I’ve worked in the book trade for over twenty years now – as a bookseller, a marketing manager and a buyer. As a children’s buyer I’ve looked at thousands of covers a year, read thousands of blurbs, dealt with hundreds of different authors – at shop signings, events and festivals (a blog for another day). Recently I’ve been asked for advice from self self-published writers: how do I get my book into bookshops?
I thought I’d give the self-published writers out there some advice with the help of experienced bookseller, Josie.
Top 10 Tips for Self-Published Writers
1/ Make sure your book is professionally designed, typeset and printed. A badly designed book will not sell to the public. A bookshop buyer (like Josie) will only consider a book that looks professional and will sell in their bookshop. Make sure it is professionally edited, copy-edited and proof read.
Josie adds – make sure the type is the correct size and you use good paper stock.
2/ If it’s a picture book, use a professional illustrator – don’t do the illustrations yourself, don't ask a friend to do them. Try www.writing.ie for information on this. Companies like www.kazoo.ie provide a professional design, editing, illustration and printing service. (A good friend of mine, Vanessa O’Loughlin is involved in this company and it's worth talking to her about your book - she's great.)
3/ Make sure your price your book correctly. Do not over price or under price your book. Ask a bookseller for advice on the price.
Josie adds – make sure your book has a spine so it can be found on the bookshelves.
4/ Offer the correct discount. This is generally between 40 and 50%. It can be higher for wholesales like Eason. If you only offer 20 or 30% the buyer may not take your book as the margin is too low. (40% discount means 40% off the cover price of the book.)
5/ Provide a valid ISBN and barcode. Print the price on the back of your book, just over the barcode. Again, check other books to see how this is done.
6/ A good cover is vital – put as much time and thought into getting this right as you can.
7/ Behave like a professional at all times. Josie suggests making up bookseller packs with information on the book and the press you have arranged. Print out professional order forms and invoices. Make sure you leave a phone number and an email address so the buyer can contact you with orders or returns.
8/ Offer to do events or workshops in the shop. Practice these beforehand and make sure they are professional.
9/ Be polite – if the buyer says no, don’t get angry. They may buy your next book. It’s not personal, it’s business. A buyer’s job is to select the titles that will sell in their shop. They only buy 10 to 20% of the titles they are shown.
Josie adds - don’t have high expectations of quantities. The orders will be small but if the book sells we will reorder quickly. The average order might be for 3 to 5 copies.
10/ Help with the marketing and publicity. Let people know which booksellers are stocking your book. Provide bookmarks or postcards (posters can be difficult as not many bookshops have wall space for them).
Promote your book in an interesting way on Facebook and Twitter – try to be inventive. Set up a blog or website for your book. Offer to do a piece for the local newspaper.
When in doubt, ask a bookseller for advice. They need good writers just as much as writers need good bookshops – it’s a team effort! You just need to give them the right books to sell.
Good luck! And thanks to Josie for her time and expertise.
Yours in writing,