Many new authors are baffled about how in the world to put their books in a bookstore.
While it’s easy enough to list your book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com, getting your book into a physical bookstore is very difficult for a new self-published author.
According to Eric Kampmann, director of MidPoint Trade Books, the big bookstore chains aren’t interested in dealing with self-publishers or even small independent publishers. They are reluctant because they are not sure that the books are of high quality, with a professional cover and excellent editing, and it is too time-consuming for them to handle small orders.
That’s when a book dealer comes in.
A book dealer is the intermediary between the publisher and the store buyers. Distributors place books in catalogs and send sales staff to introduce books to buyers. They are experts in wholesale book marketing and moving books to stores from warehouses. They also negotiate contacts with stores for special sales, store front displays, and any kind of special promotion for books.
There are different types of distributors. If you print your book with Lightning Source, like I do, Ingram Distribution will automatically distribute your book. This is good. However, Ingram has a very large catalog, so his book probably won’t get much attention from the sales staff unless it’s featured on Oprah.
Other dealers are smaller and take a more personal approach. MidPoint Trade Books, for example, only agrees to distribute a book after a very rigorous selection process. If a book passes the test, the sales staff will enthusiastically represent it.
Most distributors start working with a publisher 6-12 months before the book goes to print. However, distributors will also evaluate books that have been released if they have sold 300-400 copies on Amazon in the first three months after release. Those Amazon sales figures show that the book can generate sales, so a distributor would be interested in featuring it in bookstores.
If you want to sell your books in bookstores, follow these steps:
- Make sure you invest in a very professional cover, excellent editing, and professional design. Your book has to look first class and be first class.
- Start looking for distributors before you publish your book. Publication dates are very important for bookstore sales and you will need a distributor to help you time your book release in the most advantageous way.
- Be willing to pay. Book dealers do a lot of work on your behalf, and they deserve good compensation. Expect to pay a distribution fee of at least 30% and maybe more.
- Listen and learn. You hire a book dealer for their experience selling books. They are your partners in the success of your book, so if your distributor suggests a revised cover, additional edition, or other changes, you’d be wise to accept those suggestions.
If this whole idea scares you, give up the idea of having your book in bookstores and focus your efforts on selling it on your own website and on Amazon/Barnes and Nobles.com.
Putting books in bookstores is not for everyone.
However, if it is your dream, now you have some additional knowledge that will help you make it come true.