How to Get Your Self-Published Book into Bookshops - 10 Tips

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 for information on this. Companies like 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,

Sarah XXX

I'm Just Crazy About Bookshops


In one of my favourite films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly (played by the wonderful Audrey Hepburn) says ‘I’m just crazy about Tiffany’s . . . Nothing bad could ever happen to you there.’ Holly goes to Tiffany’s when she gets ‘the mean reds’ – when she’s afraid but doesn’t know what she’s afraid of. She says ‘The only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it.’

I feel the same way about bookshops. When I’m feeling a bit edgy and out of sorts, I head to my local bookshop, Dubray Books in Dun Laoghaire. It’s in a not-so-exciting shopping centre but it still manages to be calm, peaceful and lovely. The staff are great too – you can always rely on them for a bit of book-related chat and a friendly smile.

Talking to Children in Dubray Books
Talking to Children in Dubray Books

I’ve loved bookshops all my life. After college I had no idea what I wanted to do (apart from write, but that was a dream I never thought would come to anything) so I reached for the nearest life raft – a bookshop.

I’ve worked in bookshops for many years and I’ve loved them all – Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street, Hughes and Hughes in St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, Waterstone’s on Dawson Street (where I ran the children’s department, which I adored), Eason’s Head Office in Santry and now, Dubray Books, where they kindly let me get involved in promoting children’s books and training the children’s booksellers.

When I was in Bath a few weeks ago for the Children’s Literature Festival I visited three amazing bookshops – Waterstone’s, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights and Toppings. What a treat!

Waterstone’s has one of the best chain children’s departments I’ve ever seen outside the United States – it’s full of fantastic books for all ages. I particularly loved the table full of wonderfully chosen crossover books from the Chaos Walking trilogy to I Capture the Castle.

I visited Mr B’s with my lovely Walker editor, Annalie Grainger and what a terrific, quirky shop. It’s full of nooks and crannies, armchairs to sit and read in, hand-recommended titles and extremely friendly, helpful booksellers. If I needed a hug in the form of a warm, welcoming bookshop, that’s exactly where I’d head. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel less alone.

Mr B's Emporium
Mr B's Emporium

For a spiritual pick me up, I’d head to Toppings, in a word it’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (I’ve come over all Mary Poppins recently in anticipation of the new movie, Saving Mr Banks, with Emma Thompson as P L Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.) If Bath is like walking around a living, breathing movie set, then Toppings is like stepping into Narnia. It’s truly beautiful – it even smells amazing, musty and woody, like the books’ pages are seeping into the air.

It’s plain wooden shelves are crammed with a huge range of hardbacks and the children’s department is small but magical. I nearly wept with joy when I spotted a copy of Ask Amy Green: Love and Other Drama-ramas nestling on the shelves.


Dublin has its fair share of brilliant bookshops – including the Dubray shops and Gutter Books in Temple Bar, but I must admit I was truly smitten with the bookshops of Bath.

Yours in books (and bookshops),

Sarah XXX

Ode to a Bookshop and a Very Special Bookseller

I was saddened to hear last week that one of my favourite bookshops in the whole world, The Exchange Bookshop in Dalkey, South County Dublin has just closed. The lovely owner, Michael has decided to retire and it’s uncertain as to what will happen to the shop. Will it become yet another coffee shop or restaurant; will another enterprising (and brave) bookseller take it over? We will have to wait and see. In the meantime I wanted to celebrate the shop and what it meant to me as a child and as a teenager growing up in Dalkey. When I was younger Dalkey village had a small children’s library that was housed in the Town Hall. Once a week special green wooden shelves would be rolled out and we’d be taken there to pick our books. Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a range and, as I became a more confident reader, I craved more choice. So Mum took me to The Exchange Bookshop and we looked through the second hand books together, searching for novels that would be suitable for a young teenager.

Gradually Mum allowed me to rummage on my own, and I managed to unearth some gems that she might not have ‘approved’ of had she know the contents, Flowers in the Attic example which I devoured, staying up all night to finish it, racing through each page like a teenager possessed. Michael in the shop did sometimes question the ‘suitability’ of the books I picked, but to his credit never stopped me buying them.

James Herbert, Stephen King, The Outsiders by S E Hinton, books about possession, haunting, vampires – this was my staple reading diet as a teenager (YA or teen fiction was only in its infancy in those days and many of the books were far too ‘worthy’ for my strangely blood-thirsty teen taste). They were interspersed by Maeve Binchy, American teen novels (Sweet Valley High), Judy Blume and the classics, but only ones concerning love and relationships, especially doomed relationships, most notably Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Jane Austen. Darkness and light, black and pink.

From the age of about eleven I read passionately and voraciously and The Exchange provided much of my story fuel. Unusually it sold both new and second hand books and had a special ‘exchange’ system (hence the name) whereby you could bring back books you’d read and ‘swap’ them for other books. And yes, I admit I ‘exchanged’ many of my mum and dads’ books for Stephen King novels.

Without The Exchange I would not have read so many books as a teenager, it’s as simple as that. And those books – both black and pink - made me the writer that I am today. So I owe a lot to Michael and his wonderful bookshop, as do many other readers (and writers) I suspect. And I wish him all the very best in the future. Maybe now he’ll have time to read himself for a change!

Today, on Shakespeare’s birthday and leading up to World Book Night later, I give thanks for Michael and all the other amazingly hard working and booking loving folk who power the bookshops of Ireland. Booksellers, I salute you! I’m proud to be an ex-member (and hopefully a future member in years to come) of your fold.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX