How to Get Your Local Bookseller to Carry Your Book

Selling your self-published book through Lulu and other online outlets feels good. Your book is now available to anyone, anywhere in the world just by downloading or ordering it through the Internet. But there might be something missing. What about being able to eagerly browse the shelf at your local independent bookstore and coming across your book there?

Independent bookstores have considerable trouble stocking self-published titles. First, they’re not often able to sell the book back to the self-publisher if the product doesn’t sell. As such, bookstores need to be pretty sure the book is going to be purchased before they buy it.

But fear not! There are quite a few ways to get your physical book into bookstores, just by starting small. By forming a relationship with your local bookstore, presenting yourself as an author with a stake in the community, independent booksellers are more inclined to take a chance on your title. Even offering to sell a few copies of your book at a steep discount (and at a loss), just to gauge the market, and to prove to the bookseller that your books do indeed sell, is completely worth it.

While the eBook market is growing, the majority of readers still rely on physical books, and many still shop and browse at bookstores.

Another tactic to getting your self-published book into bookstores is by holding a successful reading at your local bookstore. By packing the house and selling more than a few copies of your book to attendees (a percentage of the sales going to the bookstore itself), you can demonstrate the value of your product to the store. While it’s all very personal and grassroots, these kind of gestures are what get booksellers interested in selling self-published books.

Once you’ve established a reputation with one bookseller, its not a given that your book will be in demand at other stores, but it’s possible. Still, for anyone looking for that feeling of genuine satisfaction when you see your book on the shelf, neatly wedged and bounded by its alphabetical peers, a few creative steps are all that’s needed to make it a reality.

But a bookstore doesn’t have to be the be-all end-all for marketing your book in person. Lisa Jennings, author of Seven Splinters, has this advice for a non-traditional marketing campaign,

“Have a long chat with yourself about your goals for your writing career and who you want to read your book, write down a game plan, tell yourself ‘I can do this,’ and then set a date for your first book signing and work towards that goal. Pick a location appropriate for your book’s targeted audience (does not have to be a bookstore), call and negotiate an event. If they turn you down, shake it off, and try another venue. There are options. Be creative and open minded, untraditional.”

Lulu author David Jones made inroads with local media,

“I found if you research your local radio/television stations website, sooner or later you come across a contact that is willing to speak with you. Local interest stories tend to work on slow news days. Afterall, these people have time to fill within their daily programs and local interest peices are easy to fit in.”

Another path to promotion is by printing some posters for your book.

Anyway you spin it, promoting a work takes energy and creativity. But, seeing as how you’re already a writer, you probably have those qualities in abundance.

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12 Comments

  1. Well, it’s not so simple as author to sell own books to the local bookseller. It could be more simple if Lulu.com gets a contact with bookshops directly. An author can organize a reding into that bookshop, but lulu.com has to let them contact Lulu. At least in Italy it’s very very complex act by author/seller. The “simple way” is to buy own books and sell them along the streets… Can, for example, Lulu.com make a deal with LaFeltrinelli.it stores to let readers to order one lulu’s author book and then the reader can go to the bookshop to get the ordered book? Some Italian PoD has done this thing. Why not Lulu that it’s been the first PoD of the Internet story? Or with Mondadori bookshop? :)

  2. I tried my local bookstore and was told ‘come back when you have some reviews’

  3. I tried too. They won’t stock self-published books at all. It’s more complicated than this.

  4. Dessith

    I agree, it is difficult to get a self-published book stocked at bookstores. It might help to seek other opportunities to create an eventual path into the store you’re seeking. Get your name out there, make appearances, build a fan base in your targeted community, the more buzz you can create the more likely the stores with start to notice you. Think about the people you already know that have a business or stores that might be willing to set your book up on display. I found a restaurant in my current targeted area that displays and sells locally geared artists. While I’m not local, my book mentioned their area and they were willing to display it, and it is selling. I also gave four copies of my book to another store as a thank you for something they had helped me with, along with flyers and handouts. They have sold some copies, but having the book up and flyers out for customers to see is the exposure I ultimately was looking for. So as said in the article above, “Be creative and open minded, untraditional.”

  5. I have been writing ebook for a few months and always want to get into publishing my first hardcopy book. I wonder will it be very expensive to do so?

  6. Morgan, Lulu

    @Dr Drum – this is a great question. We definitely encourage you to publish your first hardcopy book. It is free to do this through Lulu. There is no cost to the author to publish ever. Then you can set whatever price you like for people to buy your book (factoring in print cost). Sometimes print copies of hardcover books can seem expensive, but it can’t hurt to publish it. That part’s free :)

  7. My books are on here and I am just getting them turned over into my account. I am starting to call local newspapers to see can I get an interview. I guess you really got to put yourselof out there to sell your book.

  8. My books is Janet’s silent prayers and writing from the heart.

  9. I’ve found social networks are a great way to advertise as well. Tumblr is great because you can post a photo of your book and add links and a brief description. Facebook is good too. Say your book is about politics, horror, gay and lesbian, romance, religion. Search for fb fan clubs that your book applies to. You can post links to your books on their wall. I find that twitter is great too. Don’t be shy about interacting and/or complimenting other people’s posts and work. It will help get you noticed. There are sites that post names of reviewers that you can also send your books to. The downside is that it may take up to a year for them to review, you have to buy and send them a copy of your book and there’s no guarantee that they will say nice things about your book but as they … even bad publicity is good publicity.

  10. Interesting..reading thru the comments and just realize we can publish ebook on lulu for free:) lucy me today..

  11. Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article. I wanted
    to write a little comment to support you.

  12. Jo Ann

    I don’t know what the upper slot labeled Website is?

    I’m self-published and going to try to get the local Barnes & Noble to order & buy my book to stock and display in their book store.

    What steps am I to take in order to get this done?

    Email me the answers to my questions, please.

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