Do you want to conquer the world of brick-and-mortar book shops? Then have a look at our guide!
After many hours of sitting at your desk, your book is finally finished. Now it is ready to find its way to the readers. But how do those readers find your book? How do books find their way into book shops after being published? And how could it end up in one of the highly desired window displays of a book shop? This isn’t just a valid question for self-publishers. In this article, we would like to tell you about the factors that will help you to get your book into actual book shops and noticed. We would like to help you to make your dream of a display that attracts readers come true.
- Content is the be-all and end-all
- Shine brightly by presenting yourself and your book professionally
- Wie bringe ich mein Buch in die wichtigen Buchhandelskanäle? Unterstützung beim Vertrieb suchen
- On- und Offline-Buchhandel: Das Potenzial digitaler Kataloge nutzen
- Zielgerichtet und überzeugend an den Buchhandel herantreten
1 Content is the be-all and end-all
The most central success factor for your presence in book shops is the topic of your book. Book sellers want to present current and trending topics to your readers and their customers. They don’t want works they already have lying around in one form or the other. The tracks for your success have already been put down before you even start writing, not only after publishing! Inform yourself about trends and do some thorough research on whether your topic offers enough potential to a book shop. Authors who introduce a book that treats a topic or a certain aspect of a topic for the first time tend to be the most successful. Especially non-fiction books and self-help books are continuing to be a trend for the book trade. While fiction still makes out the majority of all book releases, single titles have a hard time getting the spotlight on them as there is so much competition.
2 Shine brightly by presenting yourself and your book professionallyn
Nothing is more annoying to a book seller than a customer coming back with a book he already bought and wanting a refund for it. Reasons could be spelling mistakes, a lack of value, or a lazy presentation of content and cover. So don’t make it harder for the book seller than it has to be. There is an actual flood of books on the book market. In addition to original content, it is also important to provide a professional and appealing package that is free of mistakes. Don’t make the mistake of not using a professional editor and proof-reader after finishing your book. Also invest into a professional cover that is suitable for your target group. Often, books that have innovative and exciting content fail because authors were stingy when it came to editing and cover design. Don’t add to the prejudices that are already out there against self-publishers when it comes to a lack of quality content, many mistakes and unattractive covers. Push them out of the way by providing a professionally edited text with a great cover.
3 How do I get my book to be presented in the most important book sales channels? Look for support for distribution
As an independent author, it can be difficult to get your own book into the usual trade channels. You’ll lack the necessary connections to online shops and offline trading channels. If you work alone, it’s almost impossible to get your book into the bigger book trading channels as you usually will lack the necessary distribution network. A book will end up on Amazon, but won’t be represented in offline shops or the big book chains – or the other way around. It is important that you get some professional support for your book’s distribution. Make sure that the service provider you choose will list your book with all important suppliers (i.e. wholesale) and that it has an ISBN that can easily be accessed.
In addition, it becomes more and more important to not only distribute your book within the borders of your own country – but also beyond. Choose a service provider that has international connections, otherwise this will turn into a problematic issue later on and will limit your reach (which in turn means fewer readers will be able to find your book).
4 Online and offline book trade: take advantage of the potential of digital catalogues
While digital publisher previews are a recent addition to the book market, this new way of accessing the book market becomes more and more powerful. Digital publisher catalogues like Edelweiss offer book traders the useful opportunity to fulfil their own needs and those of their clients in a timely manner, e.g. for research, reader requests, and more. Classic publisher previews are losing their ground and – also because of cost issues – become less attractive. What does this mean for you as an author? Simple: You can’t afford to not use this connection to the book trade. You will not only be able to distribute your book in a direct and fast manner, but there are also other advantages for you: additional information like dates of readings, news or additional media content can easily be made accessible to readers and book traders. The more relevant information a book trader finds about a topic his reader is looking for, the more likely it is that he grabs that book and passes it on to his customers. By using digital publisher previews you will gain a wider reach than a single display in a display window could ever give to you.
