There has been a lot of buzz going around about eBooks and the fall of the brick and mortar stores. While it is true that eBook sales have been skyrocketing, the store fronts are not dead yet. Even with the fall of Borders, Barnes and Noble, as well as other booksellers, are still going strong. But how do Indie authors or small press authors get titles on the shelves of these stores? It’s certainly not automatic, I don’t care what that marketing “professional” told you. Unless your publisher (or if you are self published, you) has a deal going, you’re going to have to earn that spot. That’s the big mystery. How do you do it? I’ll show you how I did it with my book, 7 Scorpions: Rebellion.
First, I wanted to call your attention to a fellow author and blogger, Elizabeth Kolodziej. She is actually the one I first learned this from before trying it on my own via her blog entry from last year that you can check out here. This will give you an additional perspective on how to be successful in doing this.
Alright, now to the nitty gritty. Barnes and Noble has a specific set of instructions via their small press division. Here is what you will need to submit in the overall package:
- A copy of the book (not a manuscript or printout, the actual printed book).
- Marketing/Promotional Materials (they don’t require this but it’s helpful so if you have pens, magnets, t-shirts, etc, send samples).
- Marketing Plan
- Trade Reviews
- Unique statement (basically, what makes your book unique and worthwhile to put on shelves)
Also keep in mind that your book must be “returnable”. If they can’t sell something, they don’t want it hanging around.
Copy of the Book
As mentioned, you need to send a copy of your book. This should be obvious. They want to see what’s actually going on the shelf. You can be sure that they will scrutinize the cover as well as the contents. They know what sells in their stores. If yours fits the bill, they’ll be interested. We all know people judge a book by its cover, so make sure it is good. Also, this is where they will see if you actually had an editor. Indie publishing is unfortunately plagued with works that are not edited.
At the time I submitted, I had custom magnets and bookmarks so I sent in an example of each. Remember, they want to know what YOU are doing to promote your book. Don’t bother to ask them, they aren’t going to do anything to promote it short of putting it in their warehouse. The promotion is your responsibility.
I did this in bullet list format. They don’t seem to care to have some overly complicated and fluffy 10 page thing. They just want to know what you’ve done and what you are planning to do. I separated it with what was already done and what is planned. Keep in mind that this is from months ago, and my promotional plans have changed since then but this is what worked.
Click here for my marketing plan in PDF format.
This is another important one. Trade reviews are not just a few customers who went and posted a few sentences on Amazon or Goodreads. They are looking for “tear sheet” reviews from review sites, newspapers, magazines, and other such publications. Hell, if you have the recording of a TV interview, send it on DVD! I am linking to the ones I submitted below. Notice that a couple of them did indeed have some critiques. That’s fine. They are all 4 and 5 star reviews. You can believe they’ll be visiting Amazon and Goodreads to see what is posted there too.
This is a statement of why your book is unique amongst others of its kind and why it will stand out in the veritable ocean of literature. To be honest, I hate the one I wrote for my own book, I like Liz’s much better but I must have done something right in their eyes.
You can check it out here.
I added a few press releases into the bunch too. One of them was the review for Midwest Book Review, which I linked to above. The next I thought was good because it was when my book made top seller on Amazon (it actually ended up getting better than 35 but that is what it was when the press release came out). You can check it out here. If you have other, creative press releases, you should definitely include that.
Putting it Together
Obviously, you’ll want to organize this beast. I printed everything on white resume paper so it was of high quality. I also placed the printouts in a professional report cover. Come to find out, the bigger publishers use loose pages in a glossy folder. You should probably do what they do, just in case your submission is reviewed by someone who is picky. If you want to jazz up your portfolio, one of our group members, Collin Beishir is an excellent designer and knows how the big publishers design these things. Feel free to contact him.
Now, this is all from my 2nd (that’s right, I didn’t get in the first time around) attempt. My cover letter, which I put at the top of the bundle is here. Next, I actually put the cover sheet I use in my press kit, which is here.
After assembling everything, I put it into a nice new box. That’s right, a clean one that did not have “Amazon” or “fragile” or anything else printed on it. Remember, presentation is key, including the box itself. I sent it priority mail for 2 reasons: 1) because I wanted them to see that I took this seriously and media mail is not an indicator of that and 2) I am still working on that whole patience thing.
A month later, I got a letter saying they were ordering 200 copies of my book to stock in the warehouse. At this point, they have changed the status of my book from print on demand to being warehoused, so the individual stores can now carry it. That’s the story.
Shameless promotion time. I mentioned earlier that I originally learned about this process from friend and fellow author Elizabeth Kolodziej. Definitely check out her books, Vampyre Kisses and Werewolf Descent.