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/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. 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.
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. If you’re local this is easy and you can describe how your book meets that demand.
- Show up at the store with your books and marketing materials
- Email the store with fake information (“I always shop at your store.”). Booksellers are at their stores everyday – they know their customers.
- Ask the store to help you promote your book at their own expense. If you haven’t had a record of sales in that store, it’s strange to ask them to host a book signing. Keep in mind that most of your marketing helps YOU; try to think of ways your book can help the store.
- Include any links to the A-word or any of the companies related to/owned by them
If you’ve published with the A-word, most indie booksellers will not carry your work. PERIOD. Look at it from their point of view, the A-word is working to destroy their businesses. Recently, in my town, GM shuttered their local plant. The people in our county are boycotting GM cars. It’s a similar situation with bookstores and the A-word. From the booksellers point of view, those indie authors have chosen to abandon them.
*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 fill out the attached form and email it to us with a review copy of your work.