A tale of 3 bookshops

Visiting 3 of my local Waterstones branches to encourage them to stock my book.

This week, I discovered the happy news that my book is officially listed on the Waterstones website. Waterstones is a major retailer, and though there are others in the UK (e.g. Foyles, Daunt and Blackwell’s), Waterstones is the one that I’d often visit in my youth and so it holds the most memories. Once your book is listed on the Waterstones website, it means it is available to order through their distributor, Gardner’s. For independent authors, books are only typically ordered in when a customer orders one for collection online, or in-store. That is, unless you go in and speak to the store and can convince them to order a couple of copies to see if they sell. Ultimately, a bookstore is taking a “risk” in ordering copies of any book, with the competition that exists in every category/genre. Today, I visited 3 of my local Waterstones branches to encourage them to stock my book. And I took a physical copy in with me. Here’s how things went…

Local bookshop 1

This is my most local bookshop so to speak; it’s quite a small branch that’s all on one floor. I actually edited my book in a coffee shop across the road from it. It was there that I spoke to a helpful bookseller, Nick, who has been supportive from the first conversation I had introducing myself when The Indie Author was available as an Ebook, and I was in the process of formatting it and producing the Paperback version. I had already dropped by in January, and bookseller Nick had encouraged me to apply through the Waterstones website as an independent publisher. As it happens, I didn’t need to fill in this paperwork, as I noticed on Nielsen Book Editor (which allows you to upload and manage your title on the Nielsen Book Database, the central book ISBN database for UK books) that ‘Gardners Books Ltd’ was already listed under Distributors for The Indie Author. I believe this happened automatically via my book printer, Bookvault. Either way, happy days, this had already been done for me. I was set-up with Gardners and good to go. I had told Nick I’d drop by again and let him know when my book was listed and available to order. It was a fleeting visit; but I showed him the book, he took a couple of pictures of the proof I showed him, and he said they’d order a couple of copies and see how it got on. Woohoo.

Local bookshop 2

A bus trip took me to Local bookstore 2; spread over one floor inside a big shopping centre, this branch of Waterstones is the biggest of the three and has an adjoining cafe which I’ve frequented. I’ve come to be familiar with pretty much all of the booksellers there, and I had an idea of who best to approach. I approached someone I’d seen taking meetings at lunchtime to talk about books; I had surmised that he was one of the main booksellers. I asked if there was someone in particularly who looked after the section that I felt my book would fit best in; he said he would be able to help me, so I introduced myself told him about my book and showed him a copy. It was helpful that I had a short elevator pitch, and I mentioned that I was aware that they must get lots of authors approaching them(!), and that I appreciated his time. The bookseller’s name was Robin and was helpful. He complimented me on the book, asked me whether it was available through Gardner’s, and said to send the ISBN through on email, making it to his attention. He also asked if I had a Press Release for the book or anything like that; I mentioned that I have a website for the book with lots of information, and I asked if that would suffice - he said it was fine. He said to send that email through and he would get it to the Book Ordering team. Another decent result.

Local bookshop 3

Another bus trip took me to my third and final local branch of Waterstones for the day. There was a Reference section on the top-floor which is, again, where I had guessed my book would best fit. The bookseller agreed; I had a friendly chat with Teri, who was supportive of the book and how it looked (she commented that it looked great); she said her Manager who does the book ordering was away this week, but told me to email him directly and, if I could, come in next week and show me my book as it would carry some weight for him to be able to see it. She was encouraging and clearly liked the look of the book. Again, another result I was happy with.

I got home, and followed up with emails to Bookshops 2 and 3 (number 1 had already said they’d order a couple of copies to see how things went). I won’t be getting rich overnight through this book, but it’s exciting to know that at least one of my local branches of Waterstones will stock it (hopefully 2 or even 3!), and that the next time I’m in town, I might be able to see a copy of The Indie Author on the shelves. I also appreciated the positive reaction I received to the book from all 3 bookstores. The 3 booksellers I spoke to today must see hundreds and hundreds of books through their jobs, and for them to share some encouraging feedback gave me a little nod of encouragement and validation for the worthiness of this book and the work that’s been put into producing it. I have to say, the little kid in me finds that pretty darn cool. // 9th February, 2023
Jas Hothi is a writer, coach & author of The Indie Author. READ HIS BLOG or sign up for his newsletter to receive a free copy of his book HERE.