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How can I get bookstores to carry my book?

It feels like a big ask — emailing a bookstore to say, “Will you carry my book?”


Good news: Whether you are traditionally published or author-owned, you can email bookstores — national chains and local shops.


What if you don’t get a response? What if they say no? What if they… say yes?! Gulp.


Those are all possibilities. But try not to let fear stop you! You already did the hard part: You wrote a beautiful book, and it deserves a seat on a bookshelf.


So how can you get bookstores to say, “Yes! We’d love to carry your book”?


Go Big


It’s a good idea to make sure the bookstore matches your book. You wrote a nonfiction book about foraging for fungi? Wonderful — but a bookstore specializing in classic fiction probably won’t be interested.


When you find a good fit, reach out and be brief. A few sentences will do. Send a promo photo and offer to send a sample. Be kind and thank the bookseller for their time. They’ll appreciate your brevity!


If they don’t respond, it’s okay. It isn’t personal. You get hundreds of emails a day — bookstores are no different. They receive lots of requests, and they can’t answer every message that lands in their inbox. And some stores don’t even accept unsolicited books and products!


If they do respond, it might be a simple “yes.” Yay! Or they might ask you to deal in consignment.


Either way, this is a great first step to getting your book out in the world.


Go Local


Maybe you’d like local stores to carry your book. Seeing your book on the shelves at your favorite shop? Feels so good.


You probably already know it’s a perfect fit. But it’s still an excellent idea to visit the bookstore in person. Browse the shelves. Buy a book. Or two. Maybe even talk to the owner. That way, when you send your email, you can talk about the book you picked up and how much you enjoyed it — or say, “It was so wonderful meeting you!” — before asking if they’d consider carrying your book.


Remember that this is a business relationship. It’s great if you can create rapport, but you’re asking the store to take a risk on your book. It’s polite to make a small investment in support of their business, too.


Get Paid


Most bookstores will want to purchase your books for 50% off the retail price and will pay for them upfront. Others might offer a consignment arrangement, where they display your books, and once sold will send you 60 or 70% of the proceeds.


Be prepared to both meet a shop where they are with their needs and do what's best for your author business.


Remember: There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from politely inquiring, “Will you carry my book?” It doesn’t matter if you’ve published traditionally or pursued author-owned publishing. If your marketing plan includes getting bookstores to carry your book, be courageous! Send those emails!


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