How to get your self-published print book in local bookstores

Amazon is phasing out CreateSpace. They sent out an email around October 2017-ish, telling us authors who had books on CreateSpace to move them to Kindle Paperback instead. They did not give any specific dates, just told us to start using KDP Paperback option from now on and move our CreateSpace books to the new Kindle Paperback.

They rolled out Kindle PaperBacks in May 2016, but you had to be part of the beta test program to access it back then. I was in the program, so my books were among the first to make the switch. I've nothing on CreateSpace now, and most of my novels and short stories are now available via Kindle only, which means they are in BOTH print and ebook editions, all from one single file now, because Kindle is no longer ebook only. Upload once, publish once, available in two formats.

Kindle paperback is still in Beta, but it's now in "public beta" meaning anyone who wants to try it, only has to activate it in their dashboard now, instead of signing up for the beta program.

I sell more paperbacks then ebooks, but this is because I do a lot of offline sales at comic book/geek conventions and shows. And I take the print copies with me. I'm also at carnivals, festivals, car shows (I build art cars, see here: ), state fairs, and any place else that lets me set up a booth. We are "carny" Gypsies, so I also have a book truck (a 1975 Dodge Sportsman Motorhome see here: ) which I sell my books out of anyplace I'm allowed to set up - same way as Food Trucks do. I've been self-pubbing and selling face-to-face in person to the local public since 1978. Print books are thus my primary source of book income. Before the invention of PoD books, I was doing vanity press, which requires thousands of books printed at once. I've now switched to PoD as I can just print up 10 or 20 or more books at a time, depending on where I'm going and how many I think will sell at that venue. I've only started making my books available as ebooks rather recently.

Getting into local bookstores can be tricky.

No bookstore is going to actively search the database and order your book. If you want to be on the shelf, you MUST print up a case of books yourself, load them into the trunk of your car, drive to your local bookstore, and request they sell your books on commision. Most bookstores love to work with local authors. Most bookstores have a section devoted to self published books by local authors. Look for local bookstores with such a section, and target these as they are your best bet at getting sold in print.

Large chains like Books a Million or Boarder Books, won't touch a self-pubbed book, because they are franchises with no say on what goes on the shelves. The company has a central warehouse that sends books out to all the store across the country at once. So, don't even bother with those.

Though I've never tried it myself, it is possible to get into WalMart. For that you have to go to the WalMart Corp's headquarter website and search for the wholesaler link. In there is a link, for authors and publishers. You fill out the form and submit your request. If accepted, WalMart will start mass ordering 100s of thousands of your books to distribute all over the country to every WalMart on the planet. I've spoken with a few authors who did this and they said they were basically overnight mega successes, just because WalMart orders so many books all at once to distribute to their stores. I looked into doing this and from what I read, it's pretty difficult to get accepted and they get thousands of requests a month and only accept a few dozen a year. But, it certainly can't hurt to apply for WalMart distribution if you think your book qualifies for their guidelines/requirements. Mine didn't qualify, and I can't remember now why, but that's why I never applied. I think it was they don't accept Erotica, I think that might have been what I didn't qualify for.

On the other hand MOST little small mom&pop style book stores will take a self pubbed book, but don't expect much to come of it. You need to go to a sales person, ask for a manager or the store owner or a retail merchandiser (most small stores won't have an retail merchandiser, but ones that have multiple location, say 5 stores one in each town, usually well). Explain to the manager you are a local author and would like your books to be including in their local author department/section. Ask to set up an appointment so you can meet with the manager when they are not busy. Have 3 to 5 copies of your book in your car, in case they have time to talk to you now, but be prepared to come back in a few days instead.

Most bookstores, will request 3 copies of your book and will put it on their "local authors" table/shelf/display. (NOTE: if you try to get it put on a genre shelf - Romance, Fantasy, etc, they'll likely say no, so always ask to be placed in the "local author" section instead, and they almost always say yes.) They will usually take the books on consignment, meaning, they'll put it on the shelf for a specified time (often 30 days to 3 months) and if the books sell in that time, they'll pay you a commision (usually 30% or less) and depending on how fast or slow they sold, they may ask you to bring in more.

Note: You'll have to go through a process of filling out forms and signing contracts, and agreeing on commissions percentages. Plan on being in the meeting with the manager for well over an hour.

If the books sell quickly in the first few days, they may ask you to bring in 10 or 12 more, and will expect you to come right in that same day with them, so be sure you have 20 to 30 copies pre-printed and on hand in case this does happen. They are not going to want to wait for you to order more. If the books sold quick, they want more NOW. Waiting a week or more for your PoD order to ship to you, could cost you shelf space.

If you instead say to them: here's my Amazon account you can buy them here. They'll just toss your url note in the trash and never give your books another thought. You MUST have the physical book in hand, for them to shelve that day. They are NOT going to look it up and order it. Most book stores figure if the author went to the trouble to bring the books in, then they have nothing to lose by taking a chance on shelving it, but they won't waste their time searching for the book, ordering the book, and then waiting for delivery, not when you are unknown and a risk.

Remember, you bring the books in to the store is RISK FREE for them, because they sell books on comision, meaning they do not put up one penny up front, and you only get paid IF the books sell. But if they have to order your books off amazon, they have to risk paying money up front for something they have no guarantee they can sell.

IMPORTANT: Do notice that I said in most cases they want 3 copies, and, wait to see how many sell in a 3 month period. Yes. If you sell 1 copy a month, you are doing good. Like I said, don't expect a lot of sales. Local authors are hard sells, and only a few people in each town actually actively look in the local author section for something to read.

Also, before you try to donate a copy of your book to a local library, know ahead of time that libraries can not legally accept any book that has not first been submitted to the Library of Congress database. For that you have to contact the LoC, fill out their submission forms, and mail them 3 physical copies of you book, so they can catalogue it, and assign it a LoC number. Once your book has an LoC number assigned to it, you can now go to your local library, and give them a copy of the book, and a printout of the page the Library of Congress sent you with you LoC number on it.

If your book does not have an LoC number, the library will just toss your book into their bin of books to be sold at the next book sale and it will never be catalogued or shelved.

NOTE: Once a library catalogues your book into a collection, bookstores will be alerted to the existence of your book and you MAY, start to see bookstores ordering your book to put on their shelves. This is because many small bookstores keep track of "new releases" added to their local library and often will order the same books on the theory that, if one of the librarians thought it was good enough to catalogue, then we want people to buy it from us instead of read it for free at the library. Do keep in mind that though this happens often, it rarely results in more than a dozen sales, as most bookstores only keep 3 copies of any book in stock. (With the exception of bestsellers, which they may have a 100 or more in stack).

Hope that helps.

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