Trying to get bookstores to accept your book and give it shelf space is very time consuming and difficult to achieve. Most bookstores are not anxious to get your book. And to make matters worse, as a small independent publisher or self-publisher you would be completely at the mercy of the bookstores. You set all the terms whether you like them or not. But even if you do whatever they want, investing a lot of time and money in the process of getting a bookstore to accept your book and giving them some leeway, there’s no guarantee they’ll sell your book. Here are ten reasons a new self-publisher should avoid spending valuable time and money getting their book into brick-and-mortar bookstores.
1. Bookstores only accept books that they think will sell in large quantities
You will almost never believe a self-published book will sell more than a few copies. They know that a small publisher doesn’t have the power, connections, or budget to pull off a large and sophisticated marketing plan.
2. Bookstores usually order fewer than 10 copies
Even if they accept your book and agree to give it some shelf space, most bookstores order fewer than ten copies at a time. Limited storage space is one reason. A second reason is that your book is only given a short amount of time to prove to the bookstore that the book will sell. If this is not the case, it is removed from the shelf.
3. Bookstores only accept returnable books
And they might give you back 50% to 80% of your books – and you have to pay to get them back. Some large bookstore chains know that small publishers cannot afford to buy back the books. They then offer to buy back your books for less than a dollar and then put your book on their discount table.
4. Bookstores expect the publisher to pay for shipping both ways
This is a fact for the self-publisher who sells himself. It is also time consuming to pack your books for shipping and postage is expensive.
5. Bookstores sell very few books compared to online retailers
This applies in particular to self-publishers. Well-known, established authors and the biggest publishers are the ones that get the best exhibitions and bookstore locations.
6. Bookstores don’t have the physical space to stock all titles
The small bookstores could stock 5,000 titles. The giant bookstores could stock 140,000 titles. Amazon stocks a few million titles. You end up spending a lot of time and money taking your book to bookstores, most of which just don’t have the space to take your book with them.
7. Bookstores will force you to take back any damaged copies
Your book will be on the bookstore shelf, handled, bent, smashed, etc., and then the bookstore will force you to take it back and force you to pay for shipping.
8. Bookstores have a penchant for self-published books for two important reasons
a. The reputation of cosmetics publishers and self-publishers who produce inferior and unmarketable books.
b. Self-publishers typically don’t have proper relationships with distributors, so their books are hard to come by.
9. Bookstores can order your book even if it’s not on their shelf
Almost every bookstore in America can order a book online through companies like Ingram or Bertrams. The book is then delivered to the bookstore and the customer collects it.
10. Bookstores can easily take 90 to 120 days to pay you
As a small, independent publisher or self-publisher, you would be at the mercy of the bookstores. You set all the terms whether you like them or not. And as a small publisher, waiting several months for your money can be devastating.
Avoid all of these hassles when first starting out as a self-publisher and stay away from the bookstores. Wait until your book’s sales are great on Amazon, then a “big” publisher might be interested in picking up your book. They will have the connections, the power, and the money to deal with the bookstores. But if you’re still dying to see your book on a bookstore’s shelf, you can simply turn to the hundreds of small independent bookstores across the country. Much luck.
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