In our business at www.thebookshop.ie, we deal with a lot of independently published authors, as well as small publishers . Here are some basic - obvious - points for authors selling to small bookshops or online indies.
( For reference, these notes deal with independent booksellers such as ourselves - the multiples and larger booksellers have different approaches) .
1 - As a buyer, I judge books by the cover. Every bookshop will judge your book by the cover. If your cover design looks cheap and home made, even if you have written a magnum opus, bookshops will be less inclined to give it time.
Be as professional as your budget allows. If Amazon are printing physical copies of your book, or Lightning Source, or a local publisher , make sure you are getting the quality you want.
2 - Have a social media presence, on whatever platform you find easiest. Ideally be on two or three. Book on politics or history ? Twitter. Historical Fiction or YA novel ? Tiktok & Instagram. Local History or biography ? Twitter and Facebook. ( with Facebook's older demographic. ) Or at the very least, the bare minimum is a simple linktree page.
If you are not interested in social media, then you will need mays to replace that - either in local newspapers, llocal or national radio , non traditional bookselling avenues ( such as supermarkets or garages ) and non book centered sites like Adverts or Done deal.
3 - Why. Why is always the question, along with ' what else is this book like' . Booksellers remember what they have sold. If you as an author can say, ( with honesty) ' my book is not dissimilar to this book from last year that sold x copies and was a local sensation', then all the better. Obviously your book is not the same as last year's bestseller, ( it's much better, obvs) but the reader that bought that book will like your book. 'Why should I buy this ? '
3. The basics - paperwork and invoicing . In the last year, I have had to send a number of authors an explanation of what a correct invoice is, and how to write one. ( i.e discount, rrp, terms etc) . If you can't do it yourself, get someone to do it. Keep records. Some bookshops may collect books from you ( we do ) .
4. As an author, you are in a loose partnership with those who sell your book . If you win, they win. And bookselling in Ireland is a small world. Do not offer a significantly lower discount to one bookshop ( because the other bookshop in town will find out.) . Cover your costs, make a profit, and be equitable.
5. Local books for local people.
If your book is set in, or is about a place, then stress that link in your approach. Those who live far from it will want to hear of it.
6 - Presales. As soon as a cover image and blurb exists, put it online. if you can, get a retailer to offer it as a forthcoming title. Google search algorithms love advance information. If you can get a bookshop to sell or list your book before it's released, all the better.
7- Libraries - Many Irish authors fail to maximise their sales via libraries . A number of bookshops in Ireland supply libraries ( on a contract basis ) - Alan Hannas, IES and O'Mahony's ( each has their own area of speciality) . And marketplace companies such as www.Buythebook.ie ( who are excellent) offer a listing/ bookshop sales service also. You may say ' but I only need Amazon' . Yes, it's plausible to only sell on one platform. But Mary up the street that you went to school with hates Jeff Bezos.
8 - Don't reinvent the wheel. Find other authors who self publish ( in whatever field - not necessarily in the field your book is in.) . Network with them. Copy what they do well. Writing is a solitary profession, selling is a social one.
9 - Word of Mouth. Somewhat of a cliché , but the best advocate of your book is someone saying they have read it.
10 - Don't bother trying to be an influencer. Be a supporter. Support others. We try here ( in our own small way) to do this. We pay our authors promptly. We link with them on social media, and do our best to get the word of their work out to the wider world.
Feedback? Thoughts? Want us to sell your local history book ? Contact me, Tomás at firstname.lastname@example.org today!