How to Get Your Self-Published Book on Shelves

 How to Get Your Self-Published Book on Shelves

While e-books are great (and steadily becoming “the norm”), most first-time authors still look for the thrill of seeing their hard or soft cover books on the shelf of a bookstore. After all, if your book is on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar store, you can claim the same mantel of “author” as Stephen King, John Grisham or Nora Roberts, if not the same sales figures.

Of course, for authors who are published the traditional way through the major publishing houses, books in stores is generally part of the package. For those of us who self-publish, we need to find other avenues to see our books physically displayed. As a first-time novelist, I have been fortunate so far to place my book in three stores, and I am in discussions that may lead to my first multi-store placement. I have learned that there is no definitive path to placing self-published books, but my experience has led me to certain conclusions that may be helpful to others, even given the uniqueness of our various circumstances. Here are a few ideas:

  • Don’t Limit Yourself to Traditional Bookstores
    When we think of bookstores, we generally think of independent bookstores or chain stores like Barnes & Noble. But there are many other types of stores that sell books. My first location turned out to be a postal store. Who knew? Such untraditional outlets will often give the self-published author the opportunity to display a book, share in the revenue from on-site sales, and post a physical location on her website where the book can be purchased. Just go in with a copy of your book and ask.
  • Check Out Other Art Venues
    Writing is an art, just like painting, sculpture and music. Art venues — museums, galleries, councils, etc. — that celebrate all of the arts, may include a small bookstore to display works by first-time authors or other works not ordinarily found in chain bookstores. Find out.
  • Independent Bookstores
    Independent bookstores are generally small businesses owned and run by people who love books and don’t necessarily expect to get rich from the business. There is a natural connection between the independent bookstore owner and the self-published author, both doing what they do for the love of doing it, and both wanting to share it with others. To the extent that you can support them, you may find them willing to support you.
  • Start Local
    In a brief meeting with best-selling author Ann Patchett, I asked her how a self-published author like me could get my book in independent bookstores like hers. She offered that I could send the book to her store and they would review it, but she counseled me to start local — find independent bookstores in my community and then branch out from there. I followed that advice and landed shelf space in the independent bookstore closest to my home.
  • Use Your Relationships, Your Connections and Your Reputation
    Once you have settled on your targets, call on the people who are closest to you, who know you, and who know your standing in the community (church, school, workplace — you get the idea) to connect you with those targets. Woody Allen said 90 percent of life is just showing up. If that’s so, the other 10 percent is all about relationships. Your friends, family, co-workers, customers, clients and others who think well of you want to see you succeed.

 Don’t be shy — ask. Remember: you, the author, are your book’s best salesperson.

Kenneth Spillias is the author of “Widow’s Walk: The Precipice,” part one of his just released supernatural psychodrama that follows one man’s solitary battle between good and evil. Part two, “Widow’s Walk: The Reckoning” will be released in the fall of 2013. You can learn more about Kenneth at

Takeaway Tweets

There is a natural connection between the independent bookstore owner and the self-published author. Tweet This 

Start local — find independent bookstores in your community and then branch out from there. Tweet This

You, the author, are your book’s best salesperson. Tweet This

We’d love to hear from you!
What steps have you taken to place your book in stores?