How to Get Self-Published Books into Bookstores

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For most authors, it's a goal to see their book on the shelves of prominent book retailers. It's part of plans and represents acceptance and affirmation of their work. But sometimes, the route to coveted space on a store shelf can be multi-step. The first step is selling the store owner or buyer your book, and it may be either a straightforward process or one requiring creativity. Either way, sparking their interest is the first step, no matter how you get your work in front of them. As you go through the process, remember that others are competing for the same time and attention.

The first step is to write an outstanding book. Stores need to stock their shelves with excellent products, and your book needs to earn its place. Make sure to work with a professional editor, have a well-designed cover, write compelling subtitles, and have the inside pages well formatted. If you are self-publishing, your work will sit alongside books from traditional publishing houses. Bookstores expect you to match their quality level and help attract readers. Make sure to price your book in line with its competitors. Too high and you will lose sales, and too low may make people quality its quality.

You'll want to make it quick and convenient for stores to order copies of your book, and many will appreciate an open return policy – they may wish to return unsold copies if sales don't materialize. You can cover yourself with book return insurance. You may want to consider advancing some copies on a consignment basis and offering promotional discounts to stores with a strong likelihood of being successful sellers. Understanding (and respecting) a store's customer base will go a long way. Not every store is suitable for your book. Determining which ones have the best prospects will help in the long run.

When it comes time to make your pitch to the store, do your homework in advance. Besides making an advance in-person visit to the store, check for a website with submission guidelines. Many may provide the information, and having it helps you strategize in advance. Ultimately, you'll want an in-person meeting with the store manager or buyer, and arriving prepared is wise. Write a one or two-sentence pitch about your book that will draw people in. You want it to be relatable, engaging, and saleable. The store needs to understand why your book is different and why it will sell well.


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