It was surprisingly easy to get my book into stores, though this is one situation where I definitely wish I had a publisher to take care of things for me. The problem with dealing with the bookstores directly is not that they are unwilling to take your book, at least in my experience, but that you have to physically go to each store and give them the books to sell. That means that unless you’re willing to do a whole lot of traveling, it’s very difficult to have your book in stores outside of your own city or town.
There are two local stores that took copies of my book; The Bookmark, a locally owned and operated store, and Indigo, which is the big chain in Canada. They both took five copies of the book, and both reported that they would place it cover out on the shelf to attract more buyers, at least initially. I can happily say that The Bookmark did just that, and it seemed to work well. I don’t have official numbers or anything yet, but after handing over the books just over a week ago, I noticed that there was only one left on the shelf yesterday when I stopped by.
To be honest, I have no idea what happened to my books at Indigo. I happened to be in a couple of times since I left them, but I haven’t seen them on the shelves. However, they’re having a Harry Potter event tomorrow and offered for me to do a signing at the same time. There’s a good chance that since it’s a Wednesday night no one will show, but it will also be my first signing so my expectations are not high. It would be wonderful if I could sell a couple of books, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
Something that I learned during the process was to bring at least five copies of the book with me when I went to speak with the managers. That way if they said yes, I could hand them over right away. Also, they wanted to see a copy of the book before agreeing, so it was just as easy to carry five copies as opposed to one.
Finally, the bookstores don’t give any money until the books are sold, and how much money they give depends on the store and the deal you make with them. Indigo wanted 45% of the profit while the Bookmark wanted 40%. This seems to be around average from what I’ve seen, though I’m sure publishers and agents could work better deals since they have stronger relations with the stores. However, they both allowed me to set the price to anything I’d like (within reason) as long as it was consistent within all of the stores the book was available.
I’ve seen my book on shelves and tomorrow I’m going to hopefully meet at least a couple potential fans. I guess that means that I’m legit, even if I am “only self-published.”