The largest booksellers, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders with their thousands of retail stores, make most of their buying decisions at their corporate headquarters.
There are also several thousand independent (non-chain) bookstores in the United States. It may be easier to be chosen for an independent bookstore, but you must reach most of those one bookstore at a time, and that takes an extravagant amount of time and effort.
A bookstore must decide which books to stock on its shelves. It is estimated that only about 15 percent of books published each year end up on bookstore shelves.
Booksellers must read their markets well and decide which books their customers are most likely to buy. They make those decisions based on their perceptions of consumer preferences while looking at the various offerings of the well-known publishers. They know that customers are most likely to buy the books from the well-known authors and celebrities who are interviewed on the news and talk shows or who have their own television and radio shows. And the major publishers are the most likely to push their books to the media and get those highly coveted interview appearances.
If a book is selling well—for the chains, this is defined as selling at least a few copies a month at most stores—and “sells through,” meaning that enough books were sold and few were returned to make it a profitable book, it will be modeled.” Modeling means that the buyer will place a continuous order to keep the stores stocked. Much more commonly, unfortunately, a book will sit on store shelves and not be sold, and then in sixty to ninety days, the stock of that book will be returned.
It is almost impossible to get a national chain to order a self-published book because they know the odds of high sales are very low, and they worry about the author’s and publisher’s ability to pay them if and when the books are returned. But you can often persuade a local non-chain store to stock your book or host a book signing. See the local store manager for information on having an author event at your local store.
According to its Web site, Barnes & Noble is “the largest bookseller in the world.” With more than 100,000 books in each of its 800 U.S. stores and one million titles in its warehouse, it is the bookstore giant. Barnes & Noble owns B. Dalton Bookseller, Doubleday, Bookstop, and Bookstar stores. In addition, bn.com is a major online bookseller.
Their standard discount to customer is 30 percent for hardcover and 20 percent off the retail price for soft cover trade books.
They also own their own publishing company, Sterling Publishing, which publishes more than 1,100 new titles each year.
They buy based on 100,000 submissions each year from publishers. To submit a title, you need rave trade reviews and a marketing plan.
Barnes & Noble has a program to Discover Great New Writers, but unfortunately it isn’t open to self-published books.
On their Web site, Borders claims to be “the second-largest and most profitable book, music, and movie retailer in the world.” They have 1,200 stores internationally and have partnered with Amazon.com to provide online sales.
Borders Original Voices program selects a feature book every month for their in-store magazine, Borders This Month. Self-published books are eligible for this program and can be selected to be purchased in their stores if they have distribution and a marketing plan.