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Bookstores Should Stock and Sell
POD & Self-Published Books

by John Kremer

I wrote the following article for a catalog of POD books. I believe that many of the arguments I made for POD books also apply to books from self-publishers and smaller publishers. You can use these points to convince bookstores, especially the independents, to stock your books.

Why should independent bookstores stock POD books? For one simple reason: Someone has to take a chance on tomorrow's classics today.

The world of POD books today stands in the tradition of self-publishing that has produced some of our greatest works of literature - from Thoreau's Walden and Whitman's Leaves of Grass to Joyce's Ulysses and Hasek's Good Soldier Svejk. Other famous self-publishers include L. Frank Baum, John Bartlett, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Willa Cather, Pat Conroy, e.e. cummings, Alexander Dumas, T.S. Eliot, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Edward Fitzgerald, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo Galilei, Lord Byron, Zane Grey, Thomas Harding, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Ernest Hemingway, Robinson Jeffers, Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander Pope, Beatrix Potter, George Bernard Shaw, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Leo Tolstoi, Mark Twain, D. H. Lawrence, Anais Nin, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, William Blake, Stephen Crane, and Rudyard Kipling. You could stock an incredible bookstore with only books from these authors.

How poor would the world of literature be if no one had given the above authors a chance in the beginning? Even some of today's top bestsellers originally started with self-published works:

Margaret Atwood self-published 200 copies her first volume of poetry Double Persephone in 1961, the year she graduated from college. Atwood has gone on to become a bestselling novelist and short story writer.

Deepak Chopra went to a vanity publisher to publish his first book before selling rights to Crown. He has now had nine New York Times bestsellers.

Louis L'Amour privately published his first book, a collection of poems known as Smoke from This Altar. Years later the collection was republished by Bantam and has gone on to sell more than 100,000 copies. More than ten years after his book of poetry was published, his first novel was published. His 100 westerns have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide. 45 of his novels and short stories have been made into movies.

When publisher Frederick Warne rejected The Tale of Peter Rabbit because of the costs of printing the illustrations, Beatrix Potter self-published a limited edition of 250 copies in 1901. When Warne saw the finished book, he finally saw the commercial possibilities and brought out a new edition of the book with color illustrations in 1902. The book has now sold more than 40 million copies and been translated into 35 languages.

Canadian poet Robert Service, the Bard of the Yukon and perhaps the most widely read poet of the 20th century, self-published his first book of verse, Songs of a Sourdough, as a private print run for his family and friends. The book, however, began to sell right away. Even the pressmen at the printers were laughing and reciting his verse.

Modern bestsellers that began as self-published works include The One-Minute Manager, The Celestine Prophecy, What Color Is Your Parachute?, Life's Little Instruction Book, The Christmas Box, How to Be Your Own Best Friend, In Search of Excellence, and Mutant Message Down Under. (For a list of bestsellers published by independent publishers, see my website at:

Top 700 Independent Bookstores Data Files — This list started out as 500, then 600, then 700, and now almost 800 top general bookstores. It includes names of the buyers and event coordinators, address, phone, fax, email, website, and other information about each bookstore. You will be able to download six different formats (your choice of one or all) as well as an info sheet to let you know what is contained in the various data file formats (Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, comma-delimited ASCII, tab-delimited ASCII, dBase, and rich text format). Data file download, $40.00.

For many African-American authors, self-publishing and now POD has offered the only way to get their voices heard in the first place.

Michael Baisden has been self-publishing his own hardcover novels and then selling paperback reprint rights to Simon & Schuster's Touchstone imprint. The trade paperback edition of his novel The Maintenance Man hit the USA Today bestseller list.

