How To Get Your Self-Published Book Into Bookshops

Are you thinking of self publishing a book? Many believe that self published books are only available from the author’s website, as ebooks or on Create Space but bookshops will stock self published books providing some criteria is met. Yes, printing your books is not cheap and depends cash up front but many readers still prefer to read the physical book rather than the ebook and furthermore, they expect to see it in bookshops.

Within Ireland, the main wholesalers are Easons and Argosy Books. Argosy is the wholesaler for all the independent bookshops. Easons have a large number of their shops nationwide. In the UK, Gardners is the largest book wholesaler. Many bookshops will only accept books from the wholesalers although it is possible to see if local bookshops will stock your books.

What will the Book Wholesalers ask for?

Kanturk Bookshop

Kanturk Bookshop

The wholesalers will want to know your sales to date, past publicity and future publicity. I had heard that Argosy had told a self published author that they would stock her book when she had sold 25o. I received my books on 29th November but didn’t contact either wholesaler until January – this was partly because I didn’t have time, partly because I knew they would take 55% and I would then be selling my first print edition at a loss (as I included all my expenses such as website, editor, illustrator etc in the first print run) which I wasn’t prepared to do and partly because I knew I had to prove first that it would sell.

As it happened, the Argosy buyer had heard my interview with Joe Duffy just before Christmas and had planned to contact me. On hearing that I had sold 750 books and also been interviewed by Ryan Tubridy, they were happy to accept my books. By the end of February, 105 books had been sent to 32 account holders. I’ve loved received tweets by people telling me they have seen my book in bookshop windows or on shelves. Kennys Bookshop is stocking it too and as they ship worldwide for free, it really maximizes the chances of people abroad buying it.

I’ve yet to hear from Easons although they did request a copy of the paperbook and some more information last week. Not only did they want to know about past publicity but they want to know about upcoming PR too. Trying to get continual PR is like a full time job and I have to admit I’ve taken my foot off the pedal lately! I’m waiting now until there are agricultural events and I will try to get coverage around my involvement in them.

(Update: I supplied Easons from May 2014 and I am now supplying a number of farm shops in the UK too)

It’s ironic though, I would have sold more books following the Tubridy interview if the books had been in the bookshops but on the other hand, I needed the publicity first to be accepted by the wholesalers. I have sold just over 1000 books now. I have about 70 hardbacks left and there are a few out there with one or two stockists. There’s about 250 of my paperbacks ‘out there’ but of those, it is hard to know how many have sold. Argosy have taken 175 of which 105 went to bookshops in February (I’ll get an update on March next week) but they are still provided to the shops on a sale or return basis so I need to keep the publicity up to encourage sales.

In short, you need:

1. A well formatted book with an attractive front cover.

2. An ISBN number.

3. Existing Sales record.

4. Past and future publicity.

5. A book that the wholesaler likes and believe will sell.

If you happen to spot my book in a bookshop, I’d love to hear. Do let me know too, in the comments below, of your experiences with self publishing or if you are thinking of writing a book.

(Update 2017 – all three books are available in all Irish bookshops and a number of farm shops and gift shops in Ireland and the UK. It’s also available as a paperback from Amazon. Numbers sold are almost 3000 of Would You Marry a Farmer, almost 2000 of How To Be a Perfect Farm Wife and over 1000 of An Ideal Farm Husband)

25 thoughts on “How To Get Your Self-Published Book Into Bookshops

  • Liz McCue

    Thank you, Lorna, I have had my first book published “Thursday’s child” is my own true story of living my life in 60s Dublin Emigrating to England. Having been born with a renal disease and later becoming a feisty renal warrior I am now waiting on my 4th kidney transplant fingers crossed. There are lots of lovely stories in this great book. Please tell me how did you contact Mr. Joe Duffy and Ryan Tubridy dear Lorna. You have been an amazing help to me tonight I have had 3 Book launches to date I sold 260 books since 8th of June 2017, I have my books in the Book center Waterford City and I live local I want to bring my book back to its original roots. Maybe get into the big Dublin book store Easons Thanks Lorna for reading my post, Kind regards Liz McCue

