After calling over a hundred independent bookstores in the U.S.A. I thought I'd drop in with some of my experiences. Generally, people are very friendly. Commonly, if you are not listed on INGRAM or BAKER & TAYLOR, bookstores will not purchase your book, however, they may take it on consignment. The basic objective of every phone call was to get the name and email of the person whom handles consignment for the bookstore, as well as the name of the employee whom shared it with me. Armed with this intelligence, I was able to send informed emails as pitches to the relevant parties, (and could avoid dreadful intros like "hey there" and "to whom it may concern"). It usually went something like this.
Hi Kathy -
Just spoke with Theresa on the phone and she said this would be the best way to contact you. Writing to see if you would consider carrying NINETEEN STORIES on consignment? It is a mystical collection of short stories influenced by Borges and Salinger. Here are the details: Then I would list the title, dimensions, page count, ISBN number and RETAIL price, as well the publisher, which is my own imprint. It looked like this:
NINETEEN STORIES (~4'X6" (88 pgs)
RETAIL PRICE: $19.99
PUBLISHER: BUSYZEN © 2017
I mixed the text around according to the demographic, e.g., if it was a metaphysical book store, I would take an extra minute to describe how my book fits in well there, and then I would attach a .jpg of the books cover. More often than not the people whom I wrote were the owners of the shop, they handled all the "acquisitions", whether by purchase or consignment. For bigger stores there were specific people for each role. A bookstore that had appointed a consignment employee was always a good sign. In all other cases, emailing the owners directly was the recommended route by the person at the register. Out of a little over a hundred bookstores (and thus phone calls), I gathered specific email addresses for 48 bookstores, only a handful of which were listed on their respective websites. On my spreadsheet I colored these emails gold, because they were data that wasn't otherwise publicly available. There were an additional 32 generic store emails I culled from the stores' websites. So after contacting and researching about 120 stores, I had 80 emails, of which 60% were personalized and for the appropriate party.
So after making a 120 phone calls, I sent out 80 emails (I did this concurrently). Of these calls and emails, I scraped together 27 Independent bookstores across America that at the very least, would allow me to send them one copy of NINETEEN STORIES, to consider for consignment. Of these 27 stores, 11 only asked for one sample copy, while the other 13 requested a total of 35 books total for consignment. So all told, I generated an "order list" for 44 copies of NINETEEN STORIES to go to 27 different bookstores geographically positioned across the U.S.A.
Perhaps poetically so, my first call/email is my best deal to date. It landed me four copies sold, with the note, "Cool deconstructed Salinger cover." From there it has been uphill. Throughout this process, on probably four or five occasions, I have seriously thought about publishing my book through Ingram Spark, thereby getting it onto the Ingram database, and re-approaching this whole pursuit by speaking with the buyer for the store whom orders from Ingram or Baker & Taylor. I still may go this direction, but if you are not a relatively big publisher, you end up with a print-on-demand deal through Ingram Spark, which gets you into the market, but doesn't push your sales. So with these relationships I'm generating across the U.S.A., I'd still have to be making these phone calls, and most likely sending a sample copy. The main difference is, if they like it they would order it from INGRAM after they saw the book (reads I still paid for it) instead of from me. The main barrier for not having an INGRAM account is that if they liked my pitch, they may go online and order a few copies straight away. Whereas, as a self-published self-distributed entity, I'm not giving myself the chance to let that happen.
INGRAM SPARK is all told an easier and most likely better route because Indy Stores can order from it with a Print-On-Demand function and SPARK takes care of shipping in exchange for a cut. My feeling about sales, and where books can be sold, and the high impact of e-books and audio-books today (of which I will avail myself of Amazon Advantage), is that for my printed book I would like to retain all the rights, and only split the profits with the Indie bookstores themselves, and not the Indy Bookstores, and the Distributor. The typical deal at stores for consignment is 60/40 in my favor. I also want to do my own shipping, and ultimately bring my own box of BUSYZEN published books to a ship-on-demand facility, whom can provide me a speedy delivery system for purchases directly from my website. This is not the typical entrance to the world of Publishers and Bookstores, but is proving more and more viable as internet sales encroach on classical purchasing styles (that is to say, in store). If you are someone who has the ability to generate your own brand it is worth considering developing your own distribution system. After all, it may involve more products than just books, such as albums, records, clothing, etc. If you have a good Youtube following, there is a good chance you could do better without going through a system like Ingram Spark.
On the legal side, I opened a bank account and a DBA specifically for BUSYZEN business, which encompasses both my copywriting services and this new publishing endeavor. Also, I am in the process of setting up a payment system on my website, which takes less of a percentage than paypal, and which deposits directly into my new business account.
The first batch of completed books arrives today. I'm so excited! I printed them on LULU.COM, but I did not publish them on LULU or make it publicly available for purchase on LULU.COM. They were simply, in this instance, BUSYZEN BOOKS' printer. If I decide to develop a nicer hardcover edition, I would most likely use a more professional micro-print company like, 48 HRS and do a limited and numbered edition of several hundred.
Lulu let's you upload your own cover, so my graphic designer and I worked out this really interesting cover that deconstructs langauge and is a visual homage at the same time. I purchased my own ISBN from Bowker LInk, the main source for ISBN's in the USA. One costs $120 bucks and ten costs $250 (it is worth buying ten as you'll need a different ISBN for any new edition of the book, as well as its audiobook format, and its ebook format). My graphic designer laid out the bar code on the back Bowker sent me, along with the ISBN in the lower hand corner, and the price. It is an official product.
I've also schedule a BOOK LAUNCH & SIGNING for the FULL MOON 2/10/17 at 4:32 PM and invited all my friends. We're going to sit outside and I'll read a few stories. A local bookshop also said they'd consider having me come do a reading, if I bring them a copy of the book and they like it. I think this will be the most profitable method going forward, as people will get to engage with me, meet me, hear my work, and then have an option to buy it, and even get it signed.
That's all for now will drop back in when there is more to report.