Tips for Selling to Indie Bookstores

October 21, 2019
Ingram Staff
Tips for Selling to Indie Bookstores

Selling online is essential for publishers. However, wouldn't it also be great to sell tons of books to direct customers, inside real bookstores?

Publishers love happy authors, and what makes an author happier than having their own book picked off the shelf and purchased in a physical bookstore? In the following blog post, you will learn:

  • Why big bookstores like Barnes & Noble aren't always the best fit
  • How indie bookstores can be profitable for indie publishers
  • How to get indie bookstores to stock your title and actively sell


Barnes & Noble requires a high discount and returnable copies, which indie publishers like Black Rose Writing (with distribution through our partner, Ingram) can easily achieve. However, competition is tough, Community Relations Managers aren't always receptive to indie authors, and in most cases, book signing orders aren't properly ordered and many copies get returned. This can result in a loss for the publisher.


Indie bookstores are on the rise, and print books are still selling strong.

Typically, indie bookstores will be more receptive to publishers who have local authors in the store’s proximity, especially if you can help bring traffic to their store. Using marketing material such as posters or flyers, reach out to local media to run an ad or promote the book event on a local radio show. These are great ways you can assist promoting an indie bookstore event, and it will likely allow you to have another event in the future.

If the bookstore features a publisher’s title, it will stand out much more than in an overcrowded Barnes & Noble, and they may even actively pitch your book for you. 


There are essentially two effective models for publishers selling their books to indie bookstores. 1) Traditional or consignment agreement with your author(s), or 2) Traditional agreement with the publisher. 

  • Traditional or Consignment Agreement with the Author

This is where a publisher’s author(s) would sell their book directly to the bookstore. An author would order copies from the publisher, then handle the arrangement. The bookstore would either purchase directly or work out a consignment deal with your author(s). 

  • Traditional Agreement with the Publisher

This is where the bookstore would order returnable or wholesale copies directly from the publisher. This could be arranged a book event and is a great option because the publisher has full control over the amount of copies, minimizing returns. 


Steps to ensure you can sell to indie bookstores. 

Step 1 – Search for indie bookstores within a 10 to 60-mile radius of your zip code. Use Google search, Indie Finder, or New Pages. Next, create a database using Word or Excel and include the following: bookstore name, business hours, phone number, events email, and manager’s name (if applicable).

Step 2 – Call the bookstore and request to speak with the manager. Introduce yourself as an Indie Press and tell the manager about your author(s) and/or book(s). Keep it short and sweet and include any impact words that might tie-in to current events. (How is your title relevant to this particular bookstore?)

Step 3 – Listen closely to determine if the manager has any interest in your book. Understand that each bookstore is not obligated to carry your book(s) or schedule an event, and it's okay to be turned down. If the manager is interested, they will typically get straight to the point and tell you their terms. If they aren't interested right now, ask them if there would be a better time for you to contact again in the near future.

If you receive a "Yes!", proceed to the next step. If you receive a "no," return to step 2. 

Step 4 – If a book event or store placement has been agreed upon, then it comes down to the discount options we previously went over.

Step 5 After a book event, or if the bookstore is stocking your title(s), you should follow up with the bookstore monthly. Call and check the status of your book sales, see if there is anything you can do to help push your book, and see if they need a restock.

One bookstore arrangement may not go as perfectly as planned but continuing to work with multiple bookstores and do multiple indie events can result in more sales and profit.

Meet Black Rose Writing

Reagan Rothe is the creator of Black Rose Writing, an Indie Press located in Texas, and a fellow published author. He currently serves on Ingram's Publisher Advisory Board and is a Social Media Certified Professional. Rothe has contributed to IBPA's Independent, NetGalley Insights, and other reputable literary channels. He lives with his beautiful wife, Minna, and has two children, Lena and Walter Lee.  

Looking for more publisher hacks? See our other articles. 

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Ingram Staff

Ingram Staff

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