Can Self-Published Books Be Sold in Bookstores?

Your book is finished. It has been edited. People seem to like it. But can self-published books be sold in book stores? How can I now become that guy and walk into a bookstore and see it there, or, better still, have them hold a promotional launch for me and my masterpiece? Answer: not easily, but this is not impossible to achieve either.

Can Self-Published Books Be Sold in Bookstores?

Firstly, a self-published ebook that is selling well could have a chance of being sold in high street or mall bookstores if someone does their homework and legwork. Who? You, of course!

As you have already made the decision—or perhaps it was somehow made for you over a period of time and a chain of events—to self-publish your work and tackle this journey pretty much alone from start to finish, you can stick to this path when it comes to getting your book sold in bookstores.

Before choosing your line of attack you will need to have three major weapons in your arsenal:

1) Market knowledge. Not just your average market research, but knowledge of your book’s potential and perhaps, growing, readership. This also goes for the bookstore’s, chain’s or service’s market.

2) Marketing material and direction. Know how best to promote your book. Make or have materials prepared, at least in idea or prototype stage. Your cover is a big part of this, but anything happening around or about your book is all up to you.

3) Business-savvy approach. Get your statistics in order. Sales record and predictions. Offer a large discount for stores to pick up your book and make sure the copies they buy or order (probably on consignment) are returnable.

Fancy hitting the big time?

Yes, if you want to aim to get your book into the only remaining large-scale bookstore enterprise in the US, there is a way.

We all know there’s no such thing as a free launch, and, of course, Barnes & Noble has some pretty strict requirements before your title suddenly appears on their shelves. But can self published books be in bookstores? To stand a chance, make sure you and your work tick these boxes:

– You must be self-published with Barnes & Noble (formerly NOOK Press). This would entail having chosen them to be your self-publishing “go to guys” from the start.

– Of the B&N self-published authors, only “those print book authors whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year” will be eligible to be included on their shelves.

– When B&N announced this endeavor, in July 2016, it was advertised that eligible authors would also be able to “participate at in-store events including book signings and discussions, where they will be able to sell their print books and meet fans.” This in-store promotion is only applicable for “those print book authors whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 500 units in the past year.”

Self-publishing—pure DIY, baby!

A briefly documented example of this process is given on by Jyssica Schwartz, who is a self-proclaimed “Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist.”

Her story tells how her lifelong crush on a particular NYC bookstore meant she went from being a very regular visitor to the store and its Website to eventually finding out about their submission guidelines for authors to get their books considered for sale at the store. After filling out the form and providing the required materials, Ms Schwartz received an email from a buyer at the store and  after another few email she received an order for them to sell a batch of her books at the store!

She had literally been doing the legwork her whole lifetime and the direct and personal approach did certainly pay off. No doubt her preliminary and later emails communicated her knowledge and love of the bookstore, which of course would mean her work would be a good fit there.

For such things to happen, make sure you already have the book published and printed and raring to go with an ISBN all of its own. Bookstores cannot look at a work in any other state—particularly if it’s coming from a self-publishing source.

Get some hardback copies in your hands first

The self-publishing route is becoming more and more focused on ebooks, whether authors are going straight from Word to Kindle or churning out good-looking PDFs and putting them out there. However, if you’re thinking about the bookstore option, then, of course, you’ll need hardback copies of your book.

Without going through a traditional publisher, paying for an entire print-run yourself, or paying through-the-nose for a tiny amount of books to be printed individually at a traditional or even digital print shop, this used to be extremely difficult. Now, of course, there are global and local services that can do this for you and the technology and service you need to take best advantage of is called Print-On-Demand.

-As is to be expected, Amazon are leading the way in this area of twenty-first century bookselling. If you’re going straight to the Kindle with your ebook format, it’s just a quick step to get selling and printing your book in a hard copy form too.

Originally functioning as Createspace, the Amazon service published 1.4 million books in 2018, up from 930,000 in 2017. This service has now been merged into Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP, which all ebook self-publishers will be well aware of as Amazon’s first port of call for budding authors aiming for the kindle market. KDP is now the print and ebook distribution centre and network for Amazon’s 32 million titles.

-IngramSpark is a preferred bet for those authors with stronger designs on bookstores and even libraries. It is “built on the idea that everyone in the literary community should have access to the tools, services, and support they need to reach their greatest publishing potential.” IngramSpark has an extensive range of print options, and, more importantly, direct connections to over 39,000 retailers and libraries as well as major online retail outlets, too. This is now a major distributor of self-published titles as part of the Ingram Content Group and Ingram Publishing: major players in the US publishing industry long before self-publishing as we are discussing it here became a thing.

-Cafepress is a San Francisco-based business that creates a range of products on demand. They can help you create and sell your own books using what they call “true print-on-demand technology.” They boast: “No setup fees or minimum quantities. Black and white books with full color covers. Choose from Saddle Stitch, Wire-O or Perfect Bound binding options. 5 book sizes.” Their pricing includes “book production, order management, fulfillment and customer service.”

Can self published books be in bookstores? It is up to you to set your the retail price of your book. Your profit will come from the difference between that and what they all their “base price.” The base price is based on the number of pages and the type of binding you want. A 100-page perfect-bound book would cost $10.00, and you set the retail price. As their base prices are the same for all the sizes of book they offer, it would seem paper is not a problem for them.

Can Self-Published Books Be Sold in Bookstores? Yes, but be prepared to do all the sort of work you didn’t have to do to get it sold online.




Scroll to Top