to get directly to the decision maker and not some casual ship assistant so persist until you get a reply. You email should be brief and to the point and be finished with the request to stop by the store and drop off your book for review.

8. A well-written email signature is essential if you have a website, author page, social media following, previous books sold or information to establish your author platform and credibility.

Additional factors:
Create a book trailer and distribute on YouTube. You can then add this to your information sheet where the owner could go and have a look at your trailer.

If you have an ‘author page’ then also include this. If you have yet to build your own site then sign up to one of the free author communities that provide you with this option. Then you can just ad the link for your author page to the sell sheet.

Your Sell and Information Sheet!
A sell / information sheet is designed to provide the bookstore owner with a quick view of the all the required components for selling a book in their store.

For example your sell sheet should at least contain the following information:

  • Title of your book
  • Author – even though it is you
  • Provide a photo of the book cover
  • Provide a professional photo of yourself as the author
  • Publisher – if self-published make note of who is printing your book
  • Category or genre of your book
  • ISBN – required if sold in a book store
  • Binding – soft or hard cover
  • Number of pages in your book
  • Marketing plans and strategies for your book (mail outs, flyers, online advertising)
  • List the retail price for your book (be prepared for some owners to want to change this)
  • Testimonials you have gathered for your book
  • Your contact details including mobile number and email (make sure you have a professional email and not an old one with a silly nickname from high school)

You must have a plan for approaching a bookstore with regards to them selling your book. If you have a well presented proposal then you will be less likely to be faced with an immediate rejection.

I have known independent authors who have been able to get their books in to stores and then a key strategic move was to get their friends to go in and ask for or buy their book. This promotional tactic has launched many a top selling authors and books.

One author that used this tactic to get started made it to number one on the best sellers list and also onto the Oprah show.