Do you want to know one of the first things people ask me when they find out I’m an author? “Can I buy your book in Waterstones?” (A large retail chain in the UK, for folks reading this elsewhere).
Do you want to know what I tell them? My books are available to order from Waterstones as click and collect, but not on the shelves in every branch.
But, what’s the difference? Some of you reading this might already know: available to order as click and collect means the book will be listed on the retailer’s website, whereas in stock means physical copies will be present in stores. The difference comes down to money and connections.
If an author is published under any of the big 5 publishers (Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and Macmillan) they’ll be taken care of by a massive marketing budget, part of which is having their books appear in all the chain bookstores, and many small independent bookshops, across the country.
If, on the other hand like me, you have only been published by small press publishers (Blossom Spring Publishing, Eyewear Publishing, Cyberwit, Fowlpox Press) or self-published, your book *may (more on this below) be available to order from major online retailers where readers can collect copies in store, or have them delivered. If you’re particularly keen as a writer, you can ask local bookstores to stock copies of your book. I have managed to sell copies of my books through the local Waterstones branch in Belfast this way; though bear in mind that for any introverted authors out there, this requires a good deal of schmoozing on your part, so save your social-energy bank for this endeavour.
Do small press publishers always make their books available to order from major online retailers?
Not always. If having your book available to order for click and collect from Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells (UK) and Barnes and Noble (US) etc. is important to you, rather than only Amazon, then check where the small press publisher’s books appear. In the UK, if they have an account with the book wholesaler Gardners, then yes, your book will be available from all of the above. Or, if you are self-published but want to ‘go-wide’ (sell books from a wide variety of retailers, not just one distributor) then you can set up a Gardners account through Waterstones – though you will need to own the ISBNs for your book yourself. You can buy them first from Nielsen in the UK.