The Top Ten Places to Sell More of Your Books

by Brian


The worldwide book market generates over $100 billion annually, and less than half of that is through retail stores. And, only a part of the retail sales are through bookstores – bricks and clicks. So where else can you sell your books, and do so profitably?

Start by dividing the total market into two segments. The first is the retail segment where you reach buyers through distribution partners. The second is direct sales to non-retailer buyers (businesses, associations, schools, etc.) who use books as marketing tools to sell more of their products or help their employees, members, or students. Now, sell to each market segment based on their needs.

Here are the Top Ten Places to Sell More of Your Books (five retail and five non-retail).

Retail segments:

  1. Discount stores and warehouse clubs. Books are discounted heavily and do not offer the same margins of some larger-ticket products. Therefore, these retailers may limit shelf space to the brand-name authors and top-selling books. But they also buy from local publishers.
  2. Airport stores. Books on management, biographies, personal finance, and health sell well among business travelers. Books for children also do well here, especially children’s activity books. Popular fiction is always a popular purchase in these stores too.
  3. Supermarkets and pharmacies. Cookbooks, travel books, and regional titles move through supermarkets, while health-related topics sell better in pharmacies. Children’s titles seem to do well in supermarkets, but fiction remains the mainstay there.
  4. Gift shops. This category includes hotels, hospitals, museums, zoos, and national parks as well as large chains such as Pottery Barn, Yankee Candle, Crate & Barrel, Hallmark stores, and Spencer Gifts. Reach these outlets through direct marketing, sales-representative groups, and by attending tradeshows and gift marts.
  5. Specialty stores. You could sell your books through pet shops, auto-supply stores, camera shops, toy stores, or business-supply stores – retailers that serve identifiable groups of people with a common interest in your content.

Non-retail segments:

  1. Businesses. There are two areas of opportunity here. One is human resources, where employee recognition and motivation is a growing trend. The other is product or brand managers who may use your books to introduce new products, to reward buyers for making a purchase, or as a gift to customers.
  2. Associations. There are over thousands upon thousands of membership organizations worldwide. Consider two major ways to sell to them. The first is “cause marketing” where you donate a percentage of each sale to a charitable, non-profit organization to help finance their cause. The other approach is to sell books directly to the association, to be used as a premium or to re-sell through their bookstores.
  3. Schools. The academic marketplace is an opportune segment for publishers, one using books as a foundation for its existence. It impacts people of all ages, from pre-school through graduate school and adult education courses. Regardless of the grade, age of student, major in college or choice of home, public or private education, the need for books is ubiquitous.
  4. Government. How would you like to sell to a customer that needs your content, has virtually unlimited funds, and does not return your books? There is such as customer — it is your own federal government. Let’s not forget state and local agencies too.
  5. Military. You can sell books domestically or overseas, through military exchanges, to Department of Defense dependent schools, to sailors onboard ships, to retired military personnel, or to the families of military personnel.

From airports to pet stores, associations to the military, and beyond – an abundance of places to sell your books outside of bookstores awaits you. So, where will you sell your next title?

Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant, the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales, and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore.