Have readers ask for your title in a bookstore

Indie authors often face great difficulty getting their titles into brick-and-mortar bookstores. While mom and pop stores almost always are interested in local authors, the large chains often sell their shelf space and only want big selling books pushed by large publishing houses (as those houses offer favorable deals on returns). The solution for the indie author is to do a little grassroots work: Namely, ask readers to ask for one of your titles in bookstores.

One person asking for your book probably won’t net you shelf space, as the bookstore simply will order the title online for the reader. But a lone letter to a congressman probably never will change his vote; a deluge of them are needed. So a couple of days later, have another person ask for your book at the same store. And then a few days later, have a third person. Then a fourth and a fifth. Have them each mention how a friend was reading the book, had recommended it, and said they got it at the bookstore you’re standing in.

Eventually the bookstore, especially if it’s privately owned rather than part of a large corporate chain, will take notice. A couple of copies of your books likely will appear on the shelves, just so that they don’t have to order it and make customers wait.

For bookstores that display ordered books behind their checkout counters, this can be a real bonus for you. Your book will appear in a prominent place where others hopefully will see the cover. If it’s compelling enough, you may just have a new buyer!

To increase the odds of a bookstore actually carrying your work, when uploading your book at CreateSpace, be sure to select “Extended distribution.” This step ensures that Baker & Taylor, whose lists bookstores often search for titles to distribute, carries your titles. Be forewarned that extended distribution can cost $25.

Still, a few factors can undermine this effort to get into bookstores. First, your cover needs to look professional, and the blurbs on the front and back need to be captivating. Bookstores rely on those two elements to attract readers to the book and make a sale. Secondly, your price needs to be similar to other books in the genre. If you charge $20 for a book length that routinely sells for $12 in that genre, then stores won’t see the opportunity to make money by carrying your title. Finally, you’ll want to have written several books. This shows you are an established author and gives bookstores the opportunity to carry more of your writing should the lone book sell.