Along with libraries and coffee shops, bookstores are a haven for authors. It’s part of an author’s dream to see their book on the shelf of their local bookstore, but it’s getting harder and harder to get into bookstores. Of course, authors can work with bookstores and see their books on brick-and-mortar shelves.
If independent bookstores are part of your sales strategy, it’s important to know what booksellers are looking for in the books they carry. The following points should be considered before submitting your book to a bookstore.
Discounted and Returnable
If you want your book to be eligible for independent bookstores, then consider the 55% discount and full returnability typically required. The book industry is a returnable industry, which means the bookstore can return books and get a credit for them if they don't sell (and you’ll need to front the costs). If you sell your book on Amazon, however, you will need to accept only a 20% discount.
Bookstores want to be about 90% sure they can sell a book before they buy it, so that means you have to give the bookstore a quality product—something that stands out qualitatively and fits in beautifully in its genre.
Bookstores need to easily shelve their books. They don't want something that looks or sounds so unusual that no one knows where to put it. 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 resemble manuals or textbooks and books that won't need very many in print. Or there may be a specific demand for them, 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,” fluff, or an impulse buy, which would carry a lower price. That’s where your market research comes in. You want your book to fit into its category and stand out qualitatively so the end buyer doesn't end up with sticker shock.
Having your book available through IngramSpark will be very beneficial for booksellers, especially if you’re the type of author who goes on the road and is not always available to supply them with books.
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 draws an individual to the store to look for that particular book is very important.
You might have more luck locally and regionally. Some local stores will want to buy from you on a consignment basis because that might be easier for them. Some might want to do an event first 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. If you have a restaurant, you have to keep turning those tables during dinner so you’re making enough money to keep your doors open. It’s the same with a bookstore. You can't just park a book on the shelf. It needs to be sold.
No matter how much technology advances, bookstores will continue to be important. Getting your book into bookstores takes time and strategy, but with a well-prepared approach, it’s certainly achievable. If you know what booksellers are looking for in the books they carry and if you’re willing to work hard, you could walk into a bookstore and see your own work of art on display.
Want to learn additional ways to successfully market your book? Get a copy of our free guide the Book Marketing Checklist. It includes strategies every author needs to consider when getting their book on the market. Contact us for more information on marketing your book.