How to get your book into a bookshop

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So the exciting news that I have to share with you this week is that Diary of a Penguin-napper is now available in a bookshop!  Yep – you can now buy a signed copy from BookTalk in Richmond, Victoria (Australia, for those of you reading this abroad).

Back in October, 2012, I talked about setting goals for self-publishing and one of the four categories in which I set myself a goal was called “Pinch me! I’m dreaming!”  To have my book available in a local, independent bookshop was my goal in this category and I’m totally over-the-moon delighted to have achieved it.  When I got the phone call from the manager at BookTalk telling me that he’d be interested in stocking my book, I seriously had to pinch myself to ensure that I wasn’t dreaming! (And I didn’t stop smiling for about a week afterwards!)

So, how did I do it? (And more importantly, how can you do it?)

Well, the very first time I tried to get my book into a store, it was a total disaster. I’m not going to lie. It was A-W-F-U-L. Going in and selling myself and my book is something that absolutely doesn’t come naturally to me. Before I visited BookTalk, I tried another bookshop first.  Although I thought I was prepared, I ended up getting absolutely nervous and tongue-tied when I got in there. I essentially flung the book in the direction of the manager and dashed out of there as fast as possible.  No surprises that I have never heard from them again.

You don’t want to do that.  After that experience (and once my hands had stopped shaking and my face had returned to its normal colour) I sat down and thought about what went wrong and what I could do to prevent that happening on my next  attempt. I decided that I needed to take a bit of a boy scout approach and be uber uber prepared.

Step 1. Be prepared to do your homework.

Before you stroll into a bookshop and expect them to take a copy of your book, you really need to do your homework.  Do they sell self-published books?  Do they sell books of your genre?  Who does the stock ordering? Who is the manager? When are they open? Make sure you go to the bookshop of your choice before you decide you’d like to pitch their book to them and have a really good look.  You want to make sure your book would look at home there before you try to get them to stock it.

BookTalk had been my local store for a number of years and I love it!  They sell a lot of secondhand books (and buy back ones that you’ve finished reading). Plus they’d let me sip on a chai latte whilst writing early drafts of Penguin-napper.  It is just fabulous and I made sure that I told them how much I loved the shop when I went in.

Step 2. Be prepared to have to do some explaining.

When I first took my book into the store, I explained a bit about myself as a local writer and my book to the store assistants and asked them who I would need to speak to about my book.  They told me the manager’s name and when he would be available to see me.  I ended up having to come back later that afternoon to speak with him and even then, the store was so busy that he didn’t have a chance to meet with me right then.  Luckily, I had a promotional postcard, a business card and a copy of my book with me to leave for him to take a look at later.

I had to rehearse at home what I wanted to say and I took serious time thinking about the kinds of questions that they might ask me. I wanted to appear confident in all of my answers.  And smiling a lot helped.

Step 3. Be prepared to leave a copy.

Seriously.  It is unlikely that a bookshop will stock your book without being able to take a look at it first, particularly if it is a self-published work.  I know if I owned a bookshop, I’d want to make sure the quality of your book was up to scratch before I agreed to stock it.  When you go in, take a copy of your book (along with something that has your contact details on it) to give to the owner.  It’s the best advertisement for you and your book.  Think of this free copy as an investment.

Step 4. Be prepared to wait for a response.

After leaving my card, postcard and book with the manager, I then had to make myself wait.  Let me tell you, it was really tough!  I totally wanted to call back the next day. I ended up waiting a month before I allowed myself back into the store and left my number with the store assistants, asking the manager to get in touch with me.  He then called the next day, told me that he thought the book was really funny and asked for an order.

If I’d called back the next day, I would have just been annoying staff in a busy store and it is important to allow time for them to look over your book.  That said, don’t leave it too much longer than a month before getting back in touch.

Step 5. Be prepared to leave your books on consignment.

When I took the order of books into the store, I took in an invoice.  If you use a Mac, you can easily make a professional looking invoice using Pages and I’m sure there is a way to do something similar on a PC (Publisher, perhaps?)  The invoice included:

  • My contact details
  • The order details (Number of books x Cost per book = Total)
  • Information about how to pay the invoice and a date by which it needs to be paid.  On that same date, the rest of the consignment will be collected if they don’t sell.  I also give my phone number again in this section, just in case they’d like to order more books.

Keep in mind that  bookshops buy their books at around 45% of the RRP, so you need to price your books accordingly for the bookshop to be interested.  I make a tiny margin on my books sold through the bookshop, but I still make something and that is important too.

Step 6. Be prepared to do a little dance.

Yep!  If you get your book into a shop, it is a fantastic achievement and you should definitely celebrate. Get your groove on right now please.

The day after I delivered the books, I was going out for dinner on the same street as the bookshop.  I couldn’t help but look in the window and I could actually see it on the shelf!  If you look carefully, you’ll be able to see it in the slightly blurry picture above (taken through the shop window at night). Looking at this picture, as poor quality as it is, makes me go “Whoopwhoopwhoopwhoop!” inside.

So, is your book in a physical store?  Would you want it to be? How did you get it there? And did you do a little dance about it?

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One thought on “How to get your book into a bookshop

  1. Well done Sally.
    A great result… I hope that your books sell like hot cakes. Your cover is one of my favorites and I’m sure it will grab the attention of shoppers.
    Fingers crossed for you.

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