How to Sell Your Book to Bookstores

Thursday, May 26, 2016

by Cynthia Frank, president of Cypress House
Much as writing books is a passion and business for authors, selling books is a passion and the only business for independent booksellers. And while independent bookstores are known for being wonderful community gathering places with staff that genuinely care about the book industry, that doesn’t mean they can do it all for the love. They still need to sell books. Everyone has to make a living in this business, and this is what the independent booksellers need your book to be in order for both you and them to succeed in selling it.

Discounted and Returnable

If you want your book to flow easily into independent bookstores, then consider the 55% discount and full returnability. The book industry is a returnable industry which means the bookstore can return the books if they don’t sell and get a credit on that.

Quality Product

Bookstores want to be about 90% sure that they can sell a book before they buy it from Ingram, so that means that you have to give the bookstore a quality product. Something that stands out qualitatively and fits in beautifully genre-wise.

Easily Shelved

It needs to be easily shelved by the bookstore. Booksellers don’t want something that looks or sounds so unusual that no one knows where to put it. So if you have the idea that your book is completely unique and there is nothing like it out there in the universe, you need to visit a lot of stores and libraries and go online and figure out what people will be looking for when they discover your book.

There were more than 300,000 titles published in the United States alone in 2014, more than 800 books a day, so you have to figure out some way that people are going to actually discover your book, and if your book is labeled or packaged so uniquely that the bookstore doesn’t know where to put it on the shelf, then you’re just creating difficulty for yourself.

Appropriate Retail Price

Make sure your book has an appropriate retail price. There are some books that are more manuals and textbooks where you won’t be printing very many or there is such a specific demand for them they’re what some people call a destination book and you can charge a premium price for them. There are others that might be more mind candy or fluff or impulse buy and those would have a lower price. This is where your market research comes in. You want your book to fit into its category and stand out qualitatively so that the end buyer doesn’t end up with sticker shock. “Oh, all these other textbooks are $48.95 and here’s one that’s $9.95. Huh, it might not be very good.” Make sure you know what all of those other titles next to yours are going to be on the shelf.

Easy Ordering

Having your book available via IngramSpark will be of great comfort to booksellers, especially if you’re the type of author who goes out on the road and you’re not always available to supply them with books.

Publisher/Author Support

What booksellers are looking for is what kind of publisher/author support they’re going to get for the sell through. There are thousands of stores and outlets in this country and what is going to draw an individual to the store to look for that particular book is going to be very important.

You might have more luck locally and regionally. Some local stores will just want to buy from you on a consignment basis because that might be easier for them. Some of them might want to do an event first; they might want to test the waters.

But ultimately booksellers want to know what kind of buzz you’re going to generate to help get sell through. Think of bookstores like restaurants. You know if you have a small restaurant you have to keep turning those tables during your dinner service so that you’re making enough money to keep your doors open. You can’t just park a book in a bookstore. It needs to be sold. It needs to move on into its life.

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Cynthia Frank

Cynthia Frank, president of Cypress House, has more than twenty-five years of experience in writing, publishing, editing, and teaching. Cypress House is a full-service book production and promotion company as well as royalty house which has won national and international awards and grants. Cynthia has presented workshops for authors, editors, and publishers across the country, and served for many years on the PNBA Education Committee. She is the author of In the Company of Booksellers: What Indie Booksellers Wish Authors and Self Publishers Knew (Cypress House/May 2015).