5 Approach the book trade with a purpose and convincingly
5.1 Get in touch with the book trade
Many authors dream of seeing their book in the display windows of a particular shop. Nothing comes from nothing. That should be the motto of first-time authors. It can happen that book traders approach new authors and request their book from the publisher. However, if you consider that there are tens of thousands of new releases each year, it’s like winning the lottery to get your book into a display window without putting in some hard work. If you want a certain book to be displayed in a certain book shop, then you need to be confident and show some initiative. You need to introduce your book to the book shop of your dreams by presenting it professionally and convincingly.
5.2 Choose a suitable book shop for your own book
Do you have a favourite book shop you like to browse in? Or is there a large book shop chain in which you would like to see your book? Stop! The book shops you prefer personally aren’t necessarily the right address for your own book. First, you need to have a really good look at your book and create an in-depth profile of your book. This includes defining your target audience. Only then can you look for a suitable book shop to display your book in. Think hard about which book shop would be ideal for your very special book. Unlike the big chains, many of the smaller book shops focus on certain topics or genres. Only if your book matches the topic, genre, writing style, and equipment of the store, is there a point in approaching that particular book shop.
5.3. Professional book presentation
First of all, you need to think about how and when you would like to approach the book trader of your choice. Have you already set an appointment with the book trader to present your book? If yes, you need to focus on how to present your book in an attractive manner. Nothing comes across as more unprofessional than a chaotic, unprepared author who turns up without a plan and plenty of loose papers in his hand. You will waste a book trader’s time if you turn up like that and then spend a lot of time discussing the ideas within your book. What counts here is: KISS (keep it simple and short). A professional folder including your own book, a suitable author photo and maybe some press articles and/or a press release, or a flyer in your hand leave a far more professional impression.
During a short conversation, you should be able to confidently explain why it would be an advantage to the book trader to display your book instead of others. Is your book a regional title that could be interesting for local readers? Or do you discuss a completely new topic within your book? You might want to practice your presentation in front of some friends. You should be able to present the most important aspects and special points of your book in five minutes. You should not need more time to convince your conversation partner of the worth of your book and that it would be a great addition to their book shop. You need to develop an idea about what your conversation partner is thinking. Does he show no interest or does the book simply not fit into his store? Don’t be pushy but thank them for their time and then collect yourself at home, thinking about what you could do better next time.
Often, book traders prepare special themed tables, e.g. for big events like a soccer world championship. If your book fits the theme, tables like that are another great opportunity for you. Or maybe the book shop of your choice has a focus on local or seasonal content, like current diet trends or self help books? It is important that you take the time to familiarize yourself with the program of the book shop to think about possible placements for your book in advance. It doesn’t make sense to market your book about soccer during the last game of the world championship. Book traders plan their moves well in advance and look for suitable literature. If you happen to turn up at the right time, your book will be displayed in the shop.
5.4 Which factors are of special interest for book traders?
There is no secret formula for being displayed in a book shop, but there are some golden rules which help to score you points with the book traders. You should keep the following tips in mind when you introduce your own book:
- Content and presentation have to be convincing
- Make sure your book is of a high quality
- Current or seasonal topics are especially popular
- Use your regional connection / being an authentic author as a convincing sales argument
- Summarize what makes the book interesting, new, and different.
- Supply professional info and marketing material
- Being able to easily order the book via the usual trade channels is very important for book traders
- Mention it if your book has previously been discussed in the media or been talked about in a radio show
- You might get some support from your publishers, and they might announce events. This, in turn, is good advertisement for the book shop!
5.5 Get connected to the book trader by planning a reading
Organizing a reading is a good opportunity to connect with book stores and create a platform for the marketing of your own book. Talk to a suitable book shop, maybe one that currently has a suitable themed table, whether they would be interested in doing an event together, e.g. a book presentation and/or a reading from your book. But don’t only get in touch with the big names for such events. Often, you have better chances with a small book store that matches the theme of your book instead of approaching the big names that are approached by all other authors.
You might also want to think out of the box instead of only focussing on readings in the usual book shops. Why not choose an extraordinary way for your book? Test the guts of your book. Maybe you could decide on a totally different location for your reading or even create a special event for your special topic? Some tredition authors have come up with great ideas that made them stand out from the crowd. Susanne Friedrich, for example, presented her book in an Italian restaurant. It is important to be creative and unique if you would like to get the attention of book traders and in turn get the attention of readers.
We wish you all the best and a lot of success with the marketing of your book!