One of the most often quoted reasons against self-publishing is the warning that it is incredibly difficult to get your books into stores without the might of a recognized publisher behind you. While that might still be true of the big chain stores who would rather deal with one book distributor rather than many individual suppliers, I have recently been to several independent bookstores and, for the most part, they have been more than willing to take copies of my books on consignment.
True, I have to do the leg work myself - find out where the bookstores are and pay them a visit. Given that a consignment means you only get paid when (if) the book sells, I must bear the initial financial cost myself. But after plucking up the courage in August to approach my first bookstore, I’ve discovered that there's still enjoyment to be had from the process.
At first it was rather disheartening. I made up a list of 18 bookstores in the Westchester area from an internet search and the yellow pages. Given all the doom and gloom about the future of the bookselling business, I thought that seemed quite healthy. However, phone enquiries to the various stores resulted in four not-in-service messages, four more messages which suggested the number no longer related to a bookstore and four stores which only took specialized books, leaving only six which sold fiction. For a county as big as Westchester, it suddenly didn’t seem quite such an impressive number and, given that I assumed that some would turn me down, I almost considered abandoning the idea completely and concentrating on only selling online.
However, I love to explore new places. And I like bookstores. So what better incentive than to put a box of books in the car and take off for a small tour of neighboring stores in a never visited area. If I didn’t find any shelf space for my books at least I’d enjoy the afternoon out. As it turned out, four out of the six stores in Westchester took some books on consignment. One other store was closed at the time I stopped by, which meant I was only turned down once. Not a bad start at all, but now I needed to look further afield for some more stores.
By chance, I stumbled across the internet listing for the New England Independent Booksellers Association which gives lists of all the bookstores belonging to the organization by state. I know it doesn’t cover all bookstores because under New York only one of the seven stores in Westchester is listed, but at least it's a starting point. Given the proximity of Connecticut, I decided that would be my next venture and with the help of Google Maps I was able to plot a circular route which took me through delightful countryside and pretty small towns and garnered me one more consignment and the likelihood of another (the manager was away during my visit.)
It may seem like a lot of effort for relatively small returns – especially given there is no guarantee the shops will sell the books. For this author, the chance to talk with those involved in the business and to see that some are still thriving, important parts of the community makes it all worthwhile. Not to mention the excuse to get out on the road and see some of the wonderful fall colors.
I’d like to thank The Village Bookstore (Pleasantville), Womrath Books (Bronxville), Anderson’s Bookshop (Larchmont), Arcade Booksellers (Rye), Books on the Common (Ridgefield CT) and Breakwater Books (Guildford CT) for their support of self-published authors. Silent Lies is now available at all these stores.