How do you get local bookstores to carry your book? Strategies for self-published authors!

What are the actual steps that you need to take to get your book onto the shelves at a local bookstore? Today I’ll share my experience and tips to make that happen for your book.

Similar to how I discussed getting your book onto library bookshelves today I am going to tell you how to actually get your book onto the shelves at a local bookstore. And I can do this because I recently found success with getting my latest book, The Infinite-Infinite onto the shelves at a local bookstore here in Florida.

Need to have your book printed by someone other than Amazon – Amazon has fundamentally changed so many industries and brick and mortar bookstores have not been significantly impacted. It’s not just that they won’t be self-published books printed through KDP, there are cases where they will not purchase books printed through Amazon’s traditional publishing arm. So that means your paperback needs to come from a different print-on-demand service, like IngramSpark.

Need your own ISBN and barcode – You need to have a barcode with the price on it. The bookstore owner or manager wants to know from you what you want to sell the book. If they have to guess, it’s more work for them. When I went in to drop off my book to be sold at a local store one of the first things the owner did when he looked at my book was turn it over to look at the barcode and the price. He was impressed and appreciative that I had the price listed there.

Need to price it to sell – The bookstore is literally fighting with low cost and free delivery from Amazon. You should have already done your pricing research before purchasing your barcode. But if you are selling a book way above the comps in your genre, it will NEVER move off the bookshelf.

Understand why Consignment is Good – For the local bookstores that I spoke to before I settled on the shop that is now carrying my book, I heard from most that they wanted to work on consignment with local authors. This means that I am going to the store, dropping off my book with them, they enter it into their system and place it on the shelf, and only when someone goes to buy it do either of us make money. This is a way for these local bookstores to support authors in their area without a huge financial investment upfront. The bookstore wins and the author wins when the book sells so the incentives are aligned. But this means you need to have inventory to drop off and be willing to drive out there a few times to drop off more copies as needed and receive payment. The hope is that once you have had to do this a few times, they will want to order more from you. If they see strong sales they just might. Working with a POD service like IngramSpark means you will already be in the system where they purchase books.

Pound some pavement (in person or digitally) – In order to even find the store I ended up partnering with I did a lot of research online. I searched for Tampa Bookstores, St. Pete Bookstores, St. Petersburg Florida Bookstores, Clearwater Bookstores. You get the idea. It was easy to whittle the list down pretty quickly. It’s not to say they wouldn’t have been good partners, but if others can find them or get in touch with them, how many customers are probably coming in?

Pick the right partner – After I had two local stores on my list I looked at my calendar and found a day I would already be out and about. Both owners asked me to reach out before I came in to make sure they would be there. The first got back right away again. That one was set. The second, who I had spoken with just a few weeks earlier and was happy to sell my books on consignment, picked up the phone that day and started ranting about how his business is suffering. I can empathize with the struggles his business is having, it’s tough, but my books are in libraries. And working with someone who is so prone to mood swings was a red flag for me. They were crossed off the list. I had one ideal bookstore that I wanted to partner with and so far it has been great.

So, have you had luck getting your books into local bookstores as well? For those in the greater Tampa/St.Pete area go check out Back in the Day Books on Main Street in Dunedin!

Music from: E.R.F.

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