It’s the dream of many authors to be able to walk into a bookshop and see their work for sale on a shelf there, I completely get it! But there is a lot to think about before you get to this stage and thinking about it might change your goals as well.
To start with, what sort of shops are you even wanting to get your books into? Is it independent bookshops, gift shops, retail chains or other large retailers like supermarkets or garden centres? You’ll need different setups for each, and I’ll take you through this but first let’s think about you as an author, after all, it’s all about YOUR books!
Start by reflecting on your goals as an indie author. What are they? Will selling in a brick and mortar store help you to achieve these goals? Getting your books into a brick and mortar store can be incredibly labour intensive, especially when dealing with bigger retailers, and the financial burden will most likely be on you. More on that later. If you truly think that selling in a shop will help you achieve your indie-author goals, the next thing to do is plan where you’ll be aiming at. As an indie author you probably have limited resources (be that time, money, space, or mental energy!) So be strategic and make sure your choice aligns with your goals.
Let’s start by taking a look at independent gift shops and bookshops…
Independent gift shops can be a labour-intensive way of getting your book into a bricks-and-mortar shop. It is more than likely that these shops won’t be ordering through a book wholesaler (such as IngramSpark or Gardners) so this will be your first hurdle – getting the books to the shop in the first place. It is likely that you’ll be the person they’re coming to for stock, so you’ll need to be able to deliver or ship the books yourself… which may mean you’ll need space to store the stock as well.
A direct approach to the store will be your best angle for getting your books in. Email, phone, post a copy of your book with a covering letter or even go in yourself if you live nearby, with your book and start a dialogue with them. If you do choose to go in person, phoning ahead and checking the manager or owner will be in is advisable – it wouldn’t do to go all that way only to be asked to come back! Don’t forget to follow up as well, in a non-pushy way of course! Be aware that if they do choose to stock your books, they may not want to do it all the time, smaller shops with limited space especially, may operate a rolling stock so they can keep their shelves looking exciting and fresh.
You might also find the shop will allow you to hire a shelf, rather than buying in stock, which can be a great way for you to get your work out there while still having control over the stocking volume needed.
Don’t forget, if you do go for an independent gift shop, you’ll still need to market your books to keep that demand up!
You’ll probably find it best to approach an independent bookshop in the same way. Call, email, write or go in person to meet the owner and talk about the possibility of stocking your book. Likewise, keeping up the marketing and the demand will be an absolute must to keep the orders coming in! Bookshops may return stock if they find it isn’t selling quickly enough, so be prepared for that.
In terms of stocking…
If you are going to be stocking the shop yourself, you’ll need to make sure you have enough books ready for them, and space to store more if they need to restock. However, most bookshops order from a book wholesaler.
To make sure they can do this you’ll want to…
Firstly, make sure your books are available for bookstores to order.
Next, sign up with a book distributor – e.g. Gardner’s (even if the bookshop buys them directly from you, they are likely to check if they can order them through their system first).
If you are using IngramSpark’s Print On Demand, your book will already be available to order via their wholesale system. Otherwise, you’ll need to sign up with a wholesale distributor like Gardners.
Some things to consider:
Most bookshops will want spine text on the book – Ingram Spark doesn’t allow spine text on books with less than 48 pages.
Bookshops will generally expect a minimum of 50% discount on the recommended retail price which will affect your profit. This allows them to offer discounts on your books.
If you’re using Amazon’s KDP print on demand expanded distribution (i.e. you are using their wholesale function) – many independent bookshops will be unwilling to order them from there.
Like with anything there are pros and cons to using independent bookstores to sell your books. They may be labour intensive, especially if you’re self-managing lots of independent stores - just imagine all the paperwork!
But, it can be great to build relationships with independent bookstores – and they can be wonderful places to run storytelling sessions!
Keep an eye out for the next blog and I’ll talk a look at what it takes to get into the big stores and retail chains!
Have you stocked your books in an independent gift or book shop? Or are you planning to? I’d love to hear about your experiences.