RSS Feed

Self-Publishing From a Bookseller’s Perspective: Part 2

November 1, 2015 by Diane

Ancient books at a flea market.

In my previous post, Sue Wilhite and I swapped stories about the worst self-published books we’ve received as booksellers. We included three tips on how authors can avoid having their books end up on the “dusty and forgotten” shelf. Now we continue our cyber-conversation with seven more tips for ye who venture into self-publishing.

Diane: Okay, we talked worst books. Now let’s swing in the other direction. Best self-published book.

For me, (other than Peter Bowerman’s two books: The Well-Fed Writer and The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, which I’ll recommend later) it was the book This. Only This: Mindfulness Strategies for Discovering Peace in Every Moment, by Michael H. Brooks. It has a nice heft, the cover is well-designed (he even asked for input from indie booksellers), and the content is fabulous. The author spent a good chunk of money on editing, designing, and publishing his book. It shows.

Which reminds me…

Tip # 4: Include the title on the binding.

I can’t tell you how many books I receive that don’t have the title on the binding. Either the book is too thin (needs more material, perhaps?) or the publisher didn’t include it in the package. Big mistake. Unless the book is facing out on the shelf, which is unlikely on a shelf full of books, no one will notice it.

Best self-published book for you? And why does it rank best?

Sue: If I do say so myself, my own self-published book, 21 Templates that Run Your World: Keys to Unlocking Success in Business, Money and Love, is a great example. I was lucky enough to get advice from the late Jan King, who clearly spelled out the risks and benefits of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. She also steered me to a great cover designer, as well as a great editor, and I was able to get a professional interior designer within my budget.

Interior design has nothing to do with your furniture in this case; it has to do with the formatting of the pages of your book, so it doesn’t look like a high school term paper that happened to get bound.

Diane: You also do a terrific job selling the book. Makes it easy for the bookstore.

Next question: What can authors do to boost their chances of getting their book on the shelf without sneaking it on themselves?

Sue:  Research the store and what they might want. Talk to booksellers; they know the industry and what is likely to sell. Make friends with your local bookstore people; they’re usually nice folks!

Diane: Which brings us to:

Tip # 5: Build relationships with booksellers.

The key is to make friends, not pester us; booksellers are sometimes on deadline with distributors or publishers, ordering books. But if we’re free to talk, we’re happy to offer feedback.

Sue: Another tip:

Tip #6: Keep nonfiction short and to the point.

If you’re creating a nonfiction book that’s going to relate the sum total of everything you’ve learned, or you’re sharing a technique that you’ve developed, break the material up into multiple parts. I can’t tell you how many huge tomes I’ve received. Three hundred, four hundred, even seven hundred pages in oversized books that end up costing the earth to print. In order to recoup printing costs, the author has to put a price on the book, like $50 or $75, that people will not pay. It destroys any chance of the book being a best-seller, let alone selling at all.

Bookstores need to sell books – that’s their job. Don’t make it harder for them! It’s better to create a smaller basic book with just the essential important information that inspires customers and can help create word-of-mouth buzz.

The best news about this strategy is that you can create two or three sequels that will be snapped up by your raving fans, and make far more money than selling twenty or fewer at $75. You can also refine your information based on feedback – you can be more nimble in response to customers telling you what they liked and didn’t like.

Diane: That’s a great strategy

Let’s wind this up with some general advice for authors who are considering self-publishing. I’m going to suggest a couple of books for starters:

Tip #7: Educate yourself on how to self-publish

  1. The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living, by Peter Bowerman. This is a magnificent self-published book, chock-full of information on everything from the whys to hows of doing it yourself. You’ll learn the nuts and bolts of building a writer’s platform; marketing your book; how to navigate distributors, wholesalers and Amazon; and how to get your book into the hands of booksellers (who won’t use it for entertainment purposes on rainy days).
  2. The IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing, by Brendan Clark. From pre-production to marketing, this book covers each step along the way. Learn how to set up an account, upload content, create high quality print and e-books, distribute to retailers and libraries, and generate “buzz” for your book.


Sue: Enroll as many advance readers as you can. Create raving fans who can convince the bookstores to carry your book. Be professional in all stages of the book’s lifecycle. Get to know the publishing industry, including book bloggers. Remember that, if you want to sell your book, your creative output is also a business.

Diane: Great tips. Here they are again…

Tip #8: Build a fanbase to help promote your book.

Tip #9: Treat your creative output as a business.

It also helps to give bookstores a free copy to review (consider it part of your marketing budget). If the bookseller likes it, they might take it on consignment, or order copies outright. So…

Tip #10: Give booksellers a review copy.

That’s our top ten tips. For a recap, see below.

Thanks, Sue, for taking time from your over-scheduled schedule to share your thoughts. Where can my readers find you, and what exciting new projects do you have on the horizon?

Sue: You’re so welcome! Thank you for inviting me! My website and blog is . I’m one of those people who’s bored if I’m not working on multiple projects at once, so I have a new oracle deck (“The Quantum Oracle”)  and two books (working titles: “Stones of Doubt” and “Untangled,” both nonfiction), and I’m wrestling my 6-week individual coaching program into something I can present as a 6-week group coaching program. Oh, and an online course based on my popular class “Prosperity Through the Chakras.” Stay tuned!

Sue Wilhite

Sue Wilhite


Here they are again, our top ten self-publishing tips:

1. Make sure your book is a good fit for the store you’re targeting.

2. Make sure the cover art represents your book. Is it professionally done? Does it tell the reader what the book is about?

3. Get a professional editor.

4.  Include the title on the binding.

5. Build relationships with booksellers.

6.  Keep nonfiction short and to the point.

7. Educate yourself on how to self-publish.

8. Build a fanbase to help promote your book.

9. Treat your creative output as a business.

10. Give booksellers a review copy.


  1. Bun Karyudo says:

    That was very interesting. Putting the title on the binding is obviously essential, but I must admit it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me before reading the article.

    • Diane says:

      Oh good, I’ve saved you from eternity in the “dusty and forgotten” pile. Er, your book, I mean. Although if you published a book of humorous essays that are anything like your blog, booksellers would snatch it up. Except me, of course. Unless the essays were about your spiritual experiences with shamans, wiccans, and buddhists.

  2. Joan says:

    Very interesting and fun read. I will pass this on to my brother in law who is in the process of self publishing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *