Saturday, November 24, 2007

Getting stocked in book stores

During my travels across the worldwide web, I have had several authors contact me to ask the secret of my success and how they can get their books stocked in as many shops as I have. I have therefore decided to write a short article about it on here, for the benefit of not only those other struggling authors, but also those who are considering this path. While what I have to say applies primarily to print on demand authors, who it has to be said do face unique challenges, the principles are neverthess the same no matter which type of book you have written.

Here then goes ....

In order to get stocked in book stores in the UK (or any other country for that matter), you first need to have an account with one of the major wholesalers or distributors that they obtain their titles from. It is also preferable that the books are actually stocked by one of the wholesalers (Gardners and Bertrams/THE group being the biggest players in the UK).

There are 2 ways that book stores will obtain books from such wholesalers -either as a special order, where copies are obtained direct from the author or publisher, who sends them to the wholesaler, who in return sends them to the shop concerned. The second way is where the books are actually stocked by the wholesaler in their own warehouse and they fulfil all the orders direct. Wholesalers though are quite choosy as which titles they take on board - they expect all titles stocked by them to be available on terms of at least 55 percent discount (15 percent for them, 40 percent for the book stores) and also on sale or return. POD titles are not normally available on such terms, typically being available as a special order on 40 percent discount (25 percent to the stores) firm sale basis. Stores then are often reluctant to stock such titles, unless they are local interest.

Gardners books were actually the original print on demand pioneer in this country, although they no longer offer that particular service. Once Lightning Source opened a plant in the UK, they could not compete and so closed that operation down, concentrating on their wholesale arm. I was exceptionally lucky in that because my publisher, Authors OnLine Ltd were the first POD provider in this country, and Gardners only print on demand customer, believe it or not, they have a longstanding relationship with them that enables certain titles such as mine to be taken on as stock items. There are only a handful of such POD books in the whole country that are available in this way.

The 3 major book chains in the UK are WH Smiths, Waterstones and Borders. I have not approached Smiths as yet, as most of their stores tend to stock mainly fiction with very small mind, body and spirit sections. Paul who is one of Richard's more succesful authors, who helps other authors with publicity is going to contact them for me in the New Year. Waterstones though are easier to get into than most people think. The guidelines from Gardners website say the following:

"Waterstones buy all their books from small publishers via Gardners." Note that this is not totally true, as they do use other suppliers as well. "In order to sell to the Waterstones branches it is necessary to register with Waterstones, via Gardners. To do this please contact Justin Hutchinson by email and ask for a Waterstones Trading Application Form (alternatively you can call Justin on 0208 996 3477)."

The print on demand author does not though have to fill in any forms, since their provider will have already done this. All you need do then is contact Justin, who will verify that your book(s) is/are acceptable, and then he will email you a spreadsheet of contact details for all stores. Then all you need to do is get ringing ! Justin is very nice and easy to talk to and he will also contact stores to iron out problems on your behalf - several have tried to tell me that they do not deal with Gardners, and he intervened on my behalf and put them straight! He is a useful man to know then!

Note that some branches may ask if they can order direct from you, as the author. It is not Waterstones policy though to do this, and I advise you not to, since you may have problems getting paid! It is always preferable then to ask them to order from Gardners or another wholesaler direct. The beauty of the Waterstones system as well is that once a store has ordered copies of your book, when they sell, and stocks are exhausted, it is automatically reordered, so you don't have to keep ringing to see if they need more ... Having said this, there does seem to some way of by passing this system, as at least one branch has not re ordered mine, but had to be reninded - gently of course.

Borders are not so easy to get into. You need to send a copy of your book together with the usual information (information sheet, reviews, sales figures if appropriate, press coverage, press releases etc) and a detailed marketing plan - this part is very important as they do not take on titles that are unlikely to sell and it is your job to show them that are going to work hard at finding and/or creating that market - to their New Press Department attention Claire/Dorindar to Stillerman House, 120 Charing Cross Road, London WC2 H0JR, telephone 0207 379 7313 email

After that you can telephone their stores in the same way - they don't supply you with a list though so you have to get all the details off their website. This is easy enough though, since they are all listed on there anyway, and broken down into various areas - i.e. London, south east etc. They only have about 80 stores anyway compared to over 300 Waterstones so this is a doddle in comparison .... The other way to get listed with them is of course to get booked to do a talk or signing at one of their stores as I did. Be careful though that they do not list the book as local interest as it is likely to end up the wrong shelf and other stores further afield may be reluctant to order because of that ....

It is easier than you think then to get accepted by these stores, but the hard work begins after acceptance, as you have to get out there and tell the stores about your book persuading them to order. Nevertheless, this is something that the serious self published author has to grit their teeth and get on with. The key is to know your market, understand how the supply chain works and be professional and courteous at all times. I personally aim to ring at least 10 stores a day, which I have been doing for the past 3 months. So far have managed to get stocked in almost one third of Waterstones stores and several Borders and independents, so it is worthwhile. After all, even if they only order only 2 books apiece, that adds up to several hundred sales over a couple of months ....

1 comment:

Mark said...

I completely agree with what you have said. But one can try selling the books on ebay by themselves or there are many people running online stores who are interest to sell business of anything just to make some money. But the problem that can arise is that many people will be asking you to dropship.
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