Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to Get Books into Bookstores

By Mayra Calvani

If you’re a small press author, trying to get your book into brick and mortar stores can be one of the hardest tasks to accomplish. If you’re a POD author, chances are close to impossible unless you deal with independent local bookstores which usually are more flexible and open to helping local authors. But as a rule, big chain stores won’t stock a POD book, mainly because of lack of returnability and the poor (and mostly unfair) reputation of print on demand books.

But, as I said, small independent bookstores are more open and flexible and more willing to take a small risk with a an unknown author. Though it is true that most people (about 52%) shop books at big chain stores, here your book will be lost amidst thousands. In a small bookstore, however, you competition will be less because there are not as many books on the shelves. Of course, most people go shopping for their books at the big chain stores, thus their popularity.

If you want to market your book to bookstores, the first thing you need to do is to locate them. You also need to decide which type to contact. You may want to contact bookstores by genre or geographical are. If you live in Los Angeles and your book is a mystery, for instance, you may want to contact all mystery bookstores in your city first before moving to other geographical areas.

To locate bookstores you may check:

*Yellow Pages Directory in your city.

*Yellow Pages Directory on the Internet.

*The ABA Bookstore Directory:

*The American Booktrade Directory (you may check this at the library).

Another easy way to locate bookstores, but which costs money, is to rent a mailing list. For $40, you may obtain a mailing list of the top 700 independent bookstores at

Once you have a list of the bookstores you wish to contact, there are some guidelines you should keep in mind before getting in touch with their owners:

*Prepare an attractive brochure or media kit, which should contain your contact information, book information, an author’s bio, a book description or blurb, review quotes, and mention of any awards. If you don’t know how to prepare a brochure or media kit, please make sure to do a research on the internet first. Amateurish material will be toss in the trashcan, you can be sure of that.

*Some owners prefer a brochure, others a sample copy of the book. You should also include a personal letter (not generic!) introducing yourself and your book. Keep it brief and professional—never brag about the magnificent qualities of the book. The book must speak for itself. If you have any rave review quotes of your book, the place for these is on the brochure or media kit. Many bookstore owners like handwritten letters or post-its. The ‘personal’ aspect of this will make you stand out. Of course, it’s always a test, and the reality is most material received by owners ends up in the trash can. But the more personal and professional you are, the better your chances to succeed. Alan Beats, of Borderland Books, says, “Sending a well thought out cover letter with a review copy. The quality of the cover letter is very important. If it's poorly written or has grammatical errors, I won't even look at the book. The letter will get major plus points if it is clear that the person writing it has researched our store and if it's address to me directly.”

Some bookstore owners prefer to be sent sample copies by the publisher itself instead of the author. These people will not consider a publisher legitimate otherwise and will not stock its books.

*Don’t phone. Bookstore owners are too busy and don’t like to be bothered by desperate authors over the phone. “The worse thing to do is to bug us about it after you’ve sent it,” says Del Howison, owner of Dark Delicacies, a bookstore specializing in horror. “We’re not a critiquing service so we’re not going to give you a rundown on what’s good and bad about it. There are plenty of editors out there who will do that for you.” Howison prefers a sample copy of the book instead of a brochure.

*Make sure your book is relevant to the store. If your book is a novel about witches or vampires, you won’t have any luck with a Christian bookstore! Make sure your time and resources are not going to waste.

*Keep a record of your contacts and marketing efforts to use in the future for other books.

Though most marketing experts out there keep insisting that bookstores are not the best places to market your books—and though this may be true—there’s one thing for sure: nothing beats seeing your book in a bookstore shelf!

Good luck!

©2007. Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved.

Mayra Calvani is an author and book reviewer. Visit her website and subscribe to her free monthly newsletter, The Fountain Pen, at

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent article. Small Independent Bookstores around Melbourne will hopefully be encouraging to promoting a young Melburnian author.


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