How to sell your self-published book offline in-stores at Chapters/Indigo
In the age of internet marketing and selling, it is easy for alternative book selling methods to fall by the wayside. There is no denying that online selling can be very effective —when executed with skill and a good strategy. Yet the same can be said for offline bookselling.
If you are a self-published or a traditionally-published author living in Canada, this bookselling guide is for you. I have written it to tell you about a lucrative bookselling opportunity (you might be missing out on) that exist offline and the step-by-step process of how to take full advantage of it.
It is true that the advancements in technology have impacted the ways in which books are bought and sold —this unfortunately, has led to the closures of many independent bookstores in Canada. Yet this same reality has streamlined the majority of the bookselling and buying done in the country through the largest book retailer, Chapters—Indigo. As result, the market condition has created what I have found to be a lucrative bookselling opportunity for authors who would tap into it.
Let me explain.
This book retailer, for example, is always on the look-out for authors (self-published or traditionally-published) who can bring in book-sales revenue. Let’s be frank, Chapters—Indigo is a business and like any other business, they exist to make money by selling products —primarily books. One of the ways in which they work closely with authors, is through their in-store book-signing events.
To put it simply, an in-store book event is a one day event held by a Chapters or Indigo bookstore to connect authors with readers. The author tells readers about his or her book, signs and sells as many copies of the book as their scheduled in-store visit would allow. Not long after that, the author receives a cheque in the mail for the total copies sold, less the bookstore’s cut of the action.
Although this book marketing strategy is very effective in generating consistent book-sales, for the inexperienced self-published author, it can prove to be a complete failure. As a result, in-store bookselling has not been popular among many authors who, having tried and failed to make it work, had given up.
But this doesn’t have to be your reality, you can succeed with this bookselling method and this guide will show you how. By the end of it, you will know how to sell 25 or copies of your book at your next in-store book event with Chapters—Indigo and how to avoid the common pit-falls that many independent-authors experience when selling in-stores.
Why am I qualified to write such a guide, you ask?
Well, that is a fair question and here is my answer —if I may proceed humbly. Name is Yahaya Baruwa, I am a self-published author of three independent novels (two of which are currently for sale). In 2013, on Thursday February 28, I took a leap of faith and quit my not-so-very-elegant full-time job at a reputable global corporation. Trust me —I am not trying to impress you by this, however it was something I needed to do —out of desperation. My journey with Chapters-Indigo really kicked-off on Saturday March 02, 2013 and I have never looked back since then. (I had done my first few book-signing events in 2011 to sell my self-published book Struggles of a Dreamer). Fast-forward to now —the year 2020 —I have done close to 1,000 in-store book-signing events and I have printed and sold thousands of copies of my novels.
The entire process was not easy however —the truth is, it was quite difficult to master. I have spent over 8,000 hours standing in-stores, interacting with more than 100,000 people and I have driven over 100,000 kilometres in my Mitsubishi Lancer and spent many hours traveling by buses and trains —to do book-signing events all-over Ontario. I am happy to say that I have mastered the art of selling a book in-person in a Chapters—Indigo bookstore and I want to teach you how to do just that —with half the effort.
In this article, I am going to teach you a simple step-by-step blueprint that I invented and used to sell over 43,000 copies of my novels offline in-stores at Chapters—Indigo bookstores, I call it —The 1-Minute Bookselling Blueprint. This system will arm you with the strategy you need to sell 25 or more copies of your self-published book at your next in-store book-signing event.
Obviously, I cannot cover everything in this article so I will focus on the most important parts. But that being said, if you are serious about elevating your book-sales, then invite you to get started, for free, with the in-depth version of the online course here.
Getting Ready for your In-store Book Event
In this section, I will cover everything you need to do before your in-store book-signing event. You will quickly notice how each of these work together to make your in-store book event a success.
Confirm your book-signing event
You are super excited about having booked your first in-store event only to show-up at the store to find that another author has been booked and/or that the bookstore team had no idea you where coming in for an event.
The truth is, mistakes happen and neither you nor the event manger is immune. To avoid the headaches (and resentments) that may be caused by wasted travel time and expenses —confirm your event booking ahead of time. Email or call the store’s event manager ahead of time to remind them that you are coming in for your event.
A peaceful mind is your priority for your event day —the goal is to arrive on time, get setup and begin to sell your book in as little time as possible.
Stand up Banner Display
Have a quality and well designed banner display ready for your event —I recommend that it consist of both your book cover(s) and author picture. More on this later-on.
You are going to need a pen to autograph your books for readers —I recommend that you carry two pens on your person.
I beg you —do yourself and your brand image (as a self-published author) a favour —select your outfit with care. The truth is, many prejudice are already working against you as an independent author —you want to harness your strengths, not your weaknesses. People will always judge a book by its cover —the same applies to you. The way you dress will tell people how you are to be addressed —dress with respect and you will be treated with and given respect.
Prepare your outfit ahead of time —wash what needs to be washed and iron what needs to be ironed. If you want to sell 25 or more copies of your books —you are going to have to dress to impress both your reader and yourself.
