In her previous post, Roz Morris described how she got her novels stocked by independent bookstores. Drawing on that experience, she has put together some practical pointers to help you do the same, without sacrificing your profit margin.
For bookstores to be able to order your books, you need to make them available via their distributors. When preparing my print books, I did all I could to get widespread distribution. On Createspace, I ticked all the options. I also registered each book for the Nielsen book database, which hooks up to distributors that CreateSpace doesn’t reach. (Do this by emailing email@example.com and asking for a registration form. They’re very helpful.)
The shops I’ve dealt with take my books on sale or return. I supply them personally and give a discount of 40% – which seems to be industry standard – on the list price.
Weight up your delivery costs. If you deliver, consider your costs. Shops usually take only two of each title. If you’ve already paid shipping to have them brought to you, and then you have to travel to a bookshop to deliver or to collect unsold books, that can nix your profits. On the other hand, you might feel the exposure on a store’s shelf is worth it regardless. The shop I spoke to at the pub event was too far away for me to supply directly, although they took my card and might have ordered from the wholesaler.
How long do they keep your books for? Shop 1 in London was happy to keep my books for ever, even though it took six months to sell one copy. (Unfortunately he’s now closing down.) Shop 2 in London didn’t sell any copies after six weeks and by then thought I’d outstayed my welcome (ouch – thank heavens for Barton’s).
What if you get rebuffed?
Indie bookshops are all vastly different. Bookseller 2 in London rejected Nail Your Novel altogether when he saw the copyright notice was 2009. That was just his policy. Basically, there are no rules. I don’t think either of the shops in London even considered reading my books. But it undoubtedly made a big difference that Peter Snell at Barton’s did. Barton’s also has a regular programme of signings and a sense of community, but in the two London shops, events aren’t part of their culture. Indeed, when I offered to run an ‘ask the author’ evening, they were baffled. So if you’re rebuffed, don’t be discouraged. Like querying agents and publishers, the next shop is a blank slate.
If you’d like to add further advice, please feel free to leave a comment!