7 Steps to Getting Stocked in Local Bookstores
Now that your book is published and available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites,
right alongside J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and the latest bestsellers, you’ve no doubt experienced a
sense of pride and accomplishment. And it is well-earned. Regardless of how “easy” self-publishing has
become, writing a book is still hard, and statistically speaking, almost no one has done what you’ve done.
So now you may be asking yourself, “What’s the next step?” For many authors, it is seeing their book on
the shelves of physical bookstores. Let’s talk about ways to pursue that goal:
The first step is to research the process by reading articles and watching videos online. The good news is
that you’re doing that right now, by reading this tip sheet about how to accomplish your goal. But more
research is going to be required. You must identify the bookstores you are going to contact and
understand their acquisition process. A book buyer for Powell’s works differently than a book buyer
from Barnes & Noble, and both of them work differently than a smaller, regional bookstore (thank
goodness – because that means your odds are better).
If your book is not available through a major wholesaler like Ingram or Baker & Taylor, it will be difficult
if not impossible to get a bookstore to stock your book. Why? Because bookstores prefer to work with,
and order books through, industry-standard channels. They would prefer to deal only with one or two
major wholesalers rather than scores of independent authors and publishers. The good news is that as
an author with Outskirts Press, your book is already available through both Ingram and Baker & Taylor.
You should have professional marketing materials, like custom-made bookmarks and business cards
that have been branded with the cover of your book. You’ll need these materials for your press kit and
for marketing purposes, but you may sometimes find success with a local bookstore by offering to
include “freebies” such as bookmarks if they make a small stocking order. More good news: Outskirts
Press offers a Customized Promotional Materials Bundle containing over 1,500 customized pieces
available for convenient and secure ordering by clicking here.
Once you have your customized materials, you should use them to create a press kit containing:
• your sales sheet, available to print out for free from your Publishing Center and containing all the
relevant information the bookstore needs to know
• a cover letter summarizing your interest in having the bookstore stock your book (if you’re a local
author, don’t fail to mention that)
• a press release if you’ve written or purchased one
• some of your promotional materials (especially a business card, but a couple bookmarks or
postcards don’t hurt)
• and of course, a copy of your book
Your best chance for immediate success is to locate local bookstores in your immediate area and deliver
your press kit in person to the owner or book buyer, along with a hearty handshake.
Part of your in-person pitch should be informing the owner or buyer of your marketing plan, which is
their assurance (hopefully) that there will be demand for your book. Again, if you are targeting local
bookstores, emphasize your promotion plans for your local area. Are you putting up fliers in local
churches? Are you speaking at an assembly at a local school? Will you be on a guest on local radio or
television? Your marketing plan is the cornerstone to success when pursuing bookstore interest,
especially if you stick with it, and especially if you get traction (success).
After you have conquered, or at least contacted, bookstores in your immediate area, you may want to
widen your net regionally or even nationally. Just about every bookstore has a website, so if you
confirm that your book isn’t on it, there is usually a link somewhere where you can submit your book for
consideration. This usually involves filling out a form and perhaps attaching some pertinent materials –
like everything in your press kit. So make sure you have PDF versions of everything.
Follow-up is among the most important steps. Don’t just send it and forget it. Independent bookstore
owners are very busy, because not only do they get the opportunity to hear from many local authors
pitching books all the time, but they also get to actually run the bookstore, manage inventory, and make
larger orders from larger publishers. They wear many hats, so don’t be offended if your “hat” falls off
their head. After a number of days, professionally follow up on your submission or pitch, either in
person (if you pitched personally the first time) or via email or phone. They may not have gotten to it
yet, it may still be under consideration, or you may receive a no, or a yes. Judge the tenor of their
response to determine your next course of action, and when following up always do so politely but
persistently. Of course, if it’s a yes, you know what to do: pop some champagne and then help the
bookstore get your book stocked!
We wish you great success.