What are the best ways for authors to support indie bookstores?

bob's beach books exterior

Bob’s Beach Books in Lincoln City, Oregon.

A) Send people to us to buy your book!  Send friends and family to us, and list us on your website as an outlet for your book with a link to our store’s website.  Whenever you do publicity for your book list us as an outlet.  People need to know we carry your book; we can’t buy more copies unless people are buying them from us.  If you’re sending people to online retailers we often will not be able to carry your book, we simply can’t compete.

B) Come into our stores!  If you live in town, but just shop online and only come in when you want us to buy from you, well, we notice.  People tend to send people to where they shop so if you’re not shopping with us there’s a decent chance you’re not sending your potential readers to us.


Can authors–and readers–buy ebooks from indie stores? 

Yes!  Many indie stores have partnered with Hummingbird or Kobo (or both) for ebooks.  We’ve partnered with Hummingbird for this so you don’t have to buy the Kobo reader, Hummingbird uses an app.  Along with bestseller and discounted ebook lists, we also have a curated list of recommendations on our ebook page.


Can authors–and readers–buy audiobooks from indie stores?  

Absolutely!  Our store has actually partnered with two indie digital audiobook providers.  Through Libro.fm we offer subscriptions and through Hummingbird we offer single book options.  We also carry CD and MP3 audiobooks.  Personally, I have at least one audiobook going all the time; currently I’m listening to M C Beaton’s DEATH OF A KINGFISHER and Alma Katsu’s THE HUNGER (I’ve read THE HUNGER, I loved it, now I’m listening to it with my partner when we’re both in the car).


What’s the best way to let local bookstores know about new, regional releases? 

Interior of Bob's Beach Books

A view of the inside of Bob’s Beach Books.

For me, email is the best way to let me know about your book.  And if it is regionally relevant to me, include the locale in the subject line.  If you decide to call, open with something like “Would you have time to talk for a few minutes about my new book”, don’t just launch into it or we’ll mark you as right up there with Google and Yelp trying to sell us ads when we’re busy.  You can ask about making an appointment, but please don’t just show up, it shows a disregard for the bookseller’s time and won’t win you any points.  Do some quick research, the info is usually pretty easy to find.  Most established bookstores will have a policy posted on their website about buying books.  If you don’t see a policy, ask.  We do get authors who, having read the policy on the website, show up in person with no appointment because they just have to show it in person.  We totally get that you’re excited about your book, but, it’s inconsiderate that will unfortunately leave an impression.  It may not look like we’re working, we may be tapping away on the computer, talking with a customer, or be up on a ladder, we might even be taking a quick minute to eat a cold bite of our hot lunch, but these are things we need to do to keep the doors open, to earn money so we can buy books.  Hopefully your books!  We want to work with authors who are easy to work with.

Any tips for successful book events?  

A) Advertise, advertise, advertise.  Use your network to get word of mouth spreading that word around.  Spread it around your social media.  Do some legwork, take fliers around.  Ask your event host what they would like you do do.  One thing, talk with the host, ask if you or they should start an Event on Facebook.  If you both have one, it just doesn’t work well.  I’ve found it works best to have the host start the Event page, then invite the author to be a co-host on the page.

B) Our most successful events have been group events.  If you can pair or group with other authors we find there’s better attendance.

C) Don’t give your books away at an event hosted by someone else.  If you’re asking a bookseller to provide their time and money towards an event the best “thank you” is to help promote sales at that event.  A successful event benefits us both.

D) Communicate clearly with the bookstore.  You need to be on the same page about who’s bringing the books, what kind of space you need, if you need equipment, etc.  And sooner, rather than later.  A bookseller likely won’t be able to come up with a microphone or projector at the last minute.

E) Don’t include mentions of Amazon in any talks you may give, word will get around, you may lose potential future events.  (It’s also simply impolite to the bookseller who’s put their time and money into you, to direct sales to another vendor.)

F) Don’t book too many events too closely together–time-wise, or geographically.  You’ll tap out or over saturate your market, the latter event(s) won’t be worth it to you or the event space.  Here’s one article on planning a successful event: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/69770-the-indie-authors-guide-to-organizing-author-events.html

What do you wish self-published authors knew? And did?  

Amazon is not our friend.  Like, really, really not.  If you want to make positive headway, leave any references, links, related reviews, etc, out of your pitch to us.  They sell books for less than we, or they, pay as loss leaders to get people to spend more money with them.  This leads to people not valuing books or bookstores.  If they can get it for $5 less on The Big River/Amazon are they going to do that?  Or are they going to support their local indie that pays higher prices and has to charge more, but also pays a living wage and taxes to support local infrastructure?  The general public doesn’t care that we pay more, they care that we have to charge more as a result.  And FYI, some booksellers will also automatically bin pitches including GoodReads reviews as they’re owned by Amazon.

Is there anything else writers should know?

Congratulations on your book, your new job is marketing!  Bookstores will carry your book, but you have to sell the book.  You have to sell us on your book so we become your cheerleaders.  You need to learn how to sell your book without being pushy.  That’s not easy, it’s a really fine balance.

Many stores won’t stock books from CreateSpace or Independently Published (a name for Amazon on iPage).  One reason is the discount–we need a minimum of 40%, they generally don’t offer that.  Some of us will special order the books, but we won’t stock them otherwise, we can’t afford to give them the real estate.  IngramSpark seems to do pretty well as far as discounts to bookstores go, I do carry some of these books.  And there are guides to publishing with them out there.

I know I harp on about Amazon here, but it’s because it’s a complete deal-breaker for most booksellers and people don’t realize it.  I want you to succeed!  To get your book into the hands of booksellers so they can get them to readers!

About The Author:

Diana Portwood took over her family’s bookstore, Bob’s Beach Books, in Lincoln City, Oregon, 16 years ago.  They carry games, puzzles, cards, gifts, and new and used books, including plenty of mysteries!  Her shop is the sister store to Robert’s Bookshop, which is known for its rare book selection and has the largest used book inventory on the Oregon coast. In 2018 and 2019 Diana was nominated for and received a James Patterson booksellers grant. You can find Bob’s online at https://bobsbeachbooks.net/, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bobsbeachbooks/ and on Instagram as @bobsbeachbooks. The store is located at 1735 NW Highway 101, Lincoln City, Oregon.  Currently in-store appointments and curbside pickup are available, keep an eye on their pages for updated info as things are in flux due to the pandemic.