Every author's dream is to see their books displayed on bookstore shelves. And if that's your dream, here are some things you need to know before you go in and pitch your book to bookstores.
#1 Knowing the Bookstore is Essential.
Make sure you know the bookstore well enough to know how they buy their books. Bookstores have different sources. Whether it's a chain bookstore or local bookstore, they might buy from wholesalers, publishers, distributors, or be on a consignment with the author. Knowing this will save you time and help you plan your next move – if you should get on a wholesaler's list or approach the bookstore directly.
Some bookstores might also be genre-specific. You don't want to make the mistake of pitching your sci-fi book to a Christian bookstore. Aside from knowing the bookstore, you also need to understand WHO their customers are. You won't find a new set of readers if your target audience does not buy from that bookstore.
You can check this website and contact local bookstores near you: https://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder
#2 Your track record plays a major role, so make sure it's superb.
So you decide to approach both chain and local bookstores. Great! But keep in mind that bookstores receive lots of requests daily. Though many factors are involved when selecting a title, one thing bookstores will be looking into is your proven track record.
Presenting your book to bookstores is like applying for a job – you must put your best foot forward and show all the good things about your book. So best prepare your sell sheet, marketing plan, book reviews, awards, videos, promotional materials, and most importantly – a record of your sales.
#3 Setting Bookstore-friendly Terms is key
If you haven't made a name for yourself in the industry yet, then chances are, bookstores will be less likely to buy copies from you right away. One way they'll take on your book is for you to make your book returnable. This is a common practice in the publishing industry. Bookstores are even hesitant to accept books that are not returnable. Bookstores want assurance that the book will sell so to lessen the risk, they prefer having the ability to return the books that are not sold and get credit for their return.
You can also sell your book on consignment. What happens here is that you buy copies of the book, give them to the bookstore, and get paid as the books sell. Selling your book on consignment is less risky for bookstores, increasing the chances of them getting your book.
Both are win-win situations for the author and the bookstore. In addition, you can also offer wholesale discounts!
#4 What's in it for the Bookstore?
When you ask bookstores to display your book on their shelves, you are asking them to do something that benefits YOU. But what about them?
Bookstores want what's best for their business, so it's only natural for them to ask, "What's in it for me?” Well, this is where your inner salesman comes in. You see, bookstores are more likely to accept your offer IF it also benefits them. As part of your marketing plan, state how you can help the bookstore. Whether organizing book events to increase traffic or inviting family and friends and their sphere of influence to buy books from the bookstore to increase sales, you should have a concrete plan that will benefit you and the bookstore.
#5 Expose Your Book Some More!
Some bookstores might still be on the fence about buying copies of your book, and that's okay. This doesn't mean your book is terrible. This just means they need a little bit more convincing. So continue to market your book. Establish your brand and continue to reach out and attract more readers by getting more reviews, awards, and recommendations. You can also try other marketing strategies or invest in marketing materials you have never tried before. Bottom line is that you need get your name out there and establish credibility.
Getting your book into bookstores will take tremendous time and effort (not to mention the financial risk involved!) But with persistence and the proper guidance from an experienced professional, you will eventually see your masterpiece being displayed in bookstores around the country.