Getting into Bookstores

When you publish a book, you want to see it in bookstores. All the while you were writing, editing, designing, typesetting, producing, and printing the book, the anticipation of actually seeing and picking up a copy in a bookstore motivated you. Your book is your baby and as a proud parent, it would be disappointing for your book not to be displayed. But it is not a foregone conclusion that your book will in fact appear in bookstores.

Seven Reasons Why Bookstores Wouldn’t Display Your Book

If bookstores don’t carry and display physical copies of your book, you may feel as if your baby has been rejected by the world you so want to be a part of. But there are plenty of reasons why. Here are only seven of those reasons:
1. Sales and Marketing: No one told the bookstore about your book.
2. Technology: You chose to use Print-On-Demand (POD).
3. Reputation: You published with a self-publishing service.
4. Market: Your book is too specialized for the bookstore.
5. Sales Potential: The sales potential of your book led the bookseller to conclude it would not be financially profitable to allocate valuable and limited shelf space to your book.
6. Price: The retail price was out of line with comparable titles.
7. Content: Unfortunately, the bookseller may not have been impressed by or liked the book.

Eliminating Those Reasons

Just like most people want to be liked, we want booksellers to embrace and endorse our book by putting it on display. Bookstores cannot display every book that is published so you must position your book and eliminate hurdles to have the best possible chance to be carried and displayed. Here are some ways:
1. Sales and Marketing: Enlist a successful and aggressive sales force to sell your book into major chains and independent stores. Radius Book Group, for instance, uses the Two Rivers sales team (formerly Perseus), part of Ingram, to present its titles to booksellers. Also, invest in a robust marketing and publicity campaign that draws attention to you and/or your book and drives customers to bookstores demanding your book. When enough people request a given title, the bookseller will gladly start stocking and displaying that title.
2. Technology: Bookstores typically won’t carry POD titles. But if you print a limited quantity using a digital short-run press and have those books available in a distributor’s warehouse, then bookstores will more readily stock your book.
3. Reputation: Self-publishing services, as opposed to hybrid publishers, merely provide services; they don’t function as full-fledged publishers. Some, like CreateSpace, do act as publishers, but represent competition to most retail stores, so the retail bookstores won’t carry titles published through CreateSpace. The solution is not to use these types of service.
4. Market: The market for your book may exclude it from being sold by general retail bookstores. Or, the bookstore itself may specialize in certain subjects and yours falls outside that category. Focus your attention on bookstores best suited to the topic of your book and promote it in those venues.
5. Sales Potential: Some titles are niche books with a narrow audience. Booksellers have to sell books to stay in business. If your book isn’t likely to sell in sufficient quantities to justify it taking the required shelf space, then it isn’t in the bookstore’s interests to stock and display your book. The more realistic you are about the sales potential of your book, the better you can calibrate your expectations on this front.
6. Price: If you set the list price of your book significantly higher than the competition, customers are probably going to buy the less expensive option. When deciding which book to display, the bookseller will factor price point into the decision. Set your price point in the sweet spot for booksellers and your chances of having them display your book increase dramatically.
7. Content: Unfortunately, if your book is poorly written, has an ugly cover, the interior design makes the book hard to read, what you say is offensive, or for any other reason the bookseller doesn’t like your book, forget it. You won’t see your book in that bookstore. In this case you have to live with not having your book displayed, or you will learn from the experience and publish another book with greater market appeal in the future.
Avoid the problems, focus on the solutions, and you may in the end be able to say, “Look, it’s my book!” when you walk into your local bookstore.  

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