In the past, getting independent booksellers to shelve self-published books was a difficult prospect. Indie sellers were reluctant to sell self-published books, based on the old bias that self-published meant poor content or poor quality. But that was then and this is now. Not only have self-published authors upped their game when it comes to content, but the quality of self-published books is highly competitive with those of traditionally published books. So just how do you go about selling your book to independent bookstores?Listen Now to Ep. 05 of Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark Self-Publishing Podcast
Know Your Audience
1. Booksellers do not want to hear about your success at Amazon.com! It's great to have success on Amazon, but consider the fact that indie bookstores have to compete with them before you brag about how well your book is selling there; it won't help you get your book in your local independent bookstore. In fact, Amazon is their biggest competitor.
2. Be a good customer. Cultivate relationships with indie booksellers by purchasing books from their stores and encouraging your friends, family, and fans to do so as well. It just makes sense to support your local independent bookstore before you ask them to support you. It's a good thing to do—and it's good business, too.
3. Know a store's demographic. Spend enough time at the store you're targeting to understand who their customers are. Their readers won't be your readers if your readers don't shop at that kind of bookstore. Familiarize yourself with their inventory and see if your book fits in. If an indie bookseller does not foresee his/her customers buying your book from their store, he/she is not going to buy it from you.
Send Customers to Specific Stores
If you want your book to sell at a specific store, start a grassroots book marketing campaign to make it happen. Have your friends and family who live and/or shop near the store request copies of your book. Have them stagger their requests so your book establishes a consistent sales record. When you approach that store to ask if they'll stock your book, management will be more likely to say, "Yes!" if they've already sold some copies of it.
Understand the Evolution of the Indie Bookstore
Independent bookstores have become more than just a place to buy a book; they are constantly evolving. Indie bookstores are community hotspots—supporting the local community, creating publishing programs, publishing and selling unique regional content, and hosting author events. When pitching your book to an indie bookseller, consider the unique ways your book ties into supporting the bookstore and the community. Your support of them will make them more likely to support you.
Market IndieBound as a Way Consumers Can Buy Your Book
Your sell sheet will direct readers to Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, but you should also include IndieBound.org in all your marketing materials. IndieBound supports sales through local bookstores by linking purchasers of your book to independent bookstores in their area. It's important that you represent IndieBound (in addition to Amazon and Barnes & Noble) on your author website and in other book marketing materials. By giving readers the opportunity to choose to purchase from an indie bookstore, you are showing local booksellers that you are a savvy author and that you actively encourage sales of your book from independent bookstores.
Offer Bookstore-Friendly Terms
Make sure you offer bookstore-friendly terms when pitching your titles to indie booksellers. That includes allowing returns, as well as the standard trade discount of 53%. The easier you make it for an indie bookstore to sell your book, the more likely they are to be willing to try.
Plan your strategy for selling your book to independent bookstores ahead of time, and start by frequenting those stores. Know what they're selling and to whom, and see if your book is a good fit for each store you approach. If you want to learn more about selling your book to independent bookstores and other self-publishing topics, listen to IngramSpark's free self-publishing podcast, Go Publish Yourself.