For Authors

Looking for ways to get your book
into Mountains & Plains’ bookstores?

Valuable Tips from Bookstores for Authors

1. Know the Marketplace
MPIBA has over 125 independent bookstore members throughout the West, all with distinct personalities and communities of readers. Many are specialty stores that sell subject-specific titles (Travel, Children’s, Metaphysical, etc.). With that in mind, do some research before you approach bookstores. Visit stores in your area and note their clientele. Do their customers look like potential readers of your book? Bookstores arrange titles largely by category or subject matter. Where would your book be shelved and is that a strong section in the store? Just as it is a good idea to get to know your local banker when you need to take out a loan, it’s a good idea to get to know your local bookseller if you’d like them to carry your book. Get to know your neighborhood bookstore. Be a regular customer, attend their events, and become a familiar face.

2. Who And How To Contact
Every store has at least one book buyer; larger stores may have several. Some bookstores require you to make an appointment; others will often see you on a drop-in basis. Your first step should be to identify the store buyer. A phone call is usually all it takes — ask for the book buyer. Be prepared to leave a voice mail, or even better, ask for an appropriate contact email. Have a brief “elevator speech” summary of your book ready in advance, and be ready to go into more detail if you are asked. When you do meet with booksellers, they’ll want to know if you’re doing any promotion (not the store’s job) and how the book is being distributed. Having a ready-made marketing plan to show will greatly increase your chances of convincing the store to carry your book. Distribution is another big hurdle, especially for self-published authors. Your book has to be easy to order, and easy to return. Is the book stocked by a wholesaler like Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or Bookazine? Or are you distributing it yourself? If you are handling distribution yourself, how will you make it easy for the store to order it?

3. Terms
Many bookstores will offer consignment, and we urge you to consider this option. You have a much greater chance of having your book stocked if you agree to leave copies on consignment. If your book is print on demand only, bookstores won’t order many because POD books often can’t be returned. A 60-40 split on the sale of the book is standard (you get 60%), but some stores may have a different policy. It is extremely unlikely, however, that any store will be able to stock your book, even on consignment, without earning at least 40%. Many stores also charge a stocking or consignment fee. You will probably be asked to check back with the store about sales, usually in 3-6 months (NOT every week!). If the book sells, great. If not, be prepared to take it home.

4. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot
Here are some things that won’t impress independent bookstores:

-Handing out bookmarks, flyers, or postcards that say “available on Amazon.com.” Do yourself a favor and change that wording to “available wherever books are sold.”
-Listing only Amazon on your website as a purchase option. MPIBA strongly encourages authors to choose an independent bookseller or two as your store of choice and become an affiliate of those stores.  Not only will those bookstores love it, but other indie stores will praise your commitment.
-Citing your Amazon sales rankings, or sales figures for competing big box stores.

Working with MPIBA

Since visiting all independent bookstores in the region is at the least impractical, MPIBA offers a number of ways to connect with our members, and with consumers. We do not sell or distribute books, but we can help you to make our members aware of your new title. First and foremost, you should …

Join MPIBA as an Professional/Industry Member:
Dues are $150 annually (July to June), and membership benefits include the ability to participate in many of the programs below, as well as reduced rates on advertising and registration fees.

Advertise:
MPIBA has a variety of very cost-effective advertising options for member authors that can target bookstores and their staff, as well as consumers. e-Newsletter ads, banner ads, Fall Discovery Show signing opportunities and sponsorships, Holiday Gift Guide Catalog advertisements, galley giveaways … we work with authors to help them create the biggest impact possible for their book while remaining in their budget.

Come to the Fall Discovery Show (trade show):
The annual Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association’s Fall Discovery Show attracts hundreds of booksellers, exhibitors, and authors. Typically, some of our Show exhibitors are small publishers or individual authors who find this an ideal venue for showcasing their books to the independent bookstores and networking with industry peers. They bring copies of their books to pass out, promotional materials, and of course, order forms (books are not sold at the show). MPIBA works with first-timers to make the show as useful and productive as possible.  MPIBA supports and collaborates with the American Booksellers Association (ABA) on projects, activities and services that benefit independent bookselling.

Working with Other Regional Associations:
There are eight other regional bookseller associations, all offering services and links to independent bookstores. For more about these regional groups go to http://www.bookweb.org and click on News & Resources.

Good luck!
Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association