Why Traditional Bookstores Won’t Carry Your Book on Their Shelves … and Why That’s Okay
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Business & Management
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Many of today’s indie authors are content with self-publishing ebooks alone on Kobo and Amazon’s Kindle. Others who wish to offer a paperback version for your readers may be satisfied with simply converting those ebooks into print-on-demand (POD) paperbacks for sale through Amazon. But many indie authors dream of seeing your books on the shelves of the traditional “bricks and mortar” bookstores, and you may wonder why these bookstores won’t carry your self-published titles. The real reason may surprise you, and it may also make you decide that it’s okay to stick with ebook and POD selling online. Times are changing, after all. But times are changing a little more slowly in the world of traditional bookstores. Many of the long-established players in the book supply chain—trade publishers, distributors, and booksellers in particular—still follow the same archaic European business practices that were implemented in America in the 1930s as a way to stimulate bookstore sales during the great depression. These policies are unique to “bricks and mortar” booksellers; and it is these policies, more than any other factor, that shape which titles they will stock on their shelves. BOOKSTORES ARE FANTASTIC VENUES FOR ONE-DAY CONSIGNMENT AUTHOR SIGNINGS Not only is it possible to move a surprising number of books during a bookstore signing (if planned properly ahead of time); it is also a great way for fledgling indie authors to get used to being “on display” in public. There isn’t the same pressure to perform and entertain as there is at an evening book launch and reading event. Bookstores offer a much more comfortable arena for indie authors to learn how to talk about and sell your books to others. So, please know that I’m a strong advocate of bookstores in general—of celebrating new books in person through bookstore signings. There’s no more special place in the world to launch a new title, in my opinion. And here’s the great news! Most—if not all—traditional bookstores will support indie author signings on a one-day (e.g., three hours in the afternoon) consignment basis even if they won’t carry your self-published books on their shelves for general browsing. For three solid hours you’ll get your own table, and you and your book will get to be front and center in the bookstore. That’s a very good thing, believe me. It’s much better than being tucked away on a shelf somewhere out of sight. A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH BOOKSTORES There is a form of online book sales and marketing that many of today’s most successful indie authors are using to sell literally thousands of books every year—quantities that are unheard-of and unimaginable for most trade-published authors whose books are displayed on “bricks and mortar” bookstore shelves. Authors, can you imagine how much more profit you would earn if you learned these tried and true strategies for success? Publishers, can you imagine how much more profit you would earn if your authors were out there actively selling their own books alongside your in-house publicity, sales, and marketing efforts? Bookstores, can you imagine how much more profit you would earn if you were using your co-op advertising dollars to support in-store book signings and online book launches for the authors who are willing to bring their traffic straight to your physical stores and websites? There is a way for authors, publishers, and booksellers to all work together for our mutual benefit, and I believe it is the wave of the future in this industry.