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How Do I Get My Book in Book Stores?

Nov 25, 2020

How Do I Get My Book in Book Stores?

Today's episode is another one of those Q&A things, where I'm answering either questions people have sent me about writing and publishing or questions that I'm asked over and over. Today's question is: how do I get my book in book stores?

The short answer is: don't rely on your publisher.

The longer answer is in this episode.

Don't forget: if you want me to answer your writing question on this show, DM me on Instagram at @annabdavid.


How Publishers Lie to You

How to Get Your Book in Stores Yourself

How to Get Your Book in Barnes and Noble

Why Does This Matter?

But What About Airport Book Stores?


Welcome to Launch Pad, a podcast hosted by me, Anna David, where I talk to the world's most successful entrepreneurs and authors about how to launch a book and what a book can do for your career. And before I forget, by the way, this is episode 338, and I am answering the question today, how do I get my book into bookstores?

How Publishers Lie to You

So my background is I come from traditional publishing. I published six books with Harper Collins, and I really believed everything they told me. And so when they told me that this bookstore doesn't want you, I just believed them. So my first books, the first two weeks, they were in Barnes and Noble and Borders back when that store existed and then a bunch of other indie stores all over, including my local favorite, Book Soup.

And then when those copies sold, the books never came back except for Book Soup, because I had a special relationship with them. And then I would call literally call crying. I'm sure they didn't love that and say, "Why won't Skylight have my books?" And I would hear "They don't want your books." So I went around nursing this resentment for years...people would say, "Can I get your book in bookstores?" And I'd say, "No, they don't want my books."

How to Get Your Book in Stores Yourself

Lo and behold, I start this publishing company. And I have a client, Emily Lynn Paulson, who got her book in 60 bookstores. And I have to say to her, how did you do that? And she explained that she asked the members of her advanced reader team, if they would go to their local bookstore and ask and say, "Do you have this book?"

And then say, "I'm putting together a book club. I would much rather order this book from you over Amazon," which is music to any bookseller's ears. And that's how she got her book in bookstores. So I discovered randomly...I go into, wait let me tell you back story on Barnes and Noble; in 2005, when my first book came out, they talked about this woman says Sessalee Hensley. If Sessalee liked your book, you were in, you were made, you were going to be a number one New York Times bestseller because she was the buyer for Barnes and Noble. The rumor was she had worked as a clerk in some random Barnes and Noble in Tennessee or whatever, and worked her way up. Now I wasn't the anointed one by her. By the way, she was fired a few years ago. So that whole thing is over.

How to Get Your Book in Barnes and Noble

Then, I walked into my local Barnes and Noble about a month and a half ago. And I was just chit-chatting with the guy who worked there. And I mentioned in passing that I'm an author. And he says, "Oh my God, do we have your books?" And I said, "Oh no, no, no, you guys aren't interested in my books." And he said, "Well, why don't I order them?" He looks them up. He places an order. He said, "Hey, when your books are in, come in and sign them. And then we can really hawk them as special signed books."

Why Does This Matter?

So many people when they talk to me about wanting to publish a book traditionally, which is to say, sell a book to a publisher, they say, "Well, I really want to be sent on tour. And I really want my book in stores."

Well, authors don't get sent on tour, whatever we're in COVID time. Anyway, even before that, the only authors that were getting sent on tour were the authors who could well afford to fund their own tours.

And it blows my mind that it is actually easier for me to get the books I publish myself into bookstores than it was when my books were published by Harper Collins.

But What About Airport Bookstores?

There are a lot of people will say to me also, "I want to sell my book at the airport bookstores—at Hudson news. I know travelers would love it." Well, what's happened with Hudson News is...I've heard different numbers, but that's pay to play. Though not for everybody. I mean, they're ordering Simon Sinek's book or JK Rowling's book or whatever, but anyone else who wants to get in there, I've heard anything from $3000 to $10,000, just to have your book sold there.

And I have a client, Darren Prince who did this crazy thing. He wanted his book in Hudson News. And so he walked by when he was going on a trip and he showed his book to the guy who worked there and the guy's like, "Wow, this is an awesome book. I love it." Darren said, "Let me leave a couple of copies for you." And then when he was coming back through town he went into the store again and the guy said, "Oh my God, all these people came in and they were so interested in your book. I wished that we could sell it." So it's almost like the dude saved $20,000. And it looked like his book was in Hudson News. Alrighty. So the long and the short of it is that you are your own greatest advocate here.

Another (Potential) Way to Get Your Book in Stores

I heard a rumor. I will tell you, I have not tried this, that you can call a bookstore and say, "Hey, do you have so-and-so's book in?" They say, "No, we don't. We don't carry that book." And you can say, "Can you order two copies" and not have to pay. And if the person who orders the copies doesn't come to pick it up then the bookstore will sell your books.

One key thing to mention is for your book to be ordered, it has to be listed in a distributor site. Ingram Spark is the one that my company uses. And what that means is that you pay $50 and your book is available, not just on Amazon, but it can be in Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target, all the places. So if you list it through Ingram, except in very rare cases, it will then be on the website for Barnes and Noble and on the website for Walmart and on the website for Target.

And in this day and age, when people aren't even really going to stores as much, that can mean just as much as being sold in the store. It doesn't mean being ordered by, say, Walmart, because that is fricking huge: they buy mass quantities and very few books. But in this sort of world of perception and building up our own sort of stories and whatnot, that's the next best thing.

So that's it that. This was me, Anna David from Launch Pad answering the question: how do I get my book in bookstores? Remember, I would love to answer your question and give you a shout out. So just DM me on Instagram @annabdavid, and I will see you next time.


Emily Lynn Paulson book

Darren Prince book

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"It blows my mind that it is actually easier for me to get the books I publish myself into bookstores than it was when my books were published by Harper Collins."