    Reply
    • Lorna Post author

      Hi Liz, congrats on your book. Sounds like you’re doing well getting the book into local bookshops. Have you contacted local radio at a first step? It’s hard to get an interview with Tubs now as his show is half the length it was. Joe Duffy always devotes a programme to self pub books in December, just before Christmas so listen out for that. I’d suggest contacting Catriona in Argosy Books if you’d like to get your books into independent bookshops. Wholesalers do take 55% so you need to build that into your pricing.
      Best of luck with it all,regards, Lorna

      Reply
  • Roisin

    Im a 24 year old student new to the world of publishing (I have done ghostwriting online for a while and finally found the confidence to do my own books) and I want to publish an autobiography about Anorexia to help charities that deal with it, so this has been useful. Can I ask who you use to print the books? I was thinking of amazon createspace.

    Reply
    • Lorna

      Yes, a lot of people use Amazon Create Space or Ingram Sparks, its handy too as you can order in fairly small amounts although do check how many are in a box as you might as well get a full box as the postage is the same for a full or half box apparently. I used a local printer for mine (Naas Printing) and they do a lot of self published books. I have heard that a lot of publishers are getting printing done in Spain as it is cheaper. Hope that helps Roisin,

      Cheers, Lorna

      Reply
    • Lorna

      Depends on how many you want Roisin, I know a lot of people use Create Space or Ingram Sparks. I used Naas Printing.

      Reply
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  • Evin

    Really helpful post to reassure me to be patient and keep my press machine chugging along to sell my book. I selfpublished, starting my own small publishing company. I’ve sold over 100 copies in six weeks with no advertising since I hesitated to push the book when it wouldn’t be in stores. Also I’ve been busy with other books my publishing imprint has taken on. Definitely a great reminder that it isn’t just about sales but about getting a message or story told.

    Reply
    • Lorna

      Thanks Evin, delighted you found it useful. I’ve just celebrated my first anniversary with some unexpected press coverage. It’s funny how things crop up when you least expect them – but your story has to be out there.

      Reply
  • Evie Gaughan

    Hi Lorna, loving your blog! Well done on all you have achieved – PR is hard enough when you’re self-published, never mind getting ‘actual’ books into ‘actual’ shops! 🙂 I am curious though, did you use a local printer to print your books or CreateSpace? As I’m about to launch my second novel with Kindle, I have to say it is something I’m thinking about. Like you said, there are still a lot of people who prefer to go into a real shop and buy the book.

    Reply
    • Lorna

      I agree Evie, I do think it helps to have your book in front of people – that’s the response I’m getting anyway. However, as my book isn’t fit into a popular genre and is kinda a ‘dip into’ book for some readers, it’s just not as suited to an ebook and print sales are doing much better than the ebook., I printed them, 1000 each print run which is a bit scary. I know Patfitzpatrick.ie recently got some printed with CreateSpace and Kennys.ie is stocking them. I also came across a publisher’s crowdfunding site recently, whereby if the author secured 250 pre-orders, the publisher printed them.
      I had a good run of PR last week 🙂 but it takes a lot of PR to prompt sales at a non gift buying time of year 🙂

      Reply
  • tric

    A very open honest post Lorna. Well done you. You did an amazing job both writing and self publishing. I can imagine the pr madness gets wearing. Don’t think I’d ever be cut out for it. I find it hard enough to publicize blog posts!
    BTW have been back reading your blog. Decided to investigate why I’ve not been reading you and I discovered you in my spam!

    Reply
    • Lorna

      Yikes – spam oh no!! I use feedly now but read a lot on the phone and then intend to comment on a few when I get back to the laptop which doesn’t always happen! Now you have your new iphone, you’ll be doing that too 🙂
      I have to admit I’ve done zilch on PR since I wrote this post too – am judging a Blue Jeans Country Queen competition the end of May so it will be interesting to see if I get any profile or many sales from that.

