Indie author Roz Morris explains how she got her novel stocked by bricks-and-mortar bookstores – and how self-published books meet independent booksellers’ needs.
Like many indie authors, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get my books into shops. I made print editions because it was unthinkable not to, and I did what I could to get widespread distribution. So I was all ready to be stocked… if bookshops knew to look for me. Always the hardest part.
Frankly, I had no idea what I would do about this. Then a friend invited me to read my work at an event in a pub. It went well (thankfully) and I got talking to someone from a bookshop. They said they happily stocked indie authors’ books and offered to stock mine. I had no idea it could be that easy. Emboldened, I decided I’d approach the two independent bookshops in my part of London.
What I said
I didn’t ask ‘do you stock self-published authors’. Although I wanted to be up front, I thought that might come across as defensive. Instead I asked ‘Do you stock local authors?’ In both shops, I showed my books and I was in. I realised that booksellers understand why authors self-publish. We simply have to go and say hello.
But then came… the special shop
As I reported recently on the ALLI Facebook Community page, I’ve just had a dream Amazon review… from an indie bookshop: Barton’s in Leatherhead, Surrey. Barton’s has been more than usually supportive of my work. They invited me for a signing, want me to do another when my next novel is ready, and my titles are displayed in a prominent position by the till.
How did I get in their good books?
The funny thing is, I didn’t set out to sell to them at all. Because of various commitments, Leatherhead is my second neighbourhood and I shop there. I wandered into Barton’s at Christmas, looking for books that friends and family wouldn’t have found from online algorithms (ie what bookshops do best). So I chatted to the owner, Peter Snell, and we scooted around the shelves, hunting for treasure. I noticed he had a lot of books I already owned, so I’d say ‘have you got anything like this’ or ‘what do you think of that’.
Once I’d gathered a stack, I asked if he had any writing books, and then had to explain why I’d read everything he had. That led – without the slightest premeditation – to him looking me up and taking a fancy to my novel. I gave him a copy and the next time I went in, he’d read it not just once but twice – and said he wanted a word about my bizarre imagination.
Now, when I drop in, he finds a way to mention to another customer that I have this rather interesting novel with a snazzy red piano on the cover. The locals are usually impressed that they’ve met a real, live author and there’s another sale!
Independent bookshops want you!
Remember too what independent bookstores want. They want an eclectic stock so that they are a boutique alternative to supermarkets and Waterstones. Booksellers want to know about exciting, convention-bending work. And who’s providing that? Indie authors.
Have you approached local bookshops? If so, how did you do it? Please share your experience and any advice in a comment. (Questions welcome too.)
(Next Saturday Roz will be sharing some practical pointers for getting your books into bookshops, e.g. what discount to offer, what terms to agree.)