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A Question About Bookstores

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Old 07-24-2012, 04:23 AM
Klayton (Offline)
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Default A Question About Bookstores


So, I have a question that I've been seeking an answer to for a while now, and I wonder if any of you fine folk might be able to help me out. It's in a similar vein to the recent thread about selling to libraries, which I found very helpful indeed.

I'm looking to sell some of the printed copies of my self-published books in independent bookstores. I'm currently drafting a letter that I plan on sending out. I've created a sales flier, and have a system in place to deal with orders. The question I have is this: what about the cover letter?

I take it I should include one, along with the flier and maybe a sample copy. But what should I write in it? What kind of tone should I aim for? Light? Formal? Minimalist? I'm sure bookstores get these all the time, and I don't want mine to stick out as inept or unusual. If anyone else has written to bookstores and got their book stocked I would love to see what you put in your covering letter.

I apologise if this is the wrong place for this question, but I couldn't think where to ask. I've been searching for an example cover letter for weeks now, so any answers will of course be greatly appreciated.


Last edited by Klayton; 07-24-2012 at 06:40 AM..
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:06 AM
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wyf (Offline)
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If its a local indie bookstore, why not just go in, ask to speak to the manager and talk to him? Many are happy to help local authors especially if you can provide signed copies.
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Old 07-24-2012, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by wyf View Post
If its a local indie bookstore, why not just go in, ask to speak to the manager and talk to him? Many are happy to help local authors especially if you can provide signed copies.
I've done this with a couple of local stores, and it worked pretty well, but I'm looking to get a bit of a wider distribution now, and the most practicable way I can think of is with a mailshot.

I've just notice in my post I said that I was aiming for "local stores". I think what I meant to put was "independent stores" IE: small, non-chain bookstores, that may or may not be local to me. Pardon my mistake.
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Old 07-24-2012, 08:11 AM
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How are your books printed? If POD are they in the Ingram Distribution system? Lightning Source allows you to mark your books as "returnable" and suggest a discount of 55% for bookstores to be interested in them. So usually you need these three aspects to get in stores:

  • Ingram distribution (because they buy in bulk from distributors and having you as an individual "vendor" is not worth it to them to do the extra book keeping
  • Discount of at least 50% - although 55% or 60% makes it more helpful
  • Have the books listed as returnable.

The other choice is to do it on consignment. Ship them books for free for x amount of time - and if they sell they send you $'s if they don't then you pay to have the books picked up again.


I will say that in general this is a very costly venture - returns generally will kill you unless you have a book that is very popular and independent bookstores have VERY limited shelf space.



I realize there may be "personal" reasons for wanting to see your books in stores -but from a financial standpoint you'll probably make pennies or even loose money due to the shipping and returns.
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Old 07-24-2012, 08:44 AM
Klayton (Offline)
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Originally Posted by MJSullivan View Post
How are your books printed? If POD are they in the Ingram Distribution system? Lightning Source allows you to mark your books as "returnable" and suggest a discount of 55% for bookstores to be interested in them. So usually you need these three aspects to get in stores:

  • Ingram distribution (because they buy in bulk from distributors and having you as an individual "vendor" is not worth it to them to do the extra book keeping
  • Discount of at least 50% - although 55% or 60% makes it more helpful
  • Have the books listed as returnable.

The other choice is to do it on consignment. Ship them books for free for x amount of time - and if they sell they send you $'s if they don't then you pay to have the books picked up again.


I will say that in general this is a very costly venture - returns generally will kill you unless you have a book that is very popular and independent bookstores have VERY limited shelf space.



I realize there may be "personal" reasons for wanting to see your books in stores -but from a financial standpoint you'll probably make pennies or even loose money due to the shipping and returns.
They are batch printed and distributed through Ingram. I can offer that discount and handle returns. I'm not expecting to make money (I never expect to) and have researched thoroughly the whole venture before deciding to go through with it.

At this stage I'm mainly looking at the cover letter. What information should go there? What's most important for the store to know? Is there a format they're used to seeing? Will a familiar tone work against me?

If anyone can help, I'll be forever in your debt
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Old 07-25-2012, 01:04 PM
MJSullivan (Offline)
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Originally Posted by Klayton View Post
They are batch printed and distributed through Ingram. I can offer that discount and handle returns. I'm not expecting to make money (I never expect to) and have researched thoroughly the whole venture before deciding to go through with it.

At this stage I'm mainly looking at the cover letter. What information should go there? What's most important for the store to know? Is there a format they're used to seeing? Will a familiar tone work against me?

If anyone can help, I'll be forever in your debt
I suspect that what they are going to want to see, you won't be able to provide. In general they want either....
  • A book that has local interest (for instance a book on ghost stories of the town the book exists in, or how the town played prominently in the civil war or some other historical aspect of the town.
  • A substantial sales record
The issue is their shelf space is VERY limited and dealing with a 'single author' rather than a distributor is just hard for them to justify on a time/potential income perspective.
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