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Seeing your book on bookstore shelves is one of the greatest rewards that any author could have. Not too long ago, opportunities in the publishing world seemed almost nonexistent. However, as the feasibility, affordability and acceptability of self-publishing grew, so did the ability to see that dream of having your book on bookstore shelves come true.
One of the best ways to make this happen is to start with your local bookstores and then leverage each one to build your way up to larger chains. As a publisher for over eight years, here are some of my best tips for how to self-publish a book in a way that will increase your chances of having bookstores sell your book:
Related: 7 Ways Self-Publishing Can Make You 6 Figures
1. Your book(s) should meet industry standards
For a long time, self-published books were not as highly regarded as books published traditionally. Now, if done correctly, the playing field is much more even. While having great marketing and publicity does come into play in the publishing world, so does the attention to the physical details of the book. Aesthetics is one of the things that matter most to bookstores. Starting with the fonts you use, but also including having an eye-catching cover and using high-quality materials, meeting industry standards is a must if you want to have a shot at getting your self-published book onto bookstore shelves. Learning what industry standards look like is as simple as visiting a bookstore and studying the books that they carry.
As a self-published author and publisher, here are a few of my best tips:
Size: 12 – 12.5
Spacing: 1.15 0 1.5
Justify alignment with hyphens (words stretch from page to page with a hyphen at the end to reduce gaps between words)
I also choose book sizes that are industry standard, such as 5 x 8, 5.5 x 8.5 and 6 x 9 for non-fiction books.
For children’s books: 8 x 8 or 8.5 x 8.5.
I suggest you properly do your research for your genre and find what fits best for your word count.
2. Your book should target a specific audience
Your cover and title must match the audience you intend to target. Industry standards may also come into play when it comes to the types of fonts, sizes of fonts and the use of subtitles, if applicable. Images and keywords are also important.
Before working with someone on creating the cover, study the covers and titles of the books on the best-sellers list. Have an idea of what you want it to look like while including the formula typically found on most best-selling books. One trend you may notice is the use of large fonts that spread across the book with a title and book description that targets the audience they intend to reach.
You have to ask yourself, “In what section of the bookstore would my book be found?” Then make sure your book reflects those books on the shelves, but in a way that models instead of mimics.
Lastly, the easier that the reader you intend to target can identify with the book’s content, the easier it will be for the bookstore to see it as marketable, which will make them want to consider carrying it on their limited shelving space.
Related: 5 Things to Do After You Publish Your Book
3. You should use the right distributor
Amazon is a great start for a self-published author, but most bookstores will turn down a KDP (Kindle direct publishing) book. Aside from the quality of the printers, there are risks of not selling the books involved with purchasing books to be sold in stores.
Ingram Sparks is by far the best option for authors who want their books sold in bookstores, because not only does Ingram offer quality covers, but they also allow bookstores the ability to purchase and return books directly.
With Amazon, technically, you are the distributor, so you will have to sell to bookstores directly. If they agree to carry it, you will invoice them and ship to them, versus using Ingram, which will do it all for you.
While both provide P.O.D. (print on demand), Amazon follows a more direct-to-consumer model, while Ingram has a long-established relationship with bookstores and is more of a direct-to-business model.
There is more than one way to sell your books to bookstores:
Consignment: Once the book is sold, then you are paid.
Wholesale with a return option: They will buy your book at wholesale at 33%-55% but with the ability to return it.
Wholesale upfront: They will buy your book at wholesale outright, usually at 60% off of the price of the book.
A good place to start is with your local bookstore — and then build from there. Barnes and Noble allows local authors to host events whether they carry the book or not.
As a local bookstore owner of over 20 years in Los Angeles told me: “A good book is promotion in itself if it is written and done right. I’ve seen this kind of success work firsthand; one of the highest sellers in our bookstore is a self-published book.”
So, having a successful self-published book is possible, and might even be easier than you think.
Related: 10 Steps to Self-Publish Your Book Like a Bestseller