Are bookstores a viable source of sales for independent publishers?

Selling your book through bookstoresI recently had the opportunity to attend the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association annual trade show, thanks to the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association being an Associate member, and I serve on their board.

I was joined by Cez Acu, an up and coming children’s book author and BAIPA member, and between the two of us, we had numerous conversations with owners and staff from independent booksellers, as well as the folks from Ingram, the main distributor to bookstores.

Basically, what we heard was that if you weren’t in the Ingram catalog, booksellers are not interested in talking to you. They are also not excited to know that your book is available on Amazon, although they understand that is part of your marketing plan. Some independent booksellers will carry your books on consignment, but that is truly a pain in the neck for you and them.

In order to be in the Ingram catalog, my understanding is that Ingram has set up a new service called IngramSpark, just for independent publishers, which is supposedly easier to navigate and use than LightningSource (which is a print on demand printer owned by Ingram). I have at least one client who has gone the LightningSource route, which was not easy, in order to be in the Ingram catalog, but I don’t know if she has gotten any bookstore orders through that channel yet. It will be interesting to see how IngramSpark works out.

All that being said, remember that bookstores expect to get a substantial discount off the retail price, so your profit through bookstore sales is much less than say, through Amazon from your CreateSpace print on demand account. Yes, it is nice if your local bookstore carries your book, and maybe even hosts a book signing for you. But I have heard from a number of indie publishers that they would rather put their efforts into other kinds of speaking engagements rather than bookstore events, and from what I heard at the NCIBA, so would the booksellers. It is a lot of work for them to set up a book signing, and one independent bookseller told me that she loses money every time when she has a book signing event for a local, self-published author.

What do you think about all this? Please post your comment below. Looking forward to hearing from you!