So here goes, these are my top tips to get your books stocked in bookshops.
2. Help the bookshop make money out of your books. Give them a good discount - anything below 35% and a bookseller won't even consider taking your books. The deal will always be on sale or return basis anyway, but their shelf space is valuable, so your books will only make it there if the bookseller can get some profit out of the book. I've heard a rumour that even Waterstones now have a policy to stock local authors, so it's worth trying all the bookshops in your area, even the large chains.
3. Ask if you can have a book launch in the bookshop. Independent bookseller love local authors, because often they know a lot of people who are loyal enough to fill the event. (You'd be surprised how many traditionally published authors cannot fill a room in a small bookshop). Booksellers want people in their shops; they want to build their clientele just as much as you do. If you help to promote the event, you also promote the bookshop so it's a win, win situation. (I will blog about author events and how to make sure they're a success in detail under a separate post.)
4. Get your books stocked by established wholesalers like Gardners. When I worked at West End Lane Books in North West London, we used (almost exclusively) Bertrams and Gardners. A small bookshop cannot stock all titles, so much of our trade came from providing a next day ordering service. If your book is easily available to order from one of these wholesalers, any bookshop in the country can order your book. Gardners also now offer a print on demand service. This is the more costly option, however, as they too need a cut from your book, and will charge for the printing. Perhaps this would be something to consider when you've first conquered your local bookshops?
The thing to always remember is that you, the author, and the bookseller are on the same side. Both of you love books and want to share them and sell them.
It's very important for us as authors that bookshops don't fail - the current rate of shop closures is shocking, so we need to stem the tide. As for booksellers, if as an author you can help them, they will support you and recommend your books. And I know, having seen it at first hand, what an invaluable thing a bookseller's recommendation is.