Many authors dream of the day they can walk into a bookstore or library and find their book. But how do you do it as a self-published author when you don’t have a large publishing company and distribution channels pushing bookstores to carry it? How do you get your book into bookstores and libraries?
It’s true it can be more difficult as an indie author to place your books on store shelves. Shelf space can be tight and people are careful what they put there. Put yourself in a bookseller’s or librarian’s shoes. What kind of books would you want to purchase for your customers? Ones they’ll want to buy or check-out, correct? You want a book that will be requested as you are on a budget so you have to be choosy what you spend your money on.
When you as an author and publisher go to the bookstores and libraries, keep this in mind. Make sure you communicate to person you’re talking to why people will be buying or checking out your book. Let them know there is a demand for the tite they can fill.
To create demand for your title, you need to first work on online promotion before you ever walk into that bookstore. Do you have an online presence? Do you have a website? A blog? Facebook? Twitter? Do you have a Goodreads author page? Do you keep them up with new content? In our technological age, many people follow their favorite authors online and buy their books over the internet from sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other publishing retail sites. Through regularly posting online and having your books up for sale, people around the world will be able to find you and not merely those who live in the local area. Then, when you do go into your local bookstore or library, the demand for your books will already be there and you have a way to publicize any book signings or speaking events.
Once you have your online presence up and going, then you can promote yourself to local businesses and libraries. When you go in, remember the following dos and don’ts.
- Invest in a good cover and book design. The best marketing you can do for your book is a great cover. This is the first thing people will see as they are walking in a bookstore or after they pull it off the shelf. Would you want to pick it up? If it doesn’t look appealing to your target market, they won’t buy it. You will also get much further with book buyers if your book looks professional.
- Focus on internet sales and an online presence – speak directly to readers
- Focus on local bookstores and local libraries who are more likely to want to support an author in the area. Explain to them who your market is and why they will go there to buy your book. If they don’t want to buy copies outright, offer to leave a few copies on consignment – that way it only costs them shelf space. Consignment is when you leave a book at the store and then after it sells, the bookstore keeps a percentage and pays you the rest. Common splits are 60/40 and 50/50.
- Have your readers go to their local libraries and bookstores to order your book. Bookstores can always order a copy from the publisher. Bookstores carry what their customers want. If there is repeated demand for your book, they will likely start carrying it.
- Ask your acquisitions librarian if they would be interested in having your book. If they are interested but don’t have the funds, donate a copy if then offer to do a reading. Sometimes the answer will be no due to a lack of shelf space. If this is the case, thank them and offer to do a local author event of some kind, perhaps on the topic of your book. This may create the demand they need to carry the book.
- Market to your audience. Are there local bookstores with a focus on your genre? If you’ve written a children’s book, contact the local school libraries and arrange an event. Try contacting them in the fall to set something up as that’s when the schools get their yearly budget. Even if the event isn’t in the fall, they can buy the books and share them with the kids before you come.
- Don’t be rude or pushy to anyone you deal with in bookstores or libraries. It’s a good rule of thumb for life in general, but when marketing your book, even if the answer is no, always be polite and thank them for their time. You never know what might happen down the road and you want to leave behind a good impression.
- Do not pay to have your book reviewed. Bookstores and libraries know which review publications are paid and ignore them.
- Don’t sign up right away with companies that supposedly market your book to stores and libraries. Many such companies are scams and with the ones that aren’t, read the contract extremely carefully. Know exactly what you’re getting and how much it’s going to cost up front. Even if you do go with one of these companies, nothing replaces the author’s own marketing effort. No one can fully take over what you need to be doing. As in anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Getting your book into bookstores and libraries isn’t a pie in the sky dream – with hard work and persistent, you can walk into a store and find your book. It’s a process, though. You need to start with a well-written and well-designed book and have a strong online presence. Then, with demand for the titles in place, you will be able to walk in and offer your book to the clerks and librarians with confidence.
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