Expert Round-Up Topic: How important is bookstore distribution for nonfiction books?bookstore distribution for self-published authors


I wrote a business book called Small Fish, Big Pond: Building a World-Class Business That Swims Circles Around Competitors. As an entrepreneur and writer, I understand the significance of bookstore distribution in today’s publishing landscape. Bookstore distribution plays a crucial role in reaching a wide audience and maximizing book sales. Bookstores serve as physical spaces where readers can browse, discover, and purchase books. They give authors a crucial platform to display their work and interact with potential readers. Authors gain visibility and credibility within the literary community by having their books stocked in bookstores.

While digital platforms have expanded access to books, bookstores continue to hold a special place in the hearts of book lovers. Bookstores offer valuable opportunities for book signings, author events, and collaborations, further enhancing an author’s presence and brand. Therefore,
prioritizing bookstore distribution remains essential for authors and publishers alike, ensuring their work reaches a diverse and engaged readership.>


 I authored Climb Your Stairway to Heaven: The 9 Habits of Maximum Happiness, a self-help book. I have sold some at speaking events and a few through online bookstores, driven mostly by online activity. But most of my sales were through foreign rights. Brick-and-mortar bookstores did not figure into my sales. I’ve always been of the Dan Poynter school of non-fiction book sales; I see bookstores as a more important platform for selling fiction, history and biography—in a word, stories.


I have found that distributing my books to non-traditional places has been more beneficial than regular bookstore distribution. For instance, I have a Travel Handbook on Gettysburg that I distribute everywhere from museums to local giftshops and stores. I also have non-fiction history books that fit into these non-traditional venues.

No matter what the topic of your book, you should be able to find a unique venue for it. I’ve been sold at wineries, hardware stores, and even apparel shops. I’ve just been asked to sell my books during a Biker Week that draws 18,000 people.

Keep an open mind when looking for places to distribute your book.


As an author of a non-fiction book titled Start Small, Dream Big, I firmly believe that having bookstore distribution is very important for authors like us. While books are now commonly distributed electronically as ebooks, having it distributed as a physical copy holds a special significance for both authors and readers.

Bookstore distribution serves as a testament to the quality and relevance of my book and a confirmation that it is a book worth placing on the shelf. Seeing it displayed on bookstore shelves brings a sense of accomplishment and validates the value of the content.

As an author and a book lover myself, I personally think that the physical copies of the books allow readers who appreciate the tactile experience and enjoy flipping through the pages, immersing themselves in the material in a traditional format. It feels more real just reading a book on a kindle or any form of digital devices.

In terms of marketing, bookstore distribution facilitates serendipitous discoveries. When readers browse through shelves and find a book piquing their interest, it prompts them to explore its contents. This organic exposure is invaluable, as it introduces my work to a wider audience who
might not have encountered it in the digital realm.

While I love the fact that books nowadays allow for digital distribution to millions of audiences worldwide, the presence of physical copies in bookstores offers a unique and complementary channel for authors to connect with readers.

Having our book on the shelves of a bookstore adds credibility to our work and enhances discoverability. What’s more, bookstore distribution gives authors like us the chance of having a direct engagement with readers through book signings, events, and meaningful interactions, fostering a deeper connection with our readers.


I believe that bookstore distribution plays a vital role in the success of publishing companies and authors alike. Bookstores serve as physical platforms for discovery and engagement, allowing readers to explore a wide range of titles and genres. The importance of bookstore distribution lies in its ability to connect readers with new and diverse voices, fostering a vibrant literary culture.

Firstly, bookstore distribution provides authors and publishers with a significant opportunity for exposure. By placing books in prominent retail spaces, they become more visible to potential readers who may not have come across them otherwise. Bookstores curate their offerings based on market demand and reader preferences, helping to guide readers towards new and noteworthy titles. This exposure can lead to increased sales and generate valuable word-of-mouth recommendations, creating a ripple effect of discovery and engagement.

Secondly, bookstores create a unique browsing experience that cannot be replicated by online platforms. The physical act of perusing bookshelves, flipping through pages, and reading blurbs fosters a tangible connection between readers and books. Bookstore environments often host events such as author signings, book clubs, and literary discussions, further enhancing the overall experience and creating a sense of community around reading. This human element adds depth to the reading experience and strengthens the bond between readers, authors, and publishers.

Additionally, bookstore distribution contributes to the sustainability and diversity of the publishing industry. Independent bookstores, in particular, play a crucial role in supporting local authors and niche markets. These stores often champion independent publishers and self-published authors, offering a platform for underrepresented voices and fostering a more inclusive literary landscape. By supporting bookstore distribution, we ensure that a variety of perspectives and genres continue to thrive, enriching the literary ecosystem.

Despite the rise of e-commerce and digital reading platforms, bookstores remain an essential part of the publishing ecosystem. Their physical presence creates an opportunity for serendipitous discoveries, fostering a love for books and reading in people of all ages. Bookstore distribution not only drives sales but also promotes cultural exchange, community engagement, and the preservation of literary traditions.


As a publisher and author, I cannot stress enough how the importance of bookstore distribution depends on the author’s marketing strategy. Industry-wise, bookstore distribution is a vital component for non-fiction and fiction authors, especially in the areas of visibility, credibility,
targeted audience reach, and opportunities for author-reader interactions. However, authors need to align their actions with their marketing strategy and goals.

Bookstores, especially smaller independent ones, have a limited customer base and may not attract a wide range of readers. This can restrict the author’s ability to reach a larger audience and expand their readership.

Bookstores have limited shelf space, and the competition for placement can be fierce. Established authors and popular titles often receive priority, leaving lesser-known authors with less visibility.

Bookstores typically operate on a consignment basis, which means they can return unsold books to the publisher or author. This can result in financial losses if a significant number of books are returned.

Bookstore distribution usually involves setting a recommended retail price, but the actual selling price can vary based on store discounts or promotions. This can affect the book’s perceived value and potentially impact the author’s earnings.

Authors typically receive a lower percentage of the retail price for books sold through bookstores compared to other distribution channels. The bookseller takes a significant portion of the revenue, which can impact the author’s profitability.

To mitigate these concerns, authors should consider diversifying their distribution channels, including online platforms, e-books, audiobooks, and direct sales through their website. Building an online presence, engaging with readers through social media and book blogs, and actively pursuing marketing opportunities beyond bookstores can help broaden the author’s reach and increase their chances of success, bookstore distribution or not.

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