How to Get a Self-Published Book Into Bookstores (5 Guaranteed Ways)

by | Mar 27, 2012

by Jo Ann Kairys (@jkairys)

Learning how to get a self-published book into bookstores might seem difficult, but it’s achievable with the right approach.

As a newly published independent author, I certainly had a lot to learn about marketing my book. Getting into bookstores takes time and strategy.

A first assumption is that you have a national distributor who enters your book into the Ingram and Baker and Taylor retail distribution systems. Here are some tips that worked for me:

1. Getting Your Book into Barnes & Noble

example book cover showing how to get a self-published book into bookstoresI naively assumed that once my children’s book was published, my distributor would submit it to the Barnes & Noble system. Wrong. I kept checking B&N online. Not finding it listed, I discussed the necessary steps to make it happen. Here’s what I learned and what I want to share from the Barnes and Noble website at BarnesandNoble.com

Each year, the Barnes and Noble Small Press Department reviews more than 100,000 submissions from publishers of every size and background. Buyers review publishers’ catalogues, marketing materials and galleys or sample copies to help them make their decisions. Most of these books are added to our book database and a small order is placed for our warehouse. This makes a title available for sale on the B&N site and for order through stores.

If you would like your title to be considered by B&N buyers, you must submit a finished copy (no manuscripts) of the book along with marketing and promotion plans, trade reviews, and a note describing how the book meets the competition (what makes it unique).

These last points are key. A well thought out marketing plan makes a tremendous difference. Keep in mind that the buying staff/decision makers consists of fewer people now, so add any information that may help your book stand apart!

2. Independent Book Stores

Independent bookstores seem amenable to working with new authors. A great resource is the IndieBound Community, “helping people across the United States share and find independently-owned businesses.” IndieBound offers a comprehensive listing of independently owned bookstores searchable by name, type and/or location at the IndieBound.org website. I’ve used this site to identify many wonderful stores in my own community and beyond.

3. Cold Calls

Once your book is in Ingram and Baker and Taylor distribution, cold calls to bookstores really work. Here’s the way my script goes:

Me: Hi, I’m an author! Could you check my ISBN?

Store: Let me connect you with the right department.

Me: Hi there, I’m an author! Could you check my ISBN?

Store: Sure, What is it? (Checks the computer) Okay, I have it.

Me: Great! Could I ask you to order a few for your store?

Store: Yes, that’s fine.

Me: Thank you so much!

This short conversation has worked for every call I’ve made—literally hundreds!

4. Personal Visits

Once, or even before you’ve contacted a bookstore, it always helps to make a personal visit, especially if you’re a local author. With book and promotional materials in hand (e.g., business cards, flyers, sell sheets) take a casual stroll through the store, look carefully at other merchandise to see if your book might be a good fit, and ask to speak with the store manager. Have your 2 sentence “elevator pitch” ready—“My book is about _____ and it looks like it would fit really well with your store’s other books and products.”

5. Follow up Phone Calls and Visits

If you were unable to speak directly with the manager, or if the manager seemed hesitant, don’t hesitate to visit again. Be sure to point out if the book received new awards, reviews, endorsements and mention where the book is selling in other stores. Call ahead to make an appointment at the manager’s convenience to insure ample time for further discussion.

Jo Ann Kairys is the co-author and co-illustrator of the children’s picture book, Sunbelievable, winner of the Mom’s Choice Gold Medal 2012 Award and 2 First Place 2012 Royal Dragonfly Awards. “You can’t take your eyes off of the illustrations!” (San Francisco and Sacramento Book Review 2012). More information about Sunbelievable can be found at https://www.storyquestbooks.com

blog tourJo Ann is also founder of Bloggers Read Across the Globe (BRAG)—Promoting Children’s Reading and Literacy—One Enthusiastic Blogger at a Time.

Photo by Ian Muttoo

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