Man, I love the idea of my book on the shelves of Wal-Mart and Costco. I love the vision I have of seeing 8 copies of my book standing, cover faced out, on the top shelf of the reference section in Barnes and Noble.
What I don’t love thinking about is this: My book does not belong in any of these stores.
I wish it were not so. I wish my book was the perfect fit for the customers who shop at B&N, Wal-Mart and Costco, but it is not. The type of readers who want a book about the publishing industry are shopping online and at conventions.
We all want to sell more books. But before we do ANYTHING else or pitch ONE MORE store, I would like us all to take a few moments and ask ourselves some tough questions:
What kind of stores are you pitching to?
Are you focusing on bookstores, chains, supermarkets, airport stores, libraries, gift stores, online retailers, catalogs?
Are you missing any kinds of places to sell your book?
Get in the car. Let a friend drive. I want you to sit in the passenger seat at write down ALL of the places you see as you drive down the street. Go to malls, strip malls, main streets… Seriously. Write down EVERY store you pass. When you get home, research them online and weigh their value.
Do the readers of your type of books SHOP IN THE VENUES YOU WANT TO BE IN?
Romance novel sales have dropped DRAMATICALLY in the bookstores in recent years. More and more sales are moving online. The shelves in bookstores that stretched for miles, filled with romance novels are much much shorter now that folks can shop in the comfort of their own home.
Cookbook sales to the library market have EXPLODED! Are cookbook fans shopping at the type of stores you are targeting?
It is time to stop pushing your book into stores and do your research to find out if your type of readers buy your type of books and from WHERE they purchase them. This is not hard.
What you do is (once again) get in your car, drive to your local store and ASK THEM how sales in your category are? ASK THEM if your category is a strong one for them. If they say no, get in your car and go to ANOTHER type of store and ask them the same thing. Repeat until you run out of stores.
What are your chances of GETTING INTO your chosen stores?
Okay. So you have identified the many stores where your book would fit, you have determined that the stores sell books like yours AND that people SHOP those stores looking for books like yours. NICE WORK! So… can you actually get IN the stores? It depends upon a few things.
Are your books available at the wholesalers where those retailers source their books?
If not, are you willing to sell the books on consignment?
Are your books available returnable? (This only matters for bookstores for the most part)
Are you doing marketing and creating demand by making folks aware of your book?
What can you do to increase your stocking in stores?
When a bookstore store agrees to test a book or to place a starting order, you will most likely see an order for 1 or 2 books. (What? That’s ALL? Yup…)
If you are more focused on airport stores or major chains, then you will mostly likely get a refusal from the main office. BUT you can often get your local venue (Costco, airport store…) to agree to let you do an event.
If you book a signing or an event that results in many sales, that will be enough to improve your chances of a regional stocking. If your regional stocking does well and makes the company money, then your regional stocking often can become a national one. Now, this is a simplistic overview of the process, but an accurate one.
The best thing you can do in ANY case is to work to create demand. It is not enough to get your book INTO stores, you also have the responsibility to get your book OUT of stores.
If I can be of help in any way, please do not hesitate to be in touch!