Isn’t a bookstore the best place to sell a book? No!
First-time authors want to see their books in a bookstore. They dream of walking into Barnes and Noble and seeing their book on a display table at the front of the store. But frankly, bookstores are the worst places to sell a book—any book—and the big chain bookstores are the worst of the worst.
That sounds like blasphemy coming from a book publisher, but let’s face it, when your book is in a bookstore, it is just one of literally thousands of choices a potential reader can make. Barnes & Noble stores average 25,000 square feet and carry up to 200,000 titles along with an assortment of games, toys, music, and chotskies, not to mention the Starbucks concession. How are average readers wandering in off the street to look for an unidentified “good read” going to find your book?
Chances are they won’t!
Because let’s face it, as a first-time author your book won’t be on that upfront display table, or even on an endcap. It will be buried in the stacks. Hopefully, more than one copy will be there, but that leads to another problem: returns.
Bookstores have a decades-old policy of returning unsold books. This means that if a store orders 20 books in June and by August has only sold two, they will return 18 books to you. Possibly damaged.
But I promised an article on great places to sell books—not a rant on why not to sell them in bookstores—so let’s get started.
- Boutiques and Specialty Stores. What type of store carries merchandise your reader wants to buy? Books for children and parents are easy: toy stores, children’s clothing, maternity stores, etc. But writers of books for adults can use this technique, too. Women’s boutiques, jewelry stores, kitchen stores, gift shops of all types, sports stores. Figure out where your readers shop and see if you can convince the store owner to carry your book.
- Gift Shows. You don’t have to schlep your book up and down Main Street to find gift shops and boutiques. There are gift shows where boutique owners go to look for new items for their stores. Google gift shows in your area to find one near you. Booths can be expensive, but when you think that you’ll be able to get in front of hundreds of store owners in just a few days, it can be well worth it.
- Museum Stores. What kind of tie-in does your book have with a museum? There are museums for everything, from Legos to fine art to tools and more. Regional museums may be interested in books by local authors, no matter what the topic.
- From Pre-K to college to adult enrichment classes, your book might sell well at a school. Consider setting up a seminar with a PTA group, asking your alma mater to sponsor an event featuring you, or see if you can teach a class.
- Festivals: Every weekend of the year, somewhere in the USA, someone is holding a festival. From general book festivals to renaissance fairs, to town street fairs, it’s easy to get a booth and sell your book. Check the cost of a booth versus the number of people who attend and how many of your target readers you think will be there before you decide to get a booth.
- Seminars and Events. Create your own event. This works particularly well for non-fiction writers, but many authors of fiction use this technique, also. Whatever your expertise, create a seminar, market it, and sell your book.
- Your Website: If you have a book, you should have a website. Whether it is a simple, one-page author site, or a complex site that encompasses a business, you should have a link on every page that gives people a way to buy your book. You can link directly to Amazon or another online bookstore, or you can sell the book yourself. If you do, however, you must keep a stack of books on hand and be ready to wrap one up and head to the post office when you get a sale.
- Friends’ and Colleagues’ Websites. Do you have friends in the same field? Ask them to advertise your book on their website. You will, of course, give them a percentage of any sales you make through this technique. But you’d have to give a percentage of profit to a store, also.
There are dozens of other places you can sell your book. You are only limited by the time you have to research different possibilities. But the more places your book is displayed, the more likely you are to have a sale.