Independent bookstores are passionate about books but also need to make money to stay in business. Remember this first and foremost when approaching bookstore owners and managers. See the Independent Bookstores spreadsheet for a complete listing of stores around the country. Sort and focus on stores in your area.
Build a relationship
Don’t talk about Amazon, or how well your book is doing on Amazon to an independent bookstore. Remember, they are competitors.
Go to the store, buy some books. Get to know the manager. Find out what kind of books they carry and sell most based on what kind of customers come in. Get a feel for them, look at their social media sites. What other authors or events do they feature? The more you know, the better you will be able to communicate with them when the time comes.
Bring in customers
Independent bookstores are more than just a place to buy books, they’re becoming community hubs. When you pitch your book or event, consider ways you can support them and their community. Bookstores are not there to market you or your book. If you want your book to sell at a specific store, start a campaign. Have your friends and family who live near the store, request copies of your book. Have them stagger their requests so your book sees consistent demand. When you approach that store to ask if they’ll stock your book, or hold an event, management will be more agreeable. The more you bring in business, the more the bookstore will support you.
Regarding bookstore events, there are three ways books can get to the store:
- Author consignment: The author purchases the books from Sunbury Press and handles arrangements with the store. This reduces the risk for the store and the publisher. No royalties are paid on these direct-to-author sales, but the author controls their profit by negotiating terms with the store. We recommend this arrangement for non-bookstore venues and for bookstores that do not intend to carry the book on an ongoing basis.
- Publisher: The store can order the books for the event directly from Sunbury Press at a 40% discount with Net 30 payment terms. Direct them to our website for details: http://sunburypress.com/wholesale/
- Distributor: The bookstore can order from Ingram and handle them accordingly, including returns.
We would prefer a direct order — or that you handle the books for your events. This month, we are once again in receipt of a large number of copies returned from book events where the stores over-ordered. These boomerang books are deducted from your royalties and build up in our inventory when you could have just as easily picked them up and used them at your next event. If you are doing a series of author events, please work with the bookstores to prevent returns. They are expensive for all parties involved. Most bookstores will allow you to consign to them or will permit you to buy copies at their cost after the event.
And, for authors ordering books, don’t forget to use the A50 coupon code when checking out on our website. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or a problem with your order. As always, plan ahead. Allow up to three weeks to receive your books.
When it comes to bookstores carrying your book, we would prefer they order from us directly rather than you consigning books or them ordering from the distributor. We both usually make more money when the bookstore buys from us because you will be paid a royalty rather than a slim margin and you do not have to manage the supply chain. When bookstores prefer to use our distributor, we both make the least amount of money, but we also do not have to deal with orders–only returns. Bookstores prefer the distributor because they can process their books through one weekly order. It is just more convenient for them. Keep this in mind if you talk to them.
Be a pro
Just like in the article Turning Pro, you should look and act like a professional. If the bookstore agrees to promotional materials, be ready with them or tell them when you’ll bring them in. Be sure to allow enough time before an event to build interest, include the date and time of the event and your website address. Posters, bookmarks, and postcards are common. If your book is new, Sunbury Press will help with graphics to create promotional materials. Also, always have your professional writer’s business card ready to hand to the owner. If you look like you are a pro, the manager will feel more confident in hosting your book or event.