If you are an aspiring author, you are no doubt propelled by the thrill of seeing your book on a Barnes & Noble bookshelf someday. As exciting as this prospect appears, this isn’t quite so easy to accomplish in real life — although definitely not impossible! Allow this handy guide to show you how to get your book sold in your local bookstore.

Can Self-Published Books Be Sold in Stores?

If you dream of getting your self-published book into brick and mortar bookstores, know that your dream can come true if you follow certain steps. 

First, to even be considered by independent bookstores, your book will need to meet the professional caliber of traditionally published books. It must be professionally edited, have a compelling cover design, and adhere to industry standards for its genre. Once that is accomplished and your book is published online, you approach indie bookstores yourself, or you can publish your book by a partner that offers distribution services.

Is Selling Your Book in Stores Profitable?

Most authors still believe that a bookstore presence will validate their book, giving it some street cred, so to speak. The reality is that physical bookstores are full of books that just sit there gathering dust for months on end. Eventually, the books end up on the clearance table or are returned to the local independent bookstore.

While it’s true that a self-published author can get their books on a bookstore shelf, the fact is that it isn’t always the most profitable solution. The retailer purchases “returnable” copies of your book for 40% off list price. After calculating printing and shipping costs, the profits become pretty meager. 

For example, say a bookstore purchases your $14.95 book at wholesale for $8.97/unit. After deducting the cost of author copies and shipping, the author has netted about $4.50/unit. If your book doesn’t sell, the bookseller has the option of returning them for credit, at the $8.97 rate. If this occurs, the author is out the $8.97 plus the printing and shipping costs.

This is why it is a good idea to think long and hard about venturing into the retail environment, versus concentrating on your online book sales of your self-published book. Selling your book online may net about the same $4.50/unit profit or slightly more, but less risk is involved.

How to Get Your Book Sold in Stores

If you are still determined to learn how to get your book on bookstore shelves, here are some pointers:

Gather Your Data & Make a Plan

There is a certain amount of legwork involved in getting your book into stores. You will need to clearly identify your target audience and know exactly which section in a bookstore your book would sell best. Base the initial number of copies on the genre and the usual number of copies sold in that genre at the bookstore. Finally, make a list of the indie booksellers you want to target.

Be a Loyal Customer

A great way to engender yourself to the independent bookseller is to already be a loyal customer at their shop. Once you decide which local bookstore owners to approach, show your support by shopping there instead of online retailers. Better yet, consider supporting works by other local authors carried at the store by purchasing their books.

Approach the Store

Once your book is published and you are ready to pitch it to the local bookstores, ask to speak to the owner of each store. That is the person with the power to place your book on the shelf. Be prepared with an elevator pitch to describe your book, and be sure to explain why your book is marketable to convince bookstores to buy copies.

Thank Them

If the bookstore owner agrees to buy a few copies for his store, be sure to convey your gratitude by thanking them for the opportunity. Also, promise that you’ll promote their shop on your Facebook author page to help sell books.

How to Sell Your Book at Barnes & Noble

If you have set your sights on seeing your book for sale at Barnes & Noble, there are some specific steps to follow. Email [email protected] with the following:

  1. Type the ISBN of your title in the subject line of your email
  2. Include details of your marketing/media/publicity campaign for promoting the book
  3. Provide the name of wholesaler/distributor that is handling your fulfillment to the retail trade
  4. Include the link to your title on bn.com
  5. Provide your hometown
  6. Describe what makes your book special and why Barnes & Noble should carry it
  7. Attach reader reviews about your book

Before approaching Barnes & Noble for consideration, ensure that your book is fully edited, has a spectacular cover, and is priced competitively for the genre. Expect the buyer review process to take 4-6 weeks, at which point you will be contacted via email with their decision.

Trust Gatekeeper Press for Book Distribution

Now that you’ve learned how to get your book in stores, it’s time to enlist the help of a self-publishing distribution partner. Gatekeeper Press offers a full spectrum of editing and design services as well as book distribution to various retailers, including Barnes & Noble, bookshop.org, and IndieBound. Contact us today!