What if bookstores accepted self-published books?

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If a bookstore would agree to carry your self-published book, what kind of world would that be?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is the one we’re living in!

Here’s what you do: walk into any bookstore, speak to someone in charge, and ask if they sell books from local authors on consignment—an arrangement where you’re paid once the books sell, and unsold stock is returned to you. And guess what? Chances are not too shabby that they’ll say yes.

But they’ll want to inspect the book beforehand to make sure it’s something that will represent their store image and brand well, and that won’t stick out like a sore thumb among all the attractive, traditionally published books.

Here are the basic requirements:

It has to be beautiful. Bookstores want books that entice customers to buy, and if your book cover or binding looks like that report on parakeets you handed in in the third grade, chances are a bookstore will take a pass on it. But if the cover is gorgeous, your professional author photo is on the back, and you’ve got an engaging description, they’ll be glad to take a closer look at the inside.

It can’t have grammatical errors. Speaking of the inside, nothing screams amateur like typos and grammatical errors. That’s why if there’s one service you spring for, it should be professional editing. A second pair of eyes is extremely important, both for spotting the errors you’ve become blind to, and for saving you the embarrassment of printing up a batch of 100 books with otherwise avoidable mistakes. Famous authors all have editors, why shouldn’t you?

It needs to have an ISBN and barcode. This is the only way they can ring it up at the register! The ISBN—International Standard Book Number—is an identifying number unique to your book that helps track sales. The barcode contains information about the price, and without it, a bookstore would be very hesitant to carry your book, because it would cause confusion at the checkout counter.

The good news is that all these requirements can be fairly easily met, so that your book will pass inspection with flying colors. But don’t hold back—make it look like it came from a New York publishing house, and bookstores will jump at the chance to display it on their shelves.

By the way, I’ll be teaching a course on how to (affordably) publish a book that bookstores will love, starting in November. Get updates here!

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