In 1992, E. Lynn Harris self-published his novel Invisible Life and sold more than 10,000 copies through beauty salons and black-owned bookstores. He later sold rights to that novel as well as two others to Doubleday/Anchor. His novels have sold millions of copies thus far, made the New York Times bestseller list six times (and counting), won the James Baldwin award for literary excellence, and landed Harris at the top of the Blackboard bestseller list.

k.j.a. Wishnia self-published her first mystery novel, 23 Shades of Black, which was nominated for Edgar and Anthony awards. She sold the rights to her second novel, Soft Money, to Dutton. HBO will soon be airing a series based on her first novel (produced by Spike Lee's 40 Acres and Mule Filmworks).

What about POD authors? Here are a few great stories that should show any bookstore why they should be stocking POD books:

David Brody self-published his book Unlawful Deeds via print-on-demand. He sold almost 3,000 copies in his home area of Boston, Massachusetts while doing 26 bookstore appearances. At one point, his book hit #8 on the Boston Globe bestseller list. His book is probably the first print-on-demand book to hit a bestseller list.

Ruby Ann Boxcar, Trailer Park newspaper columnist and web site host, self-published her first book, Ruby Ann's Down Home Trailer Park Cookbook, via POD. The rights were quickly snapped up Kensington which has since gone on to publish Ruby Ann's holiday cookbook. Ruby Ann is known as the Dame Edna of the double-wide world. She is a crowd pleaser. At regional bookshows, she autographs and kisses every book before handing them over to booksellers.

Amanda Brown used POD to self-publish her first novel Legally Blonde. The book was made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. A year and a half after the movie was made, Plume published her book, with an additional chapter on what's next for Elle Woods. Plume also published the sequel, Red, White & Blonde. In the meantime, Dutton published a hardcover of another novel Family Trust, that has already been optioned for a movie by Hillary Swank and Chad Lowe.

James Conroyd Martin started his novel Push Not the River in 1976. It is based on the diary of a Polish countess who lived in the 1790s, but no editors were interested in an historical novel set in Poland. After countless rejections, three agents, a dishonest publisher, and the passing of many years, Martin self-published via POD in 2001 to wonderful reviews and great sales based on self-promotion and word-of-mouth. In April, 2002, St. Martin's bought the rights to publish the book (where they featured Martin as an author to watch). “Persistence is key to such overnight success,” Martin says.

Phoenix newspaper columnist Laurie Notaro self-published her novel The Idiot Girl's Action-Adventure Club via POD. After selling the rights to her novel to Villard with the help of Julie Bent of the Harvey Klinger Agency, the book made it onto the New York Times paperback bestseller list without any major media endorsements to push it over the top.

So why should bookstores stock POD books? And why should all of us be paying better attention to PODers and self-publishers? A better question would be: Why not?

Such books offer the little gems that could make independent bookstores stand out from the run-of-the-mill chain store.

Independent bookstores need to start taking chances again with the next century's classics. The major publishers, with their bottom-line publishing sense, will not discover these classics. Most of this century's great new authors will first be published via POD, self-publishing, or some small publisher.

Independent bookstores should be exciting places to discover new authors. There are no newer authors than these. Indeed, major publishers are starting to scout the POD lists for possible hits. As Anne McNeil, the publishing director at Hodder Children's Books, noted recently, “We are keeping our radar open for these books. If they are loved by a small, local audience as a self-published title, then clearly there is a possibility that a wider audience will like them.”

As a bookstore and arbiter of cultural taste, you can't afford to ignore the potential gems that lie among the inevitable rocks of POD publishing. You booksellers, more than any other group, will decide who gets heard and who gets ignored. That choice used to fall to the major publishers, but they have abandoned their position. You must now make those choices. To do that, you must make one major decision first: To look seriously at the catalogs of POD publishers, self-publishers, and smaller publishers. Do that first. Then discover their gems. Then sell them like crazy. The next generation will applaud you.

John Kremer's Self-Publishing Hall of Fame — This book features the stories of hundreds of self-publishers who have gone on to great success. It also features tips from many of the hall of famers on how to do what they did. I publish this book as an ebook because I’m continually adding new heroes to it. A great motivational and educational tool! July, 2010. 225-page ebook download. $20.00.

Copyright © 2016 by Internet marketing expert John Kremer

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