Three Ways Indie Publishers Sell Books

Thursday, March 31, 2016

In the past, publishing books usually involved a traditional brick-and-mortar publishing house, an elite team of authors and publishers, and many high slush piles. Thankfully, that picture has evolved. There are now more independent publishers than ever, which gives more authors a chance to get their work known and potentially to realize their dreams of becoming bestselling authors. This is great news for both the author and the publisher, as it gives them opportunities to grow professionally and reach more people.

Clean & Quality Metadata

Much of how today’s books sell depends on book metadata. Metadata sounds like a big technological word, but in reality, you’ll know it once you see it. Book metadata is the information that authors, publishers, and readers use to interact with a book. It helps authors determine what they want their books to say, publishers determine whether they want to represent the book, and readers determine whether they want to buy it.

On its most basic level, book metadata is the title and author of a book, plus the publisher, imprint, and supplier on record. It also includes several important smaller features such as the page count, trim size, and international standard book number (ISBN). Pay particular attention to these; they help you protect the book from plagiarism and other types of thievery, figure out which genre it fits into, and streamline your ordering and selling process. The ISBN in particular helps you, direct authors and readers to specific books. This assures authors you are carrying their titles and helps readers navigate the “tsunami of books” they might otherwise encounter in your catalog. Familiarize yourself with ISBN protocol and the metadata percentages expected from today’s publishers, so you can better help your authors.

Book Marketing

Today’s book sales also depend heavily on book marketing. Like writing itself, book marketing continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Today’s authors are not simply authors – they are business owners who want to forge connections not only with their publishers, but also with entire teams of people. Today’s book marketing is about more than shelf space; it’s about appealing to a variety of readers.

As an indie publisher, you need to be able to help your authors determine the best book marketing paths for them. Familiarize yourself with the methods publishers use to sell books, from text blurbs in catalogs to social media, blog tours, and free giveaways. Then, encourage your authors to use as many of these as he or she is comfortable using. Just remember that not all authors are comfortable with all mediums. They may call on you or other members of your publishing and marketing teams for help.

Work with Booksellers

Of course, a book’s journey isn’t over once you have published it. As a publisher, you need to know how to work with a bookseller. You can pass these tips on to your authors, and you should use them yourself as well.

  • Be a customer. In order to build rapport with booksellers, you have to visit their stores, whether brick-and-mortar or online, and show interest in their products. Browse bookstores for your own reading material, but think about your authors’ books as you shop. Ask yourself where certain books fit, and what other titles they would share shelf space with in this store. Check out book pricing as well. Use it to determine what your authors’ books should sell for and how much they’ll need to make before getting a return on investment.
  • Build rapport. Your approach should always be respectful; never demand that a bookseller take your authors’ books, even if you sound friendly and enthusiastic doing it. Ask if you can set up author events like readings or signings. Talk to the bookstore staff about their jobs, what they are reading, and the titles they like most.  
  • Tell booksellers where to find you. If you don’t have business cards or need to refresh your stockpile, get some before approaching booksellers. Hand them out often; they should have your email, website, and other contact information clearly printed on them. 

IngramSpark Staff

Hi there! It's your friendly IngramSpark staff here, happily sharing a wealth of publishing knowledge with people from all walks of the self-publishing biz.