      Reply
  • Amanda Webb

    It sounds like hard work alright although I understand why the distributors want some sort of guarantee that the book will sell. It must be hard to choose from all the self published books.

    I don’t envy you the job of getting continuous PR

    Reply
    • Lorna

      As the bookshops can return any unsold books, I guess they don’t want the hassle of all that either so they do set a benchmark.
      Have to admit I’m tired now re the PR, struggling to think of new angles! – I think my next step is going to be working out how to get books to book reviewers and send ten or twenty off and see what happens.

      Reply
  • Dee Sewell

    Lorna you’ve put so much work into informing us about the self publishing business it’s been fantastic. It’s something I’ve thought about on and off but there on the back burner for now. At least I know there’s a rack of information I can turn to if I do take the plunge. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Sally

    Really useful information, Lorna, thank you. Is the 55% that Argosy takes a blanket figure, or is it negotiated on a book-by-book basis? And if you were negotiating directly with a shop, what sort of percentage would you expect to pay them? I was thinking 20% would be reasonable, but maybe that is too little. What is your experience?

    Have you contacted the farming press in the UK?

    Reply
    • Lorna

      Hi Sally, Yes, the 55% were in the Argosy T & C so I presume it is the same for all the books they take, they take their bit and then the bookshops have to take their % too. Easons is similar though I have to hear back from them. I just wouldn’t have the time (nor the handle on all the paperwork) to deal with individual bookshops though even if their % was lower. I did pop into Easons in Carlow today (as it’s my local shop) and they may have taken a 30% but tbh, I want to see the books on the shelves so I offered them 50% and they are taking ten books as a result. If they sell well, then I can say that to the main EAsons – well, that’s my plan!
      I did put my hardback in a few stockists before Xmas and they were at 20-25%.
      The difficulty too is that the more books you print, the cheaper it is so if the books sell, you do end up with a better margin but if they are left in the attic, they cost you money. I make ?3 per book whereas if I was with a publisher I’d probably get ?1 and I wouldn’t have the risk of doing the printing.

      I did contact a couple of farming papers but v little response. One freelance journalist asked for a copy of the book and she said she is enjoying it, she writes for a few of the good farming papers so I am hoping she will get a piece in. Again, I didn’t want to rush it until I knew that people could get the books relatively easily and now it is on Amazon via Kennys.ie (with free shipping) so that works.

      Have you self published a book or are you writing at the moment?

      Reply
      • Sally

        Thanks for being so open with your information. It’s really helpful. I am writing at the moment (and foresee the moment being a very long one!). I definitely plan to go down the self-publishing route (not that I see there being a choice as to what route I go!), but dread the PR side of it all. The time element is bad enough (I’m not surprised you are tiring of it) but the ‘hey, look at me, me, me’ doesn’t appeal – but like it or not, I know it’s the only way. You’re doing great, though. Continuing good luck with it. And I look forward to your next book – consider one sale already having been made.

        Reply
        • Lorna

          If I can be of any help Sally, do holler. I’ve just got a couple of leads for radio presenters and bloggers who do book reviews. Apparently if you use Goodreads too, it can help a lot so next week, I have a long list of things to try. I think I’m too impatient too!!
          It is hard work keeping it up and yet there are things too that I should be doing with Amazon / kindle and I haven’t got around to.

          Reply
          • Lorna

            Start with local radio and then it gets easier. My fav interview ever was with Ryan Tubridy, he made chatting so easy and was such a gent. Plus he loved my book which helped of course 🙂

  • M T McGuire

    Wow, impressive. I haven’t really gone for book shops yet, although now the trilogy is nearly done, I will have to. I’ve read this carefully and I’m taking notes! 😉

    Cheers

    MTM

    Reply
    • Lorna

      You should contact Gardners and Waterstones Mary, it’s a bit offputting for me cos until they get decent orders, they won’t stock it so it would cost me a fortune to send them the books. I still need to keep the PR up though to keep it in people’s minds so if they see it in bookshops, they will buy. The farming papers have kind of ‘done’ me now so I need to target weekend papers. Never seems to be enough time!

      Reply
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