IndieBound can help you find indie booksellers to expand your book sales
I was just moving to Phoenix in December 1999 when an iconic store on Tempe’s famed Mill Avenue announced its closing. Tempe is a Phoenix suburb and home of Arizona State University. Mill Avenue was the street with all the eclectic little shops you used to see near so many college campuses. Now, it’s gone the way of many university neighborhoods, with corporate chains taking over many of the formerly locally owned stores.
From what I understand, Changing Hands Bookstore wasn’t just a locally owned shop – it was an institution in its own right. I’m sorry I missed it. All I got to see was a nearly vacant store with remnants from its going-out-of-business sale. The good news is that Changing Hands had a second location – and in spite of all the bad bookstore news of late, location #2 still seems to be doing pretty well.
Which brings us to today’s theme for the Ultimate Blog Challenge:
Today for inspiration, go browse an interesting online retailer and see what pops into your head. Here are some to try if you aren’t sure where to start:
My thought process in navigating these options: Amazon doesn’t need any further help from me, so I left them alone. ThinkGeek looks like a cross between Brookstone and Spencer Gifts. I’m already quite familiar with Etsy – my husband and I purchased our wedding bands through one of their retailers (see pic to the right). HyenaCart had too much multi-colored yarn for my taste. And Soul-Flower, while cool enough, is a clothing catalogue, and I’m just not in a clothes-shopping mood. That left one site that drew me in: IndieBound.
According to the site, “The mission of the IndieBound Community is to help people across the United States share and find independently owned businesses. By connecting indie-conscious people with local businesses, we’re working to strengthen the health of Main Street ecosystems across the United States. Learn more about the community’s philosophy here.”
Ah – a cause and site near and dear to my heart. You may remember my Arizona Centennial post that included a mention of Local First, Arizona’s movement to champion shopping local. I included a list of 10 local bookstores and publishing-related businesses.
As self-publishing authors looking to market and sell books, it’s foolish at this point in the evolution of publishing to overlook local shops as outlets for your books. Yes, it’s more work than selling to one larger conglomerate (which often do not buy self-published books anyway), but the benefits of working with independent owners would seem to far outweigh the drawbacks.
As always, my first caveat is MAKE A QUALITY BOOK. Do your due diligence and put all the pieces together:
- Professionally designed cover and layout
- Professional editing
- ISBN and bar code
- Page numbers
- Headers and footers
- Table of Contents
- Index, where applicable
- Publishing company logo on the spine
If you think any of these is me stating the obvious, you’re ahead of the game and haven’t seen many self-published books lately.
As Patricia Fry writes in her post, 6 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Your Book into Bookstores, there are other considerations, as well:
Show an indie owner that you can bring in customers and he or she will carry your book. Be willing to leave your books on consignment and the deal becomes even more attractive to a bookseller.
Approach booksellers in person. Visit those within your community, throughout your county and then up and down your state. Travel to nearby states for access to more independent bookstores. And always stop in to show off your book to booksellers whenever you’re traveling.
Follow up in two ways — by doing your part to initiate sales in these areas and by checking back frequently with the store manager to monitor sales and payment.
Of course, you needn’t stay local to go indie. Hit up the IndieBound site to find indie bookshops in areas close to you and plan a road trip. Reach out to the shop owners ahead of time, giving them some idea when you will/can be in their area. If the timing works out, see if you can plan a signing/reading while you’re there. Let them know how you plan to promote your appearance through traditional and social media. If possible, do a radio interview in the area, too!
Your books aren’t going to sell themselves. The good news is that partnering with an indie bookseller can be mutually beneficial for you and the bookseller. You just have to make a plan and get busy!
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
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