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Waterstones Success For Self-published Author

Waterstones Success for Self-published Author

Wendy Jones signing books

Scottish self-published thriller writer Wendy Jones signing books the Waterstones launch of her debut novel

As illustrated in Darcy Conroy's post yesterday about her success in Australia, big bookshop chains can be persuaded to stock self-published books, if you approach them in a professional way and convince them that your book is commercially viable. In today's post, Scottish novelist Wendy Jones explains how she has built a great relationship with Waterstones, a British chain that many writers wrongly believe won't even consider an indie book.

As a voracious reader I was used to going through the doors of Waterstones bookshops, the main high street seller of books in the UK. I would enter the Dundee shop with a feeling of excitement, knowing I was on the hunt for that perfect book.

However, that late afternoon in September 2014 was different. In November I would be releasing my debut novel, Killer’s Countdown. This was the first book in my DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, and I was keen to get it into physical, as well as virtual, bookshops. I was visiting to ask the manager if he would not only stock my book, but also allow me to launch it in the store. What made this even more difficult was, at that point, I did not even have a copy of the book in my hands.

My Approach to Waterstones' Dundee Branch

cover of Killer's Countdown

The first book in Wendy Jones' DI Shona McKenzie series

Mustering up all my courage, I approached the manager, who was initially a little reticent. I was able to assure him that everything about the book had been done professionally, including editing and cover design. I showed him the blurb, and a digital image of the cover. The way I put this over impressed him sufficiently that he agreed to hold a launch and to stock the book.

As the launch date grew closer, I kept in close contact with Waterstones. Initially they were concerned there would be insufficient numbers at the launch to justify opening the store in the evening. Then they were concerned that there would be too many people!

I reassured them at every level. I wanted the event to go with a bang so made sure that everything was planned with military timing. I knew my background in the military would come in useful at some point!

My In-store Launch Event

On launch day, Waterstones had 100 copies of my book, on the shelves and ready to be signed that evening. When I arrived an hour before the launch, they told me people had already been buying it. As a first-time author, I cannot begin to describe how I felt at hearing this.

As it was November, the supermarkets were packed with party food, and taking advantage of this, I laid on a buffet. Waterstones provided the wine and the glasses. We were ready to party, and party we did. Over 100 people came. There was a real buzz about the place, and everyone was open and receptive and had fun. I read from the book and then was bombarded with questions. The book signing afterwards was phenomenal.

After the Launch

cover ot Killer's Craft by Wendy Jones

The sequel, launching soon in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore

Since the launch, Killer’s Countdown has continued to sell well. It has good product placement and has been displayed in the store window. It is always displayed cover out, rather than spine out, and it is on several tables throughout the store. I cannot thank Waterstones' Dundee branch enough for the way in which they have promoted it.

However, the story does not stop there. The book is also stocked in several other Waterstones stores in Scotland. Following the success of my partnership with Waterstones, I approached other bookshops. CLC Bookshop in Dundee is also stocking my book. In partnership with them, we put on a Focus on Fiction week with my book as the main focus. Several weeks later, it is still in the window of the store. The Emporium, an independent bookshop in Cromarty is also stocking it.

The second book in the series, Killer’s Craft, will be launched at Waterstones, Dundee, on the 20th July 2015. I am looking forward to it already. If you're nearby, do come along!


If you've had a success story like this for a self-published book in a major bookstore , we'd love to hear about it! Please feel free to share it via the comments box, or message Debbie Young if you would like to write a guest blog post about your experience. (NB ALLi members only may write guest posts, but anyone is welcome to comment.)

Yes, #Waterstones will stock indie books - case study by Wendy H Jones http://wendyhjones-bookaholic.blogspot.co.uk/ #Authors4Bookstores Click To Tweet

Author: Wendy Jones

Wendy H. Jones is an award-winning Scottish Crime Writer who lives and sets her books in Dundee, Scotland. She is also an International Public Speaker talking about writing and marketing. Killer’s Crew, the first book in her DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries was the Winner of the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. The Dagger’s Curse, the first book in her Young Adult mystery series, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award 2017. She has signed a publishing contract with Malcolm Down and Sarah Grace Publishing for the first book in a children’s picture book series, based on a true story about a little Buffalo in Scotland. The first, Bertie’s Great Escape will be released late October 2018. When she’s not writing, Wendy spends her time travelling the world. She is also President of the Scottish Association of Writers and co-founder of Crime at the Castle, a Scottish literary festival held at Glamis Castle Scotland. For more about her work, visit her author website: www.wendyhjones.com.


