A bookstore, like the library, is every reader’s haven for comfort. Now imagine walking through the isles of your favorite bookstore and seeing copies of your own book upon its shelves? Is there another moment that can even come close to this?
But you might have often heard of how challenging it is to sell self-published books to bookstores. Independent bookstores usually prefer selling books published via renowned publishers, raising concerns over the quality of the work produced by self-published authors.
But that’s not technically true — not anymore. With more and more authors preferring to go into self-publishing instead of traditional publishing because of the creative freedom that comes with it, independent bookstores are more willing to accept self-published books. Here are some ways to get your book sold to bookstores.
1. Learn about the bookstore
You can’t simply walk into any bookstore and expect to sell your book to them. Selling a book is not as spontaneous and impulsive as buying one. Remember to learn about the bookstore you want to sell your book to, and go through their catalogs to find out what kind of books they usually sell. Even if your book is of the best quality, with a unique storyline, with endearing protagonists, bookstores will not purchase it if it doesn’t fit their genre. Go through their social media pages and get an idea of how they manage their bookstore, and the events they host, etc.
Connect with the bookstore by conversing with the manager, buying books from them, directing family and friends to buy books from them, and advertising them on your social media pages.
2. Write a pitch
Traditionally published authors have sales teams for their book, and they take care of all of the technicalities that comes with selling your book. They know how to pitch your book to bookstores, and they know how to direct focus towards the selling aspect of your book rather than the reading aspect — because that’s always the bookstore’s primary concern. They don’t care how good your book is. They only care how well your book will sell.
As a self-published author, you need to take matters into your own hands, and convince the bookstore that your book will sell. You need to craft a pitch highlighting all the reasons you think your book will sell, bestseller lists it has been on, awards it has won, reviews from well-known personalities, etc.
3. Consider different wholesale strategies
A bookstore will buy your book after they agree to the wholesale discount rates you list for your book. A wholesale discount is the amount a wholesaler will actually buy your book for. The trade discount most publishers choose to offer to books is 55%, but for a self-published author, the optimum discount rate would lie within the 30-35% range (minimum).
Another condition bookstores look for is if your book is returnable. When they agree to buy your book, they accept the conditions that are risk free and safe for themselves. So if your book doesn’t sell, they would want to be able to return your book with a credit.
The most important part of your self-publishing journey is your marketing strategy. By implementing a proper strategy ahead of time, and by taking the time to visit bookstores and learn about them, you can compete with even the world’s biggest publishing houses.
Sharika Hafeez is a nerd, and she’s proud of it. Growing up, she fell in love with books and writing, and is currently following her undergraduate degree (for some mysterious reasons) in Physics. She likes procrastinating by watching the stars with a steaming cup of tea, composing poetry in her head.
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