Indie Books Now Have a Better Shot With Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

Indie books in brik and mortar bookstores

Self-published authors and indie publishers will now find it is easier to have their books distributed  in the United States through major book distributors, such as Baker & Taylor.  Indie books are now on a similar footing as books published by larger traditional publishers, when it comes to the opportunity to get in front of brick and mortar bookstores.

Best-selling author Kristine Rusch, who also has owned a publishing business and a book distribution startuop, outlines her take on the changes recently on her website.  She says it’s a recent change.  Bookstores now have access through Baker & Taylor, to all published print books, whether via Amazon’s Createspace (for self-published authors) or large traditional publishers.

The changes have to do with Baker & Taylor, one of the major book distributors, changing its policies. Earlier this year, she says, Baker & Taylor made the terms of discounts and returns for print on demand (POD) books by self-published authors, more favorable for bookstores.  Also, POD books are now mixed in with traditionally published books, instead of being segregated, on Baker & Taylor’s lists, Rusch notes.

In the past, self-published authors were at a disadvantage. Their discount/returns policy was less favorable from a bookseller’s perspective, than traditionally published books.

Rusch says the changes will be a boon to self-published authors:

“The change is also great for self-published writers (indie writers) who do a print edition as well as an e-book edition. In fact, the news for those indie writers is fantastic. The news will have no impact at all on indie writers who do e-books only, except that it might convince them to start putting their titles into paper as well.”

In the past, self-published and indie writers might literally drive around with books in their cars visiting bookstores. Only after a lot of hard work would some manage to get their books into bookstores.

She recommends you list your book through “Extended distribution” in Amazon’s Createspace.  Doing so will get it  picked up by Baker & Taylor. Extended distribution costs $25.

Still, It Won’t Mean Automatic Sales

Rausch is quick to point out that simply getting an indie-published or self-published book in front of bookstore owners, won’t necessarily mean your book will be stocked in a bookstore.  Your book still has to present a good business proposition for the bookstore:

“A bookstore won’t order your book unless the bookstore knows that someone wants it. Sounds like a Catch-22, but if the writer isn’t in a hurry, then it’s not a problem. So a reader has heard about your book through word of mouth and asks for it from a favorite bookstore. That’s when the bookstore will order and not before. Word of mouth first, brick-and-mortar stores second.”

Rausch told us in an email interview that it’s best to have “several books” under your belt, before expecting to get picked up by brick-and-mortar stores.  “Books also need good covers and good cover copy. They need to be priced similarly to traditionally published books or the bookstore won’t make any money,” since bookstores make money off of the over price.

Marketing, especially word of mouth, is essential. She offers marketing advice for authors on her website.

 Aren’t Brick and Mortar Bookstores in Trouble?

You might wonder if getting into brick-and-mortar bookstores even matters.  After all, every time we turn around we hear that brick-and-mortar bookstores are in trouble.  But some signs suggest that their death has been predicted prematurely.  According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, sales at independent bookstores are up:

Sales at independent bookstores rose about 8 percent in 2012 over 2011, according to a survey by the American Booksellers Association (ABA). This growth was all the more remarkable since the sales of the national chain Barnes & Noble were so tepid. “I think the worst days of the independents are behind them,” says Jim Milliot, coeditorial director for Publishers Weekly magazine. “The demise of traditional print books has been a bit overblown. Everybody is a little anxious, but they are starting to think they’ve figured it out for the time being.”

That’s good news for self-published authors.  Independent bookstores are more likely than large chains to stock indie books. So the growth of independent bookstores, even as large chains like Barnes & Noble cut back, is a positive for self-published authors and POD books.

Bookstore image, Shutterstock

9 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

9 Reactions

  1. Anita,

    I think this is related to the trends of successful online shops going brick-and-mortar ( http://wp.me/pl08I-3Q8 ) It seems that off line location is now more appealing than ever.

    • Hi Ivan, yes.

      And here’s another connection of going from online to offline: ebook self-published authors now have a good reason to be in print, too.

      Many self-published authors today get started in ebooks because the costs and hassles of self-publishing are lower if you don’t have to worry about print. And the likelihood of getting into brick and mortar bookstores was so low, it was hardly worth the bother.

      This gives them an incentive to want to do print.

      Anyway, it seems like a very positive development for the many entrepreneurial self-published and indie authors out there. I hope they find even greater success now.

      - Anita

  2. Nobody likes reading e-books as PDFs on their computer screens, so I see a huge opportunity for that market to get into print. I also feel this gives brick and mortar stores an advantage because it will create a treasure hunt mentality where people come to the store to find a hidden gem that isn’t mainstream. Online bookstores are cluttered, so this could be a big pull.

  3. Anita, this is real good timing for me. My book,’The Entrepreneurs: Success and Sacrifice’ will be published within two weeks and it makes me optimistic that self publishing books have a chance to get into brick and mortar stores.

    Thanks much,

    Kip

  4. Considering I opened an Indie Book Store during the recent recession and I’m still in business I agree. Though I think genre specific small bookstores are the way to go. Come on to Seek Books and visit.

  5. Yes, this is great news. Two additional thoughts:

    (1) Books offered through CreateSpace extended distribution are not returnable, so bookstores won’t special order them, regardless of the improved terms. They won’t risk getting stuck with the book. LightningSource.com books are returnable (choose the “return-destroy” option) so bookstores will be happy to special order them.

    (2) Self-published authors need good covers, but also professionally designed interiors for print. It’s not enough to wrap a good cover around a homemade Word interior. Design for print is a one-time cost and not the place to skimp on quality. Buyers are smart, and if they don’t get a professionally edited, designed and proofread book, they’ll complain on Amazon.

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