While retail bookstore sales have a lower profit margin than most other sales channels, many authors dream of having their books available in bookstores. And even at a low profit per book you can make good money if you sell a lot of books through bookstores.
Although your local bookstore may be willing to buy directly from you, most stores prefer to buy through one of the two major book wholesalers, Ingram and Baker & Taylor. So the first step is to make sure your books are in the Ingram and/or Baker & Taylor systems on a “returnable” basis at standard discounts. See this article to learn more about working with book distributors and wholesalers, and remember that bookstores usually return books that don't sell within a certain timeframe.
In today’s guest post, award-winning children’s book author Jo Ann Kairys shares her own experience in getting her books placed in retail bookstores.
As a newly published independent author, I certainly had a lot to learn about marketing my book. Getting into bookstores takes time and strategy, but with a well-prepared approach, it’s certainly achievable. Here are some tips that worked for me in getting my books into bookstores:
1. Getting Your Book into Barnes & Noble
I 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 an excerpt of what I learned from the small press page at the Barnes & Noble website.
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 Bookstores
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/or Baker and Taylor system, 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 two-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 ensure ample time for further discussion.
About the Author
Jo Ann Kairys is the co-author and co-illustrator of the children’s picture book, Sunbelievable, winner of 7 national book awards, including 2012 Mom's Choice Gold. San Francisco and Sacramento Book Review says “You can’t take your eyes off of the illustrations!” Sunbelievable is also a fully customizable book app for mobile devices. Her second book, I Want Cake!, will be released in print and app versions in 2013. Information about her books is available at www.storyquestbooks.com.
Jo Ann also teaches Photoshop illustration classes for authors online and she’s the founder of Bloggers Read Across the Globe (BRAG)—Promoting Children’s Reading and Literacy—One Enthusiastic Blogger at a Time.
Learn more about selling to bookstores:
8 Secrets for Getting into Bookstores by Penny Sansevieri
How Do Books Get Stocked in Bookstores? by Terry Cordingley