Why Don’t More Bookstores Stock Self-published Titles?

In Discussion by Tanja Tuma

Bricks-and-mortar bookstores are missing a huge opportunity by failing to take advantage of the self-publishing revolution.

By Tanja Tuma

Tanja Tuma

Tanja Tuma

January is time to review the Christmas sales and cheer for the winners and pity the losers of the 2013. In the challenging galaxy of publishing and bookselling, authors — especially those self-publishing — hitting the bestseller lists seem to be the driving force of the industry.

Authors have more power than ever to influence readers’ minds and tastes. However, they do it directly via social networks or on-line platforms, rather than through traditional bookstores or reviews outlets. Without doubt, self-published authors have changed the traditional views of publishing.

Winds of DalmatiaAfter twenty years in publishing, I joined the multi-million self-publishing crowd with my first historical novel about the Balkans last year. Soon I realized how different the approaches to marketing a printed self-published book are from doing it the traditional way.

The main thing is to get the title out of the Purgatory of on-line only digital marketplace and get it to the libraries and bookshops. However, are bookshops ready to sell self-published titles? More and more I am skeptical whether all involved players truly recognize the huge potential of selling high quality print books from self-published authors.

Over the past few years, the services available to support the self-published authors on the production side — editorial, copy-editing and book design — are blossoming like mushrooms after the rain. Sharp-eyed marketing and sales professionals have leapt at the opportunity to claim a bigger piece of the self-publishing pie for themselves; they are targeting authors with offers to get their work reviewed or recommended in forums like The Guardian‘s Self-publishing showcase.

Although the exact size of the self-publishing market in print and its impact on the industry remain remains amorphous, there is no doubt that it is growing; one statistic we can be all-but-certain of is that a significant percentage (some say as much as 15%) of the Amazon’s top 100 sellers are self-published.

What concerns me is the lack of initiative on the part of the bricks-and-mortar booksellers and distributors to take part in this success story. While the world thunders with new waves, only very few bookshops around the world are willing and prepared to sell self-published print books. My best allies in my publishing career have always been the booksellers and I am starting to wonder why they do not stand by the self-published authors now, when it is more than obvious that some of them are true stars? Authors, whether traditionally published or DIY, need booksellers’ expertise and know-how. Maybe, in this changing book galaxy, booksellers can save their business by relying upon authors, traditional and self-published, in return.

So, dear booksellers, seize the opportunity! Take a leap into selling books of the self-published authors to your customers! Forget the lamentations about e-books and on-line giants damaging your business and recharge the book market with the calvary of fresh and ground winning titles. I am sure the authors will back you up, as we all prefer to meet our readers face to face rather than via mouse clicks.

Tanja Tuma is the director of the Slovenian publishing house Založba Tumad.o.o. and the author of several books, including her latest work, written in English, Winds of Dalmatia.

About the Author

Tanja Tuma

Tanja Tuma is an author and a member of Slovene PEN Women Writers' Committee MIRA. She has working in the publishing world for a number of years and founded her own publishing company.