When you make a good impression on your potential reader they will stop and listen to what you have to say to them and the more people listen to you about your self-published book, the more copies of it you will sell during your in-store book event.
On a personally level —when you are well dressed, you experience a higher confidence level unlike you would feel when walking around the mall in your favorite pjs. Hence, knowing how good you look, you experience almost no-reservation about inviting bookstore guests to hear about your book. They see how confident you are and they naturally want to be associated with you.
People are drawn to people who they perceive to be a source of increase for them.
Pro Tip: A bee is attracted to a vibrant flower, not a withered one.
Taking the time to meal-prep before your in-store book event is something worth doing. For one, it saves you time and money —you won’t need to go rushing off in search of fast-food, instead you only spend 20 or so minutes eating the food you brought.
You also want to bring a refillable bottle of water —when you are hydrated, you perform better. But avoid over hydration to prevent multiple washroom breaks.
Keep in mind, the longer you spend away from your signing, the longer it will take you to “get back into it” again.
Your Cell Phone
Do yourself a favour —leave the phone in the car (if you have one), far out of sight with your belongings or in the managers office (if he or she is okay with it —remember to ask politely).
A phone in your pocket is a guaranteed distraction —whether it is turned-on or off. The reality is, when you are distracted, your book-sales tend to suffer. Check your phone during your meal break (if you really have to).
I recommend letting loved ones know, ahead of time, if you will be unreachable during your book event.
This is what your in-store book event set-up should look like (picture by Joseph L.)
Getting setup in-store
Your Event Table
The store will provide you with a table and cover to display your book on, however, keep in mind that stores may sometimes not have the room (for one reason or another) to accommodate a full-sized table. In this case, you will be provider with a smaller than usual table or a cube-like furniture to display your books.
The key here is to be versatile and understanding.
A quick note about chairs and sitting —please, and I say again, please, do not sit down if you are capable of standing. Have you ever tried having a heart-felt conversation with someone who is seated behind a table while you have to remain standing? Surely you might think that the person is not very personable and perhaps a bit disrespectful —especially if you have taken a few moments out of your busy day to listen to him or her.
This is how your potential reader is going to feel when you try to tell them about your book while you remain seated behind the table at your book event. Self-published authors who make common mistakes like this one don’t sell very many copies of their books, as result, they fail to apply this in-store bookselling method successfully and give up.
The goal is to be likeable, to inspire strangers to want to hear what you have to say and at the end, buy your book. Ditch the chair and stand in front of your table, you have plenty of time to sit down during your meal break (away from your table).
Organizing Your Books on the table
Depending on how many copies you brought with you, stack your books into multiple columns — instead of spreading them all over the table. For example, for my own in-store events, I would bring-in at least 100 copies of my book —these I would stack into 3 columns. By doing this, I can focus all of my attention on the stacks of books before me —the total number of copies I intend to sell for the day (see my attached picture for an illustration).
This is a small but very powerful hack that enables you to increase your book-sales. As you sell your books, the columns reduce in height and this motivates you to maintain the bookselling momentum. Doing this makes it possible for you to sell 25 or more copies of your self-published book during your in-store event.
Your Standup Display Banner
A standup display is a powerful tool at your disposal —from my experience, it can boost your book-sales significantly. It works by attracting the right people to hear about your book and (again) the more people who hear about your book, the more copies you are going to sell. Side-note: Place your banner in front of your table, on either the right or the left side.
Banner Design Tip: I highly recommend that your banner be designed and printed by a professional —spend the money to do it right even if it cost a little bit extra —you will make your money back. For example, I have a banner that was created in January 2011 —between then and now (2020), I have used it for close to 1,000 in-store events and have sold over $900,000 in books. A standup display is an important investment for self-published authors who are serious about their success.
Pro Tip: Arrive in-store with the intention to sell-out all of your books and you will sell out.
Having done nearly 1,000 in-store book events with Chapters-Indigo bookstores, I have worked with many managers. Here is what some of them have to say about my ability to sell my self-published book in-store:
“Yahaya has mastered the art of perseverance and determination; he exudes a level of consistency needed with the challenges of self marketing a book from scratch. Yahaya takes every "no" with the same level of positivity and enthusiasm as he does a sale. His commitment to the process and the confidence that comes with his patience, has given him the most success of any author I've had the pleasure to work with in my 8 years at Indigo...by a wide margin.”
—Stefan R., CEM - Cash, Tech, & Ops, Indigo Yonge & Eglinton - Store 278
“Yahaya is the most successful consignment author here at Chapters, in Peterborough. His open and genuine approach wins his reader's loyalty. He consistently sells 50 to 70 (or more) books each time he visits our store. I am excited that he intends to teach and mentor consignment authors.”
—Nadine P., Consignment Representative, Chapters 930, Peterborough.
How to sell your self-published book —The step-by-step method
So you have booked your in-store book event, have arrived and are all set-up to sell your book —what’s next? Follow these steps:
- The Invitation —Invite a store guest to hear about your book. The beauty of selling your book in-store is that you speak mainly with people who are into books or know others who are. To offer an invitation, simply ask, “May I tell you about my book?”
