How to work with independent bookshops

by | Jan 28, 2023 | RHW | 0 comments

Once you have your book in your hand, it’s time to start thinking about where you can get it so that readers can find it. The shelf of the local bookshop is a brilliant place to start but there is quite a lot to consider and be aware of before you make an approach to a bookshop owner. Richard and Mel of award-winning local independent bookshop, Drake The Bookshop in Stockton on Tees, have given us some pointers to pass on, to help you start building good, solid relationships that can be mutually beneficial all round.

  • Use the opener that you are a Sixth Element Author – as a publisher, we work with lots of bookshop owners who are happy to work with us because they are familiar with the quality of our books. Opening with the fact that you’re working with us, lets the bookshop owner know straight away that you have an understanding of the process of book selling and that your book has been published to professional standards.
  • Don’t mention Amazon – it might seem strange to you not to mention how great your book sales are on Amazon, but remember, this is an independent high street bookseller you’re talking to. Amazon is not only their direct competition but often offer cut price books that a bricks and mortar shop just can’t match. If you want to work with a high street shop, respect their place in the market, don’t ask them to put up a poster saying your book is available to buy on Amazon, and start instead to think how you can help them to drive customers into their store for an enhanced book buying experience.
  • Be interested in the shop – pay attention to what the shop stocks, what events it runs and what kinds of customers it’s attracting. Visit the shop as a customer to get to know it. While you’re there, have a look around.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the bestsellers on the shelves. Your book deserves to be in there as much as any other.
  • Appreciate that staff are busy – don’t try to engage bookstore owners when they’re talking to other customers who will, quite rightly, be their priority.
  • Think how you can help drive customers to the shop. Book signings are good – offer a specific date or a couple of dates (giving 4-6 weeks notice), and explain how you will be promoting the event yourself.
  • Understand that bookshops will only take books on SOR (sale or return) – it is very rare for shops to buy books up front. Find out what discount they expect and check when the store owner would like you to be back in touch to see if they’ve sold (one month? two months? six months?) – and then do keep in touch. This takes quite a bit of organisation in timing and stock control.
  • Understand that most shops will only take two to five copies of a new book, even of the bestsellers, on SOR. Once your book has proven itself popular to local customers, then the shops might request more.
  • Think about where your book would fit on the shelf and consider whether you’d rather be on the ‘Local Books’ shelf with other local authors or on the regular shelves for your genre alongside the bestsellers. Ask the bookseller where they’d consider putting it, and suggest one or the other if you have a particular preference.
  • Don’t expect the bookshop to run massive promotions for your book. They’ll do what they can but just because they offer to take your book doesn’t mean it will get centre stage. Mention what promotion you can do to let people know your book is available in that store – local press releases, social media, a link on your website.
  • Appreciate that even the bestsellers are returned to the publishers after six months if they don’t sell.
  • And don’t forget – the bookshop owner is in the business of selling books – they want to sell books, yours included.

6E offers one-to-one mentoring on writing, publishing and marketing your book. Call us on 07970 065628 or email us on for more details.

Many thanks to Drake The Bookshop! Find Drake’s in Silver Street, Stockton on Tees, or online at