If you want to do bookstore signings in Barnes & Nobles, you must make your book RETURNABLE when you set up your title through Lightning Source. You can choose to have LSI either destroy the books or ship them to you. Either way, you’re paying for the returns. It comes out of your income/royalties from LSI.
Not only do you have to make it returnable through LSI, it has to also be at a 55% discount to the bookstores. Again, this sucks; but it’s necessary if you want bookstores to carry it.
Once it shows up in Ingrams database as returnable and at least a 55% discount, you’re ready to go. (Give it a few weeks to be sure.)
Then you (as the publisher) must send two finished books, a letter of intent, and a detailed marketing plan to:
Diane Simowski Small Press Dept. Barnes & Noble, Inc. 122 Fifth Ave. New York, NY 10011
Then, cross your fingers. If you did your job by hiring a good editor, cover artist, layout designer, etc., and the quality of writing and visual presentation is up-to-par, then there is no reason Barnes & Noble won’t carry your book in their warehouse.
Reality Check: This still doesn’t mean it’s on the shelves in every bookstore, though. It means that B&N can get them faster, since they’re in their own warehouse, and that you can do book signings in their stores, the single best way as a micro/indie publisher to GET BOOKS ON THE SHELF. It is a lot of work. A lot of travel.
When you do a signing, they’ll over-buy because they know they can return what doesn’t sell. Yes. You pay for any returns. But returning them to their own warehouse rather than to LSI means that another Barnes & Noble can then carry them, so they’re not returned to LSI right away.
Shelf space is precious. Barnes & Noble carries millions of books in the database, but any given store only has room for about 100,000. Much of this shelf space is occupied by bestsellers, classics, and publisher-purchased space. That’s right, major publishers buy bookstore real estate.
How to the NYBBs get so many of their books on the bookstore shelves? Big Boys have two things you don’t:
Sales Representatives that negotiate huge purchases for a title or several titles from your catalog with B&N Corporate in NYC.
Deep pockets to pay for good bookstore placement.
Oh yeah. They pay for it. They pay BIG for it.
You know that table in every Barnes & Noble that says “New in Paperback”?
Publishers PAY BIG BUCKS to have their books on that table. Same goes for “New Releases,” certainly not every one of the 800 books published on a given day will be on that shelf. Nope. Only the ones that PAY to be there. And B&N Corporate won’t even talk to a small publisher about buying bookshelf space.
Same goes for end caps.
Publishers pay big because they know that 60% of book sales are from bookstore placement.
You simply cannot compete with that. This is part of the “cons” of being “self-published” or with an indie publisher.
The only prominent display in B&N that’s not paid for is the “Bookseller Recommends” section. If you can get in good with one of the booksellers, perhaps they’ll “recommend” your book. So be friendly and personable and use those networking skills when you do your book signings, perhaps an employee will put your book in that coveted section.
There is another way to get your book on their bookshelves and that is to have a book signing there. If the CRM (Community Relations Manager) is worth their salt, then they’ll have posters in the window leading up to your event, a display of your books before and after you’re there, and you’ll be mentioned in the calendar. Likely your books will be returned after about a month, but that is still a month of shelf space surrounding an event. If you’re really lucky, they’ll keep a copy or two on hand.
Ethan and I have done about 100 Barnes & Noble book signings from coast to coast. About 30% of the CRMs really, truly cared and did their job extremely well, which means a successful signing for you and for them. About 40% were just going through the motions, and the final 30% weren’t even there on the night of our signing. So obviously don’t care.
We kept a list.
As for Independent Bookstores, many many many of them will deal directly with the publisher (i.e. you) on consignment or wholesale. Get to know your local booksellers. Also check out IndieBound for a list of Independent Bookstores nationwide.
This is even more work because there isn’t a central office or uniform process.
Have I mentioned that a day job is much less stress, much less work, and a steady paycheck. I did mention that, right?
Do you think bookstores are the best place for an indie author to market their books? Or should they focus their efforts toward online sales?