Making Retail Connections

By Natalie Bright

If you’ve self-published a book, it’s up to you to establish retail connections.

An author once told me that he’d only intended to write the book, and never wanted to be a book salesman. Now he’s traveling around with a car full of books. Welcome to the reality of today’s publishing world.  How are people going to read your book, if they don’t know it exists?

As the CEO of YOU, guess who is in charge of book promotion?

Make the Connection

While the internet offers a multitude of book promotion opportunities, for this particular post, I want to talk specifically about working with retail outlets and how to approach owners or managers.

On cold calls, approach them in a friendly, cooperative manner, introduce yourself and ask if they’d like to see your book. Most bookstore owners are always interested in talking to authors. Ask them if it’s a subject their customers might like. Information flyers and postcards work as well. When I receive inquiries in regards to my middle grade book, OIL PEOPLE, I offer to leave the store manager a preview copy. If it’s an inquiry by phone or email, I always offer to mail a preview copy. Be sure to include promo copies in your budget.

Store Owners Rule

Retail stores have to realize at least a 50% to 60% markup in the items they sell. They have a store front to operate which includes payroll, building utilities, and inventory expense.

DO NOT tell the storeowner the retail price. It’s their store, they set the price. Business owners are independent and territorial. If you tell them how to run their business, you’ll be out the door in a flash. Quote them the price you need, and you can suggest a retail price but ultimately the cost to customers is the store owners decision.

Setting the Price

If you self-publish, you have to leave a little wiggle room when setting your price. I hear this complaint all of the time and it is confusing to self-published writers. Authors quote the price printed on their book or the over-inflated price they paid for printing, expecting that’s the price they are due. Shop around and find the best possible printing deal in order to keep your price per book as low as possible. Hopefully, you’ll have room to make a few bucks, and the store comes out ahead as well.

Retail owners are in business to make a profit. If business owners’ efforts aren’t going to generate dollars to pay for the cost of staying open, it’s not worth having your book take up valuable shelf space.

The key, I think, is being able to offer a low price to retail outlets and being able to negotiate a price without being too pushy.

Consider ALL Possibilities

Major chain bookstores may not be an option to self-published authors for many reasons which are beyond your control. Are there specialty shops in your area? What about possible connections through family and friends?

Think about cross-selling. If you have a book of poetry, why not approach a lingerie shop? If you have a children’s book about horses, drop by a saddle and tack store or the local feed store. Stop stressing over things you can’t control and consider all of the possibilities, and keep writing!

Natalie Bright


  1. Sound advice Natalie. Here in the UK self published writer are almost always rejected by bookshops who take it for granted that self published work was unaccepted by publisher therefore of no literary value. Also they are not interested unless you can sell forty plus copies of your book in the three hour slot allocated. If your slot coincides with the sun coming out your chances of making any sales are limited. Here the sun is a rare sight.
    Waterstones, our largest bookstore chain has stopped accepting any author signing event unless the author is published by a large publishing house.

    • That is interesting, and unfortunate for writers and readers. I’m seeing more opportunities for self-pub via library book fairs and club sponsored events. Booth rental is minimal and these events seem to becoming annual events for some communities. Do you have anything like that in the UK? Thanks for joining us at Wordsmith Six.

    • Interesting thoughts! My husband and I own a small, local bookstore, but our main focus is college textbooks for WTAMU. We carry used paperbacks and so many wonderful local authors. So often the self-published author has no clue how this world works and expect to be paid full price for their books and don’t understand that we have to pay a discount price. It isn’t that we don’t want to support writers, but we ARE in business. Even the small publishing houses can’t afford to give us the same price off for trade books. As Natalie says…explore all your options and use creative thinking outside the “book”. And as far as the sun coming out. Come visit us in Canyon Texas and we will show you the most tremendous sunrises, sunsets, AND the sun shines all day. You can visit all our shops, the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, Palo Duro Canyon and so many other sights.

Leave us a word

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s