Getting Books into Stores and Libraries

Local LibraryThe Indie Book can be sold through a large number of web-based sales outlets, while getting it into stores and on to library shelves can be a bit more complex. Indie books are not the taboo product they were even five years ago, thanks to the success of some fine books and enterprising authors. But it still ain’t easy – unless you understand these marketplaces.

Library purchase dollars are scarce. In Florida, books are not funded by the county budgets, they are purchased through donations garnered by the Friend of the Library volunteer organizations. Government budgets pay for a few (very few) Just so you know how valuable those dollars are – and how valuable your support is. And, e-books are now taking a piece of that FOL pie, too.

Stores, including bookstores, are in business to make money. To bring people into the stores so they will smell the paper and ink, browse a while, and eventually make a purchase. That might be a new book, an e-book,a used book or a cool bookmark, but it has to generate income to generate a store owner’s interest!

So, for both of these avenues, the following work: (We’ve been doing more of this locally and it’s been good fun!)

Describe clearly and succinctly, the marketing that you’ll do to make their purchase a success. Be creative! For the library for example, can you read to one of their groups? Spearhead a discussion about your character or plot, perhaps? Dress up day for your theme? That idea would work just as well for a book store.

Recruit your friends and fans to support your book and your marketing! When customers make requests for an author or a title, it makes a difference. Ask your friends and fans to stop into their local library and bookstores and ask for your book, when they are in the area. Especially if  your book gets placed, buy them a nice little thank you – maybe one of those cool bookmarks from an indie book seller?

I have good success in visiting the local independent bookstores. They love to support the local authors with book events, though few are in the position to fund the entire event themselves. So, show up with a plan. Can you bake cookies or brownies? Buy a box of candy canes? Bring some cheese and some of the wine? Share your invitation list? What will make the event fun for the people who attend? Don’t forget those friends and family you asked for support – get some of them to come to the store. If they have your book, maybe they’ll find another while browsing!

Make it worthwhile for the book seller. I have a good profit margin, so I can pay that 15% they like, with a big smile AND a bottle of wine. And, I sign books and leave a few for consignment sales whenever possible. I often give one to the owner/manager with a personal thank you inscribed so they understand I value their support. I can list stores where people can walk in a buy an autographed copy of my book and that results in sales. 

And speaking of investing in “free” books, I love dropping off copies of my books to the local director at the library branches. They value the support and are usually very happy to process them and put them on the shelves. Let your friends and family know the books are available there!

While this face time won’t result in selling hundreds or thousands of copies, the time invested is important, especially if you plan to write more than one book. These relationships are important to your long-term success, and the success of the bookstores and libraries, too. These are symbiotic relationships. We rely on each other for our existence, much as the humans rely on trees for breathable air.

Book by Phil KingOf course, in addition to these outlets, are the gift or novelty shops where your book might be a great fit. Photographer and former-carriage tour business owner, Phil King of St. Augustine, has sold thousands of his books through the gift shops and tourist centers around the area. Published by boutique publisher ClearView Press, Inc. of Palm Coast, Florida, Saint Augustine Carriage Tour is alive with Phil’s terrific photographs, the colorful history of the old city (embellished for the tour business, of course) and his clear and distinct writing voice. I suspect his on-line sales don’t do nearly as well as his local sales. Is your book a great one for the local area?

Last but not least, is that your success as an author, Indie or otherwise, is always contingent on writing a terrific book, making sure it is carefully edited, has a powerful, eye-catching cover, and that your book blurbs and descriptions are awesome and clear.

See you Wednesday – keep reading and writing! Nancy Q.

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About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014.
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