When most people think about self-publishing a book, they imagine it sitting on a shelf at the front of a big-name bookstore with a banner that reads “BEST SELLERS” flying overhead.
Sure, everyone wants to their book to be considered among the best. They dream of family and friends walking into a bookstore and saying, “Hey, I know this writer!” and then buying their books – en masse, preferably.
But you must hold your horses, young self-published author. Those days may well be ahead of you, but for now you have some careful planning to do. And first, it’s important to understand a few hard facts about the publishing industry.
The Truth About Bookstores
While many wannabe writers have it in their heads that bookstores are simply where writers who have written really good books end up, we know this is totally false. Bookstores are businesses, and they won’t carry your book or spend any effort trying to sell it unless they know you’ll bring in customers.
That’s why bookstores tend to have exclusive contracts with traditional publishers, companies that won’t even consider printing your book unless they believe you can sell 25,000 copies in the first month.
If you don’t have a built-in audience from marketing yourself or having the perfect insider connections (or the best agent on the planet), you probably won’t cut it. Even if you’re the next Stephen King, there’s a strong chance you’ll have to put in a lot of work and sell a lot of books as a self-published author online.
And remember: even if your book has been selling really well on Amazon or other online retailers, many bookstores simply don’t want to hear it. After all, you’re bragging about the success you’ve had working with their competition.
The Right Path for Self-Published Authors
These days, many authors (even traditionally published ones) have a hard time getting their books into the big-name bookstores. Getting into the smaller bookstores sounds nice too, but the chances of making any money from sales or building a following this way are slim to none.
Instead, as a self-published author with your books ready to print, you should distribute your book with your commercial printing partner through a variety of online retailers. After you have your book listed on Amazon, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and any specialty online book catalogs that may apply, then you can work on generating a demand for it.
The Grassroots Effort for Self-Publishers
Once you get your book out there online, you can start a campaign to get your book into specific brick and mortar stores. For instance, if you write a book about horticulture, you could try to get it sold out of local plant nurseries. If it sells well, you can use that success to justify moving it up the chain to a larger retailer and so on.
Eventually, independent booksellers will start to take notice. As the popularity of your work spreads and you become a more in-demand author in your genre, there’s a good chance that certain bookstores will jump at the opportunity to have you on their shelves. It only takes a little bit of time and dedication – but as a self-publishing author, you already knew that!