How to Get your Self-Published Book on the Shelves of Indie Bookstores

Every author dreams of walking into an independent bookstore and seeing their very own published book on the shelf. And this dream is valid! We all want to take our place in history as someone who wrote a bestselling masterpiece that future generations will seek out. While it seems like this will magically come true when you finish writing your book, that is just not the case.

If you’re an author and have decided to self-publish your book, the job to market and promote your work falls completely on your shoulders, and all of the marketing efforts usually performed by the publishing house will be your job.

But with all the difficulties that self-publishing a book and selling books to independent bookstores may bring, the number of authors who are willing to go through that effort by themselves has increased dramatically over the past years, and keeps going up.

Yet, the distribution of a self-published book is a specific task, and many authors, especially beginners, have no clue where to start. As an author who went through it myself, I want to share my experience and give you some helpful advice.

Why should you choose independent bookstores?

In the publishing world, there’s an old misconception that a self-published book is likely to have poor content and quality. However, the interest in authors that are not mainstream has increased over recent years.

Independent bookstores have become the best supporters of beginning authors, ready to help them self-publish their books. Additionally, they have the right audience of people who come to these bookstores specifically in search of non-mainstream literature.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some tips to help you learn how to market your self-published book to independent bookstores and beyond!

Marketing Should Begin While You’re Still Writing

Many beginning authors often wonder “How do I get my book in bookstores?” or “When is the right time to start marketing my book?”

The answer is: right now!

The earlier you start, the more you’ll be sure that your book will definitely end up on the shelf of an independent bookstore.

What should you do to get a bookstore manager interested? Barbara Steinem, a chief editor at HotEssayService, recommends the following:

Write a good description of your book. Even if your book is currently in the works, or you just have an outline or a small gist, you can already start marketing your book.

Prepare your marketing plan. Before you contact the bookstore, you should already have an idea how the marketing campaign of your self-published book should look like. Note this: whatever you want it to be, it should reflect your originality as the author of this book.

Cooperate closely with the bookstore manager. The relationship between a self-publishing author and a bookstore manager should be established as early as possible. The stronger this relationship becomes, the better and more effective will be your future collaborations.

Study the Store’s Demographics

One of the most important steps of preparing the marketing campaign of your self-published book is studying the demographics of an independent bookstore. If you plan to work with multiple stores, you should be aware of who the average customer is in each of them.

What should you take into account when studying the bookstore’s audience? The authors at The Book Professor say that it’s the same as defining the audience for your book. Ask yourself the following questions:

What’s the average age of the bookstore’s audience?

What’s their gender?

What geographic area do they live in?

What are their interests?

For instance, if you’re writing a comic book for children and you live in San Francisco, look for independent bookstores that are frequently visited by kids and teens who are interested in comic books and superhero books around this area, or even within your neighboring states.

Your Book Cover is an Important Marketing Tool

When you’re already halfway to finishing your book, you can start on the cover of your book. This may require hiring a designer or a photographer to make a creative cover.

But what makes a book cover attractive? The Book Designer explains the factors that influence the success of a book cover:

1. A good book cover is in tone with the book’s genre.

2. A successful book cover gives readers a hint of what’s the book about to generate excitement.

3. A creative book cover is always in tone with what the book is about.

So, if you take a look at the traditional book cover of The Great Gatsby, you’ll see the eyes of Dr. Eckleburg looking over the highway, alluding to the eyes of God. This book cover creates a sense of mystery that only a person who’s read the book can decipher.

A good book cover is key to an independent bookstore accepting your book. Moreover, a creative book cover is the prerequisite to a successful marketing campaign for a self-published book.

Pitch Your Book for Reviews

One more step to get into independent bookstores is working on getting your book reviewed. This is really a cornerstone to your book promotion no matter what your goals are. Normally, a publishing house would find a critic who will review a book for marketing purposes. But since you’re doing it independently, you’ll have to look for someone to review your book yourself.

Here are some legit ways I used to get reviews for my book:

1.Use your blog. When I had my book ready, I asked the most active readers of my blog to review it. The most honest and creative reviews you’ll only get from your loyal followers, who know your works well.

2. Ask a bookstore manager for assistance. They often cooperate with many book critics and have a lot of contacts.

3. Collaborate with an influencer. To review my book, I worked with an influencer on YouTube, who often does book reviews. They have loyal followers who trust their opinion, so this is a good way of maximizing the number of people who will be interested to come and buy your book.

4. Make Yourself Accessible and Available. Once your book promotion campaign has launched, make sure that everyone can reach you and check out your activities.

Here’s what I’ve done to help everyone interested in my book reach out to me:

1.Create a professional email. Share an email that you’ve created specifically for the purpose of marketing your self-published book.

2. Create a public profile on social media. Make sure that you’re active on different social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. You’ll be using them for marketing needs as well.

3. Make your blog a platform for book promotion. The more platforms you use for marketing, the better.

The independent bookstores you’ll reach out to can only do so much to market your book, so it’s mostly your job to create as many ways as possible to make this marketing campaign successful.

Deciding to self-publish your book and take control of your own marketing and promotion can seem daunting. Just remember, no one knows your book better than you, so you are your best advocate. Though you may encounter challenges along the way, focusing your efforts and following these tips can help put you on the road to indie author success!


Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit

Close Menu