“Indie” or independent bookstores are one of the ways to get your work published and onto shelves. They are not part of a large chain. Indie bookstores are small businesses owned by people local to the community, and often occupy a “niche” or some other specialty. For new authors, this can be a more realistic option than a large chain. Large chains tend to look for books that will sell well by default. If your book is not a guaranteed best seller, it’s often difficult to work your way in. Indie bookstores offer diverse reading experiences, ones that you may not be able to find in commercial stores. This means that if your book fits a certain niche, it may find success on the shelves of an indie bookstore. Here’s what authors looking to work with bookstores need to know.
Know Which Stores Are a Good Fit
Indie bookstores often occupy a certain niche or theme, with titles that match a certain subject. It’s important to know what bookstores match with your work.
Bookstores may specialize in:
- Children’s books
- Minority writing (LGBT, cultural identity, etc)
Scouting out a specific bookstore is recommended. By observing the store, you can see how it’s organized, how books are marketed, and more. If your book fits in with a section that gets a lot of traffic, it may be a good fit. Additionally, getting to know the staff may be helpful in getting your book on shelves. You will make connections that can give you a headstart in putting your book out there.
Be Ready to Pitch Your Book
Contacting the book buyer usually only takes one phone call. Ask for the store’s book buyer, and be ready to potentially organize a time to meet, whether over phone call or in person.
Have a brief summary and pitch of your book ready to go, whether written down on paper or mentally. This type of summary is often referred to as an “elevator pitch”. Imagine it this way: you’re in an elevator with a potential employer, or someone who could be interested in your idea. You need to give them a rundown in 3 to 5 minutes, without getting sloppy. This resource from the Corporate Finance Institute gives more resources on how to create one. It’s also a good idea to have more details to give, if you’re asked. Be respectful and patient. Think of it as any formal interview. Be friendly and willing to listen.
Playing Up the Local Angle
While being a local author does not immediately guarantee a spot on your nearby bookstore’s shelves, it can definitely be played up. People who are interested in what their “neighbors” are writing may want to support their local scene.
Some bookstores also have local interest sections, featuring topics and writers from the area. This is another reason that scouting out bookstores can prove useful. Make sure to check if your local bookstore has a place to promote the work of authors in your area.
Things to Avoid
Mentions of Amazon are generally looked down upon, as the indie bookstore does not benefit from any of those sales. Amazon is one of their biggest competitors. Instead of marketing your book as sold on Amazon, change the wording to “where books are sold”. This simple change can help you avoid the ire of the indie bookstore you are working with.
In the same vein, don’t cite Amazon sales as a mark of success for your book. Those sales aren’t helping any indie bookstores, and only provide a different way to buy your book that takes money out of their pockets.
Indie Bookstores: In Conclusion
Indie bookstores can help an author promote their work in the local scene. They remain a great option for writers looking to get their books onto shelves, and out into the world, especially for those who fit a niche or certain topic. Try getting in touch with your local indie bookstores, and have a pitch and plan ready to go. You may just find yourself on the shelves.