Friday, December 13, 2013

Self-Published Books Gain Recognition through Bookstore Consignment Programs

By Thomas Hill

A handful of brick-and-mortar bookstores are jumping on the consignment bandwagon. This is good news for self-publishing authors who are trying to reach readers in the very bookstores readers frequent. At the very least, it means that independent authors and publishers are getting shelf space that they didn’t have previously.

The American Booksellers Association reported recently on its website that a handful of small bookstores nationwide are participating in consignment programs, allowing independent authors to showcase and sell their books, as well as sponsor book signings and other events. This trend appears to be growing, according to the report, and many self-publishing authors are diving right in to participate.

Quite a few bookstores, like the Tattered Cover in Denver, offer local authors and small local publishers the opportunity to sell books on consignment—the author/publisher provides several copies of the book that the bookseller places on its shelves—and even host events at the store. Matt Miller, a spokesman for the Tattered Cover, which has been supporting local authors for decades through the Rocky Mountain Authors Program, sees the consignment program as steady. “We try to treat every author with the respect they deserve for their efforts and their desire to make their works available to the larger community,” the ABA article quotes Miller as saying.

Most bookstores that participate in consignment programs cater to regional authors with very little exception. Chico, Calif.-based Lyon Books runs a consignment program that allows authors living within 60 miles of the store to sell books. The ABA report suggests that over 200 authors live within 60 miles of Lyon Books.

The good news for self-publishing authors is that the sky is the limit. John Locke, Gemma Halliday, and Amanda Hocking: these are just a handful of authors who have gained national and international recognition by self-publishing titles on online bookseller sites like Amazon. The international bestseller, The Shack, started out as an indie publication. “No question, traditional publishers play an important role in the publishing world. Still, for better or worse, the days when they were the sole gatekeepers are behind us,” writes Terri Guiliano Long of IndieReader.

Today’s shifting publishing market makes exposure for independent publishers and authors attainable and sustainable. Print-on-demand outfits have started a book printing revolution that has spilled over into the digital world. Consignment programs at brick-and-mortar bookstores in local communities are just another step in the independent publisher revolution that is taking place.

Indie authors and publishers who are interested in participating in promoting and selling their books via a consignment program should follow some basic guidelines in their quest to find coveted shelf space. At the very least, the book or books should have the look and feel of a professional publisher. Books should have a professionally composed cover with a bound spine, a professional layout for all interior pages, and readily identifiable registration (International Serial Bin Number, or ISBN), with contact information for the publisher, author, and website. The Rocky Mountain Authors program, for example, list several criteria in determining which books end up on their shelves. According to their website, the above list comprises the “minimum industry and customer standards” to which they hold all consignment books accountable.

For more information on selling independently published books on consignment, contact your local independent bookstore.

Thomas M. Hill is the founder of Launchpad Press, a full-service book production company, and author of Self-Publishing Made Easy: What Authors Should Know about Book Production (


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