This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. When my first book was published ten years ago, the technology to do that didn’t exist. The ability to sell e-books, paperbacks, and audio editions globally without the need for a middleman is something that’s only recently become a realistic alternative. If you’re a musician, an artist, or you work in comics, independent production’s been part of your professional landscape for much longer. Nobody thinks third-party validation is necessary; everybody knows it’s about creator control.

  2. Hi Wendy,
    Thanks for the post – very encouraging!
    I am about to publish my book about walking around Wales with a donkey (www.seasidedonkey.co.uk!), and my local branch of Waterstones in Aberystwyth thought that they might be interested in something with local interest, so I’m intending to try to charm them when the time comes.
    My question is brief – how did you and Waterstones settle on and then administrate their cut of your books? Has it all been smooth?
    Cheers, Hannah

    1. Hannah. Sorry I have just seen your question. They offered me a deal and I agreed on it. There isn’t much room for negotiation. I am happy with the deal and Waterstones deserve every penny they get. Their support has been phenomenal

  3. Way to go, Wendy! Your launch sounds like a huge success! The year of publishing women is a lovely idea but we don’t have to wait until 2018 – we can just do it now! 🙂

  4. I’m so excited for you. I’ve been doing author events for the last 2 years or so and it’s a bit like being 5 years old again, peering at the window before your birthday party. 30 is a good turnout for me but I’ll cross my fingers that this summer’s tour of 5 locations goes half as well as yours!

  5. When I wrote my first book, I approached several branches of Waterstones. I received possitive feedback from Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. However, the manager of Dundee (he might not be the same now) wrote me a very long email telling me that they did not stock Indie books, and it would not be likely that I could supply them with enough books at a good enough discount anyway.
    Both Inverness and Aberdeen sold out fairly quickly.
    Congratulations for your success. Perhaps thinking is changing – I hope so.

  6. Thank you Lorna. Well done for getting your books into bookshop sand well done with the launch. My launch was on a Monday. Like you this was advised by the bookshop. Before the book was due to launch I had created a real buzz about the book and the event. People were excited about the book coming out and getting a copy. There were people who couldn’t come on the night for various reasons such as illness otherwise it would have been even more packed. Good luck with the launch.

  7. Well done Wendy, great to hear. I’ve got my book into bookshops in Ireland but haven’t tried the UK yet.
    I’m having the launch of my second book in an independent bookshop in September but it’s my first launch and am a bit anxious in case no one turns up! I’ll be inviting friends, colleagues, readers of previous book etc but how were you so confident that you’d have a hundred people attending? Would love to hear.
    What night in the week did you have it? I’m going for a Friday evening (as advised by bookshop owner).

  8. Well done Wendy! Both for getting Waterstones to stock your book and for the first class launch you organised.

    It’s encouraging to hear that Wendy is being stocked by a chain like Waterstones.

    Five years ago I was delighted when Waterstones in Edinburgh stocked my first book. This was after I just wandered in and asked for the book buyer who instantly appeared. I showed her the book, she liked it, looked it up on the system and ordered it there and then. She liked that it had local references and it was put near the front of the store with other Scottish authors’ books as she said tourists often asked for books by Scottish writers.

    I got such a kick from seeing my book on the shelves.

    I also approached (and only by email) the St Andrews branch of WH Smith – some of the book’s action took place there and the manager ordered a copy, read it, liked it and not only stocked it but put on the recommended holiday reads table at the front of the shop.

    And then last month I went into the same Waterstones branch in Edinburgh to ask about them stocking my new novel. I was much more prepared this time – flier, bookmark, business card and copy of the book all to hand. But I was told that there was no-one with authority to order books at shop level. I asked if it was possible to get contact details for whoever was responsible for ordering and was told no. it wasn’t possible. The assistant I spoke to was very nice and he offered to take my flier etc and to pass these on to the appropriate person. I’m assuming that as I’ve heard nothing back that it’s a no.

    However, my two local independent bookshops have been really supportive and are stocking my books. And for that I’m very grateful.

    All the best to Wendy for book sales and for her continuing success.

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