There is something magical about holding a physical copy of your own book. Being able to flip through the pages and see all your hard work flash in front of your eyes makes the whole process finally feel real. A lot of people will want to purchase your book via Amazon so their paperback and eBooks will come directly to their front porch or kindle. But what about people who go to bookstores to browse and see what captures their attention? What about teenagers at the library without much spending cash? How do we get our books into physical locations so they're accessible to everyone?
Barnes and Noble:
One of my mentors and friends who got me through the publishing journey is Dacia M. Arnold. She wrote an amazing, step by step article on how to query Barnes and Noble Bookstores. So, rather than re-vamp everything she said, I am only going to add a few thoughts to it.
Unless you're with a big 5 publisher, the only way to get your book into Barnes and Noble is to do a book signing there. They'll give you a cute table in a high traffic area where you can talk to patrons and sign your books. You can request a specific time to fit your own schedule, but it's much better to ask what they suggest. They know when their highest traffic/sales times are and will try to fit you in one of those slots. Any leftover copies after the signing will go on the shelves with a "Signed by the Author" sticker on front, and given a front facing spot on a shelf.
Having your books in Barnes and Noble can be exciting, but you will want to monitor the success of your sales after you leave. If Barnes and Noble doesn't sell your book within a set time period, they will ship it back to the distributor at the cost of your publisher or you (if you're self published). So, keep track, have fun and try to get there at the highest traffic hours to make your signing a success.
I believe in buying local. Indie bookstores often have a trusted client base who knows the owner and frequently stops by for recommendations. The best way to advertise your product in a small bookstore is to get to know the owner by... drum roll... having a book signing. Small bookstore owners are often very personable, so if you can't find scheduling information on their website, call them personally to see how to set up an event.
Have all of your information handy so they can look it up (See Dacia's article for a thorough example of the information they'll need). Ask if the bookstore sells on commission or not. If they do, you will be responsible for supplying the books during the event and they will cut you a check at the end of the night. An indie signing event will often be much more personal with opportunities for readings, Q. & A. sessions, and anything else you think might be entertaining, so have fun with it! Once you have the event scheduled, read this article to know what to do on the day of by Writers Digest.
Small Chain Bookstores:
Most small chain distributors have a "Product Submission" form you can find on their website. Your book will undergo review by their marketing team to see if it's a product they can sell enough of to make it worth their shelf space. These are much harder to get into, so don't be discouraged if you get plenty of rejection letters. (You thought the querying process was over once you got your publishing contract, right? Ha!) If you have a solid sales rate in other stores or on amazon, it will really help the potential of reaching these smaller local markets.
Often times, large events near you will have temporary bookseller booths. Look in your area for conferences, conventions, and community arts events. Sometimes you will need to purchase your own booth to sell your books (becoming your own, mini bookstore) and other times you will be able to join a larger group who already has a booth. There are pros and cons to each, but try a few events out and see which ones work for you.
There are three ways to present your book for consideration at a library: personally, through a submission form, or a friend's request. Pitching a self published book to a library is often a much harder sell than if you were traditionally published (even by a small press), but it is possible. The Writing Cooperative offers some helpful tips for how to make this process easier.
If at all possible, I like to go in to the library to introduce myself and my book. Speaking with librarians face to face starts a relationship. Knowing that you're local and that you present yourself well, they may be more willing to involve you in their library programs: hosting an author night, teen program, or other event where you will be able to sell your books to patrons and not just for the library shelves.
When I go in, I approach the information desk and ask who the acquiring librarian is. I make sure to bring a copy of my book, my business card, and a library fact sheet (see example below). This sheet looks professional and makes it much easier for librarians. Remember that this is a business meeting, so being professional makes all the difference in the world.
If you live too far away from a library, but know that you have a client base in that area, visit the libraries website and browse for submission guidelines. This is where your querying skills come in. Each library, store, or event will have different guidelines. So do your research. But don't worry. You've got this.
Every library has a form for patrons to request books they'd like to see on the shelves. Librarians take these requests seriously. And if they get more than one request, they are even more likely to purchase the title. Don't get pushy with your friends, but if they ever ask if there's a way they can help you, say "Leaving a review online and requesting the book at your library make a huge difference!". I have had some wonderful support that got Shattered Snow into libraries in California, Utah, Oregon, and Idaho without me making any personal requests at all.
I hope this has been helpful, and that you have some new ideas for where your book can go. I love seeing where my book pops up, it feels a bit like traveling when someone posts a selfie with my book in a new location.
Written by Rachel Huffmire
Rachel works as a novelist and acquisitions editor for Immortal Works Press. You can find her in southern California where she enjoys sand at its finest: the beach and the desert. She writes science fiction, fantasy, and historical novels and reads bedtime stories to her husband every night. Her first novel, Shattered Snow, is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.