This week I got a message from one of our fans on Facebook asking how to get her booked stocked by her local Barnes & Noble in the local history section. Her book is quite regional and would be a good fit.
I figure there might be a lot of you who wonder the same thing. Maybe you book wouldn’t fit into local history, but you wonder how to get a local store to carry your book and maybe even put it in a local section.
First it is important to note that national chains operate differently than small regional chains or independent stores. I’ll address how the chains operate first.
Once a book is in the chain’s system (the primary goal of distribution), it can be ordered into any store. But for most stores to actually stock the book on their shelves, a head buyer at their national headquarters has to make that decision. Buyers generally buy according to topic, but they also have regional buyers for local interest books.
National buyers typically make this decision pre-publication. For them to act on something once a book is past its publication date, they will want to see some pretty convincing sales data or a pretty major current event hook (could be something on the book’s subject or something major going on with the author).
You can also try to arrange a book signing with the store’s event manager. The store will then bring in stock for the signing, and if the book sells well, they may keep it on their shelves.
Independent stores have a little more leeway in terms of what they stock and when they decide to carry it, but they are still very cautious about their retail space. You may want to try to approach the store’s manager directly about carrying your book.
You should do this respectfully and come prepared to explain why the book would be a good sell for their store. “It’s a great book!” is not a good enough reason. Again, you could mention something going on relevant to the book’s topic, or tell them about an event you are doing to promote the book and that you will be referring people to their store to purchase copies.
Also, you should try to make it a habit to start shopping at the store. I’ve heard different independent store owners lament that authors will come to their store trying to push their books into the stores, and somehow slip in that they do most of their book buying online. This doesn’t give the store much incentive to support you.
The best way to get your book on any shelf is to create the demand to get it there. If a store notices that lots of people are coming in looking for the book, they will carry it. Sales talk.
Photo: Juhansonin, Creative Commons