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How to get your book into your local bookstore

by Kit Little, New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association staffer and Marketing Director Towne Book Center & Café in Collegeville, PA

Congratulations on your book! Now, how do you get it into your local bookstore…

One of the wonderful things about our current literary atmosphere is that independent publishers and authors have opportunities they have never had before. One of the greatest challenges is that these opportunities have created such a flood of publishing that the market and competition for shelf space in our brick and mortar stores has become remarkably competitive. How do you make your book one of those championed by the independent bookstores in your community and beyond?

Find and approach your local bookstores.

Research stores before you approach them. If you can, visit a store and note where your book might be shelved and if it's a strong section in the store. Contact the correct person in each store. Visits to independent bookstores are as unique as the stores themselves, and all are rewarding.

Determine the correct contact person at the bookstore.

Every bookstore has at least one book buyer, and your first step is to identify this person. A phone call is usually all it takes. Ask for the book buyer and be prepared to briefly describe your book and the section(s) where it might fit. Please note that most stores require that you make an appointment. When you meet with booksellers, they'll want to know if you're doing any promotion and how the book is being distributed. Is the book stocked at a national wholesaler such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor or a regional wholesaler, such as Bookazine? This information can be printed on a sell sheet, which can be mailed or faxed to the buyer.

Propose an event.

To request an event, first call the store to find out how its event manager prefers to receive proposals for events. You might be asked to fax, mail or e-mail a press packet. Remember, you are not the only author/publisher approaching the store. Before speaking to them, know what makes you unique. Book event etiquette applies whether you're nationally or regionally recognized, a bestselling or a first-time author. Stores like to bring interesting authors to their customers and to provide authors with an enjoyable, productive venue in their hometown or stop on their tour. With that in mind, have a two or three sentence pitch for your title that will entice them to read it, and help them to promote and sell it. Consider offering something special that will enhance your book. Possible events you can offer beyond just a signing are an educational school presentation; running a seminar; speaking at a book club meeting; a children’s storytime; writing workshop; etc. If you do schedule an event with a store, be prepared to actively promote your event on your own as well. Utilize social media and reach out to family, friends, associates – everyone!

Join a Regional Independent Bookstore Association like NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Bookstore Association).

What benefits do NAIBA and other regionals offer authors?

  • NAIBA invites all authors currently living in our region to join as Associate members and have a profile profile in a
  • NAIBA newsletter. Our goal is to better connect NAIBA authors and their book with our member stores by listing
  • author contact information and details about their books and store events.
  • NAIBA is happy to assist authors with introductions to booksellers and tour schedules. Email us for more
  • information.
  • Discounted exhibiting fees for our annual Fall Conference
  • Advertising opportunities in our Holiday Catalog, NAIBAhood e-newsletter and tradeshow program
  • NAIBA Independent Bestseller List e-mailed weekly
  • Mailing list rental (with discounts for members)

There nine other regional bookseller associations, all offering services and links to independent bookstores. For more about these regional groups, Visit the American Booksellers Association website.

Some things you should avoid…

  • Handing out bookmarks, flyers or postcards that say "available on Amazon.com." Do yourself a favor and change that wording to "available wherever books are sold."
  • Listing only Amazon on your website as a purchase option. Include your local bookstore(s) logo, link and Indiebound.org.
  • Citing your Amazon sales rankings, or sales figures for competing big box stores.

Want more useful book marketing tips? Sign up for the Smith Publicity newsletter at the bottom of this page for book publicity and industry news.

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