- This question and the yes or no response to it automatically filters out those who are interested from those who aren’t. Sharing your book only with people who say yes to hearing about it, significantly increases your book-sales. Again, the more (qualified) people you share your book with (even when your story is not delivered perfectly), the more copies you will sell.
- Put your book in their hands —Invite the guest to hold and look at your book! The wise car sales-person hands his or her customer the car key and offers a test drive. You want the reader to buy and read your book —so why not put the book into their hands so that can begin to own it? This is where the customer sells themselves on your book.
- Tell them about your book —When you tell the reader about your book, be yourself —this makes it easy to be genuine and relaxed. When you are yourself, you also inspire the reader to be themselves. Remember to be concise, get to the point without rushing and focus only on sharing your book well not on “selling” it. The book sale will automatically follow after your delivery (if the reader is interested in reading it).
- The invitation to purchase your book —This is perhaps the easiest part of the whole process. I never ask the reader to “buy” my book, instead this is what I say, “…and if the book sounds like something you’d like to try, I will be happy to sign it for you.” When you say this, you allow yourself and the reader to avoid feeling pressured to sell or buy the book (accordingly). By using the word “try” instead of “buy,” you make the process an experience, rather than a “pitch” —but more importantly, you inspire an atmosphere in which the reader is allowed to say “no, it’s not for me.”
- Side-note: Letting the reader say no is just as important as wanting them to say yes —it saves you from book loss which occurs when people who say yes (only as an escape), abandon the book somewhere in the store. Therefore, I recommend taking rejections graciously, it is for your own good.
- Sign the book (if applicable) —If the reader wants an autograph, give it to them— make it short and meaningful. The longer you spend with one person the less time you have to spend with other people. Again, the more people you tell about your self-published book, the more copies you will sell.
- Side-note: It is up to you whether or not to have the reader buy the book first before your sign it. Though a reader can abandon the book before or after receiving an autograph, you can reduce the chances of this happening by following the steps I have outlined above.
- Repeat steps one through five —Repeat this step-by-step process throughout your in-store book event relentlessly and you will sell 25 or more copies of your self-published book.
Pro-Tip: The more books you sell, the greater your chances of being re-invited by the bookstore to do another in-store book event.
By the way, I invite you to check-out this in-depth online course that I created to teach you everything you need to know to be successful in selling your book in-store at Chapters—Indigo bookstores. In it, I cover all of the above and other crucial steps that are a must for self-published authors looking to succeed at selling their books offline. You can actually get started right-now for free here.
Here are what some other bookstore managers have to say about my ability to sell a book in-store:
“Over the past 6 years, I have had the pleasure to have Yahaya in multiple locations that I have managed and he has been extremely successful in promoting and selling his books in-person. He has helped get thousands of copies over the years in the hands of customers who have enjoyed reading it. I have no doubt Yahaya will continue to successfully promote his book.”
—Don A. General Manager, Indigo Yonge & Eglinton - Store 278
“Yahaya has successfully invented an effective way to sell his books in-person. This has helped him to sell thousands of copies over the years at our bookstore, Indigo. You can most certainly learn something from this guy.”
—Dave R., Associate Category Manager, Local Authors – Western Canada
"Would you like to hear about my book? It will only take a few minutes of your time." A few minutes is all Yahaya Baruwa needs to engage with customers. His causal approach, smiling face and confidence in his work has help propel the sales of his novels in every author event he has had with Indigo. Most definitely a technique that should be modelled."
—Ian M., Customer Experience Manager, Indigo Burlington Centre
Pro Tip: Do an in-store book event —Send in your invoice —Receive a cheque in the mail—Repeat.
Here is proof that my offline bookselling system works —take a look at two of my Indigo cheques:
What to do after your in-store event
Last but not least —the following are some of the things you need to do after your in-store book event.
Email the manager who booked you and thank him or her for having you in. Then request the total number of copies you sold during your event, stating that (for their convenience) you wish to complete and send in the required invoice for their review and to send in to the Indigo head-office for payment.
Completing your own invoice will empower you to keep track of the sent invoices and makes it easy for the manager to work with you and continue to do so (you are saving them from the extra task).
Always remember to be polite and understanding no matter what.
Side-note: Indigo requires authors to use the invoice template that the company provides —ask the event manager to send this to you.
These being said, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this offline bookselling guide —I hope you found it useful. Truly, if you would just follow the steps as I have outlined above, all things considered, you will sell 25 or more copies of your self-published book at your next in-store event with Chapters—Indigo.
Naturally, I can only cover so much, so If you are serious about elevating your book-sales and want a more in-depth mentorship from me by tapping into my 8,000+ hours of experience selling over 43,000 copies of my book in-store with Chapters—Indigo, I invite you to get started here with the online course I have put together for you. It will teach you everything you need to know to get started selling your self-published book in-store successfully. Get started for free here.
P.S. Be kind and generous, share this bookselling guide with your fellow self-published authors now and help them to succeed also.
Your Offline Bookselling Mentor