How to Sell Books to Independent Bookstores

a course in miracles in the book publishing business, including John Kremer, Dan Poynter, and countless others, subscribe to the belief that bookstores are the worst place to sell your book. They have some legitimate reasons for making that statement, including:

  • The shelf life of a traditionally published book is about three months in a bookstore.
  • Your audience may not include people who go to bookstores.
  • Your book will not stand out among countless other books on the bookstore shelves.
  • You can make more money selling your book yourself at author events.

These points are all valid. But that doesn’t mean an author shouldn’t devote time to building strong relationships with bookstores regardless, and good relationships, especially with your local and independent bookstores, can result in significant sales and publicity.

Most people who love books and read lots of books still visit bookstores. I’ve seen Jack Canfield state that only one in seven people visit bookstores. But if you do the math, one in seven Americans is a heck of a lot-about 45 million people. That’s one big potential audience. Yes, people might see your book in other places, including gift shops, craft shows, and the Internet, but if 45 million people are visiting bookstores, I think there’s a good chance you’ll sell some books there

Authors should try to work with chain/big box and independent bookstores, but most authors, whether traditionally or independently published, will find independent bookstores more receptive to working with them. Big box stores tend to have a lot of red tape and corporate policies that make them unfriendly to self-published and local authors. Even if the local branch of a big chain store wants to work with an author, it is often helpless to do so because of corporate guidelines that govern return policies or refuse to carry self-published books. In addition, chain stores tend to have larger staff and greater turnover that make it more difficult for authors to build relationships with store employees. And yes, your books stand a good chance of being buried on the shelves in a big box chain store.

Independent bookstores, by comparison, can be a delight to work with. People who work in independent bookstores love books. They are big readers, and if you develop a relationship with those people, they are going to remember you and your book and recommend it to people. If you build a relationship with an independent bookstore’s employees, they will reciprocate by acting as intermediary in building a relationship between you and your reader.

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