There seems to be a lot of confusion about what indie bookstores need from local authors to stock their books. This page is here to help bridge the knowledge gap between the worlds of indie bookstores and small published and self-published authors. First, let me introduce myself – I’m Lisa. I own Paperback Shack and I am a writer. I see, hear, and live in both of the aforementioned worlds.
Misconception: My book is published, it has an ISBN, all bookstores will see it as an option to buy from their distributors.
Reality: It may be searchable, but if the bookseller isn’t looking for it then they’ll never find it. It may be possible to buy it, but it may be print on demand and/or non-returnable. In which case, many of us will not stock the title.
What local authors need to know about indie bookstores:
- Many of us have limited space
- Many of us specialize in a certain type of story
- Many of us are the sole person running the store
- We get tons of email everyday
What do these things have to do with you? Everything. “Limited space” = we cannot carry all the books we wish we could and the ones we do carry are chosen carefully. “Specialties” = if you send an inquiry to a fiction only bookstore (Like Paperback Shack) for your non-fiction memoir, the bookseller will delete it. You will have wasted your time. “Sole person running the store with tons of email” – our time is very limited.
Try local first. Your neighborhood bookstore is more likely to carry your work than a bookstore several states away.
Do reconnaissance. Go to the local bookstores and shop them. Talk to the people working (NOT ABOUT YOUR WRITING). Your first visit should be about checking them out. Find out what sells best at their store. Buy something (it can be something small, you want to see for yourself how they conduct business). Are they a good fit for your work? They might not be. Much like not all books are right for all bookstores – not all bookstores are right for all books.
Once you decide a store fits your needs, it’s time to ask if your book meets theirs. You should send the bookstore an email inquiry for their book-buyer with the following:
- A review copy of the book you’d like them to stock
- Your marketing plan, target audience, press blurbs, and sales victories
- Show the bookseller you know their store by listing the reasons why you think your book will sell there
- Understand the audience in the area in which you’re pitching
- Show up at the store with your books and marketing materials without an appointment
- Email the store with fake information (“I always shop at your store.”)
- Ask the store to help you promote your book at their own expense. If you don’t already have a relationship with the store, it’s weird (and rude) to ask them to host a book signing. Keep in mind, most of your marketing helps YOU – not them. So trying to trade exposure for their store in exchange for their space and time is not nearly the incentive you think it is (especially at an established location).
- Include any links to Amazon or any of the companies related to or owned by them
If you’ve published with the Amazon or CreateSpace, most indie booksellers will not carry your work. PERIOD. From the booksellers point of view, indie authors who publish with the A-word have chosen to abandon indie bookstores.
*For more information on self-publishing in a way that is not dismissive of indie bookstores – check out our self-publishing class.*
If you’re a local author and would like Paperback Shack to consider stocking your small press title, please email us a review copy and your marketing plan. Your book must be available to purchase from an established national distributor. We recommend familiarizing yourself with our store and selection before inquiring.
Consignment information for self-published or small published authors whose books are not available through national distributors – COMING SOON.