Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing,  Writing in Public

The New World of Publishing: Can’t Get Books Into Bookstore Myth

It Has Officially Hit Myth Status

When some of the biggest supporters of indie publishing and indie writers start going on about how they are giving up paper books to New York, I finally just shook my head and assigned all the silliness to myth status.

So, since I have the book Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing now out in both paper and electronic and available, I suppose it’s time I start into the next book: Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing.

And Sacred Cow (myth) #1 is that indie writers, with their own press, CAN’T GET THEIR BOOKS INTO BOOKSTORES.

A complete myth.

Of course indie writers can get their books into bookstores. It’s not magic, it’s not hard, and it’s not even expensive.

Yet it gets repeated over and over like “You need an agent” phrase by traditional publishers. And indie writers buy right into it without question, the same writers who fight against all the crap that traditional publishers toss out.

That shows a flat, head-shaking lack-of-knowledge of how this system of paper book distribution works. Kris just banged her head on the same wall a couple weeks ago in her blog, and had all kinds of readers surprised that their books were already in bookstores when they went and looked.


So this quick post is just a warning shot across the bow, folks. I recorded an entire detailed lecture on this topic tonight that will be ready next week, and I will be back here shortly (or after the Anthology Workshop that we are holding here at the coast is finished) with the first of the new indie sacred cows to be led to slaughter.

Let me be clear here for one quick moment in this quick post and then come back with the longer Sacred Cow post later on.

POINT ONE:  Indie publishers, with a publishing name on their books, can easily get their books into bookstores without spending one extra dime. They just have to do a paper edition and price it correctly and the bookstore can buy it. (I’ll talk all about that in the coming post and in the lecture.)

POINT TWO: Bookstores can buy (any time they want) a paper book from an indie author if there is a paper edition and it is priced correctly to allow bookstore discounts. There are no roadblocks.

POINT THREE: Book warehouses for all the major distributors and major book chains, including Barnes and Noble will stock your book in their warehouses. And the returns system, unless you have signed up for something silly, won’t matter to you in the slightest. (And even more frightening, the distributors will take pre-orders for your book from bookstores and get them to the stores on publication date, and you won’t even know they are doing it. They have to know about the book ahead, of course.)

POINT FOUR: The Only Thing Different that traditional publishers do (that indie writers seem to completely ignore) is tell bookstores and distributors the new book is in existence.

Let me think… Why aren’t bookstores ordering your paper book now?  Oh, yeah, they don’t know it exists. Duh.

Indie writers are more concerned with selling electronic copies than ever selling to the thousands of indie bookstores, or any large chain, or any gift shop. And you know what??  Almost all those indie bookstores have online web sites that sell books as well. (Ever bought a book from

As soon as indie writers get their collective heads out of the imaginary castle they are defending and start realizing that ALL DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS that a traditional publisher uses for paper books is open to them now, without problem, the indie writer can make a ton more money and sell far, far more books.

This simple fact scares traditional publishers more than anything, which is why this myth has grown and grown and they keep using it as a reason a writer should sign their shitty contracts.

I’m just sad to see some of the main supporters of indie writers spreading this myth without ever looking into the reality of it. Sorry guys, you are just buying into the myth that New York is trying to feed you, so New York can protect the only thing they really think they have to protect. And you are letting them use you.

Stop spreading this myth.

Truth: Any indie publisher can get paper books into the exact same channels as any traditional publisher. (And you don’t even need extra money or a magic wand. Honest.)

Folks, it’s simple. Do paper editions, priced correctly (I’ll explain in the longer post), and then spend a little time letting bookstores know you are there, and you might be stunned.

Right now our paper sales are going to pass Kindle sales this year, or come damn close.

I’ll be back with a sword and a donkey to take a swipe at this new and building myth of indie publishing. Stay tuned.


Copyright © 2014 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime