I’ve spoken to self-publishers who are quick to say that they don’t need brick and mortar bookstores. This is usually expressed after they realize that, even though their books are listed in Books in Print or are in the Ingram catalog, not even one bookstore has ordered a copy.
If you are actively promoting your book off-line as well as on-line, you will find that it is possible to break into bookstores, even if you have to do it one store at a time.
The key is local events. Start in your local community when your book is launched. Send out press releases to local daily and weekly papers. Contact local radio and TV stations. Offer to do readings at local libraries, and then hit the bookstores.
Start with a chain bookstore. I love independent bookstores, but if you want to make a big push to get your books into stores nation-wide, you’re going to have to aim for the chains.
Go to the manager or buyer at your store, and explain that you’re doing a local media push. Let her know what speaking engagements and interviews you’ve already lined up, and the press you’re expecting to receive.
Explain that you want to point all those readers to one particular store to buy the book, and ask if she can help you out by ordering a quantity of books.
If she says no, move on to the next largest chain, or if there’s only one chain in your local area, the largest independent store.
Keep going until a bookstore says yes. Usually your largest independent bookstore will agree to stock the book, and host a reading.
But don’t be discouraged if all of them refuse you. It’s not likely, but it can happen.
In that instance, push the book through your own website. You want to be able to track sales through your promotions, so set up a page where people can enter their Amazon receipt number to get a bonus directly from you.
Do your media blitz in your city, and document the sales it generated.
Now you can begin a blitz in a neighboring city, following the exact same steps, but this time when you approach bookstores, you’ve got documented information about how many books are likely to sell. Use that information to try to get into a chain this time.
Once you do get your book accepted, even if it’s on a limited basis, into a chain. Do a big, big push. Use everyone you know, and every contact you have to sell as many copies of that book as possible.
Once your book has a sales history in a chain, it’s easier to get restocked, and to get your books into other stores in your state.
The more you sell, the more likely it is that someone at head office will see a ‘trend’ and give you a call, as the publisher of record, to find out what the appeal is, and get your books throughout the region, or even the country.
Most importantly, never give up on off-line promotion. Seek out radio interviews, send out press releases, and market your book for all it’s worth.
You’ll sell more books, and realize that dream of seeing your book, face out, at a brick and mortar store.