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From Your Hands to Your Fans: How to Get Your Book on Consignment

There’s nothing quite like holding your first finished self-published book in your hands. 

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Enjoy these precious moments of accomplishment — give yourself a hot bath, call your mom, have a cocktail (or five). But then it’s time to get back to work on one of the most important parts of being a self-published author: selling your book.

With so many platforms and vendors, where do you start? Many self-published authors choose to sell their books on consignment at book stores. And when done correctly, consignment can really pay off.

What is Selling Your Book on Consignment?

Let’s clear up the basics first: selling your book on consignment means you don’t receive income until your books are sold. It’s an agreement that’s meant to help protect a book seller from investing in a book they can’t sell by not having to pay the author anything until the book is sold. 

But on the flip side, consignment also makes books sellers more likely to give self-published authors’ books a place on their shelves.  

Typically, you can expect to do a 60/40 split with the book store upon signing a contract — 60% to you, 40% to the store. Note that you’ll have to factor in expenses like shipping. 

It’s natural to be nervous before taking your first step toward getting your books on shelves. Curb that fear with this step-by-step guide on how to get a book store to sell your self-published books on consignment.

Prepare Your Summary

The book stores you approach with your book will want a summary of your book to tell if it’s the right fit for their shop.

Prepare a short blurb, as well as a detailed summary to share with the book store owner. Be sure to highlight some great selling points — have you been told your book gives people goosebumps? Let the store owner know!

Update Your Website

You’ll want to make sure your author site is looking professional, and your book is featured in a noticeable place on your website such as the homepage or an easily accessible tab.

An incredible author site is another tool to show book store owners you’re serious about selling your book. Be sure to add book reviews, images of the book, and your summary for a one-stop-shop for your site browsers.

If you have an author blog, write a new one specifically about the book you’re looking to sell, and your thoughts and motives behind it to create a more personal angle to your outreach. 

Choose Your Bookstores

Hunt around for bookstores that seem like the best fit for selling your book. If you wrote a new book of poetry, skip the bookstores that specialize in mystery thrillers or antique books.

Take the time to visit the bookstores that seem like the best fit and begin to cultivate a relationship with employees, managers and owners before you pitch your books. 

Pay attention to the demographics of the store, and make sure they align with the audience you want to target. Attend signings, make a purchase, and chat with the employees when possible. This is a great time to get the owner or buyer’s contact information, too. 

Get Your Fans Involved

Encourage your fans and social media followers to help with the process of drumming up some attention for your book. Suggest that they request your book at their local bookstores — especially ones you plan to approach with your consignment pitch.

If you pitch a consignment deal with a book store that’s already heard of your book, it’s more likely that they’ll want to carry it.

Contact the Bookstores

To avoid wasting your time (as well as the bookstores’), first, email your point of contact and set up an appointment. 

This will help you feel better prepared and appear more professional. Feel free to send a brief summary of your book and a link to your author page along with your request to pique initial interest. 

Meet with the Book Store Manager

Approach your meeting with the bookstore owner or manager like an interview. Any good manager will be more open to selling your book if you appear to be a professional who will pull your weight in the book promotion and marketing process. 

Share your motives behind your book, your target audience and the ways that you believe your book will benefit their store’s selection. Be sure to highlight any sales your book has already made, and how you intend to market it even further. 

Pro tip: When mentioning book credentials, avoid pointing out your sales on big competitor sites like Amazon — this will only be discouraging to someone hoping your book sells in their store.

Final Touches

Once you’ve made an agreement with the bookstore to sell your book on consignment, make sure you get it in writing. Oftentimes, bookstores will already have a standard consignment agreement prepared before the deal is made. 

Review your agreement carefully, and note things like invoice periods, promotional plans, etc. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can even have a lawyer or your literary agent go over it

Follow Up

Book stores can view selling consignment books as extra work for them. Many prefer to work with authors who follow up semi-regularly (around every 4-6 weeks) in the months following the book’s release, then about every 3 month after that. 

Plan to stop by occasionally to check in on sales, submit an invoice, etc. While you’re in, if you see that your book isn’t selling, you can fine tune your promotion strategy. See about putting up a poster or organizing a signing event to help drive sales.

It may seem like a bit of a journey getting your book on shelves, but once you see them on display or better yet in the hands of new fans, you’ll know it was all worth it. 

Feel like you need some support in the process? It may be a good time to consider hiring a literary agent »

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

Leave a comment

James Ryan
8 months ago
414dc169c408bb637250e85d35aa70a2

I need a list of bookstores who sell business/salespeople books. Any suggestions? Thanks, Jim

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