Marketing to Indie Bookstores for a Self-Published Author

Anne C. Miles > Marketing > Marketing to Indie Bookstores for a Self-Published Author

This is crazy.

I went to a conference last spring where the trainers basically told me “you’re not getting into bookstores.”

Okay. Challenge accepted.

Last month I called the local bookstores, hoping to set up a signing. They didn’t call back. I got no answer to my emails. Fine. So I did some research.

I’m in Kindle Select, which means that my ebook can’t be distributed anywhere but Amazon. Paperbacks, however, are a different story.

So I bought an ISBN for my book, applied it, and am currently set to release on IngramSpark on December 1. A few things happen when my book releases on IngramSpark. Most notably, libraries and bookstores can order it and I can advertise to them in their catalog. It costs $85.

I quote:

When you set up your title in the IngramSpark platform, you provide the completed digital files (PDF for print and EPUB for eBooks) along with the metadata (book information). In this metadata, you will also include your list price and a discount to offer to retailers and libraries that may want to purchase your book. The discount represents the profit that both the bookseller (retailer) and IngramSpark make transacting the sale. The standard trade discount is 55% of the list price, but you can set a range anywhere from 30-55% with IngramSpark. Applying a discount of less than 55% can possibly limit the sale of your title to booksellers; however, this may be the right choice for some authors/publishers depending on their sales strategies.

The same holds true for choosing to make your book “returnable” or “non-returnable.” Most booksellers, including chains like Barnes and Noble, will not consider stocking your book without the returnable option. Remember, you can always change your price, discount, and returnable options, so do what makes you feel the most comfortable. If your book isn’t selling and you are actively marketing, you might want to try adjusting your pricing, discounts, or returnable option to see if that helps move the needle.

So guess who will be advertising in that catalog? Right. And my book must be discounted 55% and returnable. Done. I’m also going to add a link to to my book web site, and change my “order now” button to make the paperback version point to it.

My book has a Kirkus Review… a good one, it’s very exciting. I’m going to lead with that because libraries love Kirkus. I’m hoping independent bookstores love it too.

Barnes & Noble is the biggest bear. According to this article getting indie books into the store has been done.

Once you’ve ensured that your book meets the required terms above, you should send a sample copy of the book, along with a cover letter that includes your contact information (name, email address, phone number), to the Small Press Department for consideration. In a single Microsoft Word document, you should also include an explanation of why  Barnes & Noble should stock the book in their stores—this includes marketingpublicity, and promotional plans, as well as any reviews or articles that have been written about your book. The Small Press Department will make sure the appropriate buyer considers your book, and they will get back to you in writing to let you know what the buyer decides. 

The sample copy, cover letter, and marketing information can be sent to:  

Barnes & Noble, Inc. 
Attn: Small Press Dept.  
122 Fifth Avenue, 8th Floor 
New York, NY 10011  

But do I honestly believe they will let an author who isn’t on their Nook Book program into the store? Nope. But it won’t hurt to try. And I’ll try. I should be on with my paperback, through IngramSpark. Maybe not? But maybe so. We’ll see.

The other thing I’m going to do is to work on local independent bookstores. I’m working on joining SIBA, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. When I join, I get a list of members and contact info and I’ll do a combo of direct mail and email to reach out to them. They also have a speakers guild called STARS that I can be added to.

 Your STARS profile will be listed on the site and become part of the searchable directory promoted to bookstores, book clubs, libraries, schools and other civic groups.

Isn’t that just the best?

They also have targeted email blasts and other advertising options.

And this is just the South. There are more groups. Rinse. Repeat.

What am I offering to the bookstores? I’m going to make shelf talkers for those that agree to stock my books and then I’m also going to make a book club reading & discussion guide. I’ll use that in lots of ways but I think indie bookstores will appreciate it.

I also have plans to market to libraries, but I’ll save that for another post.

If you enjoyed this post, give it a share and hey, buy my book. You’ll like it!

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