Book distribution, how get bookstores to sell your book.
More and more bricks and mortar bookstores are getting behind self-published authors every year. If you are really set on having your book available in bookstores, it would help you greatly if you played in their sandpit, rather than asked them to bring their bucket and spade into yours.
Confused? Then let’s get out of the sandpit, it’s time for a story.
Imagine you are a major bookworm of epic proportions. One day, disaster strikes and your step-cousin’s great aunt Milly’s brother-in-law has a fatal accident. Sad.
You learn of this tragedy because this nasty piece of work had denounced all family and the next in line for the dosh falls to you. Nice.
With the windfall you decide to open a bookstore, something you’ve always wanted to do. But what books to order? There are hundreds of millions of books available globally, what do you sell? If you order a book here, a book there, how much time, effort and admin is that going to take? Take delivery of the books, enter the book into your inventory, process the invoices for each book… Books are, at most, $30, how much is going to be left for me to keep running this place?
A major pain point for bookstores is the linear distribution methods they must rely on in order to make a return on the sale of each book.
Rationalisation of their suppliers is a smart choice for them to make.
They can do this through book distributors.
A book distributor sells books to retailers at a reasonable margin, and will ship those books to them for free if they reach a certain dollar threshold on each order, or if they maintain a certain annual spend with them. So book retailers need to ensure they order as many books as they think they can sell and keep their suppliers to a minimum, in order to maintain good terms with distributors. If they have too many suppliers, this will dilute their spend and this will cost them by either having to pay for the shipping of the books to them, or not receive as high a discount on the books they are buying. Both of these scenarios will result in lower margins with every sale of the book.
There is limited opportunity to recover increasing costs in the bookselling market. If bookstores were to mark up the individual books to cover extra costs they may have incurred, what buyer is going to buy a book for an extra few dollars when they can buy the same one down the road for less?
So, bookstores have a handful (if that) of preferred book distributors they consistently use to maintain their supply, and it is simply not worth their while to purchase individual books sold direct through an author, unless the author can adequately demonstrate they will have a lot of sales of the title to justify the extra administrative burden associated with that title.
So to sell your books to bookstores is going to be a hard slog unless you get a distribution partner on board.
That is the retailers perspective. Let’s consider your perspective.
Getting your title into a distributors catalogue is far more scalable solution for you too.
If your dream is to walk into bookstores and see your bounded beloved on a shelf, it pays to set yourself up for scale, right from the outset.
Schlepping yourself around to individual bookstores with a pile of books under your arm, trying to convince them your book will be a bestseller, if only they would shelve it in their store, is not a good use of your time or profitability (unless you are staging a strategic local campaign). It’s exhausting, and probably taking you away from more leveraged activities.
There is no getting away from the fact that you will have to do some selling, somewhere along the way. Your book is not going to sell itself. So better to concentrate your efforts on selling your book to one distributor who has access to many bookstores.
It is a much easier sell as you are only liaising with one person to get your title listed, which then frees up your time to market your book in order to leverage that relationship through increased sales volume.
The first step in finding a distributor is to find the RIGHT distributor for your title. Here is a 5 step checklist to get you on the way:
- Make a shortlist of the bookstores you would like to have stock your book.
- Call or email them and ask them which distributors do they order their books from.
- As you work through the bookstores, 2-3 distributors will keep coming up on the list.
- Research the listing requirements for those 2-3 distributors and take action to ensure you meet their eligibility requirements.
- Contact them with your title information and start the conversation.
And most importantly, once you successfully have your title listed with a distributor, go back to the bookstore and let them know where they can get your book.