Self-Publishing and Independent Bookstores – Together Somehow?

It’s boom times for self-publishers – online! – but not so much for self-publishers in the print world. At the same time, independent bookstores are struggling to adapt to the new technologies. I’ve been trying to think of ways to help bring these worlds together and I’ve come up with an idea – a business opportunity – and I’m putting it out there for anyone who might be interested. People who love pbooks should not have to miss out on ebooks, and self-publishers should not have to see their books alive online alone.

One of the great things about bookstores is browsing. One of the great things about online publishing is free excerpts. Both of these features allow readers to explore and discover books. With new print-on-demand technologies, why not combine the two? Pamplet-sized booklets consisting of excerpts could be easily and inexpensively printed and displayed in special “Indie” display units, such as those used for magazines or travel brochures.

Indie bookstores would have the opportunity to benefit from best-selling and other worthy indie books that are currently available only (or mainly) as ebooks. Indie Authors could get their books into bookstores in a way that doesn’t involve the hassles and complications of returns or consignment sales which generally keep them out of bookstores in the first place. I know this from first-hand experience as a bookseller. Even established, small press distributors can have a hard time getting in the door and on the shelves.

The booklets could consist of full color front and back covers, and a short excerpt – perhaps the first ten pages – of the book, enough to give the customer a sense of the style and content. Customers be able to browse the racks and then be able to order the whole book, which could be produced onsite by print-on-demand machines such as the Espresso Book Machine. A similar idea would be mp3 players with audio excerpts from ebooks, contributed by their authors.

I know I would love to go into a bookstore and be able to browse among self-published as well as traditionally published books. Bookstores offer many advantages not (yet) available online, such as curated table displays, and genuine recommendations, not mere data-driven tabulations. If you like these ideas, please share. And if you have other, better ones, share those too! Everyone can benefit if we can bring those two tracks closer together.