Recently some good news: My local branch of Waterstones on the Isle of Wight is going to add 3 of my books to their Local Interest shelf in January.  I had taken copies of Revenge, Lily: A Short Story, and The Donor in to the manager earlier in October to enquire as to whether he would be interested in displaying them, as all 3 feature the Island in some way.

Getting an agreement from a store manager to display your books is also the hardest part, and you’re on your own there I’m afraid.  If you take a look at Waterstones’ own application form, it’ll say for authors not to bring their books into the stores as they only work through buyers, but I hadn’t read this when I took mine in as I didn’t go via this route!

I found that books with local interest fare rather better at getting accepted, and I mentioned to the manager our holiday home on the Island and how I have a big interest in Island history.  He was happy to check my books out.  When I made a follow-up phone call, he was quite chatty and confirmed he’d like to display them early in the New Year.

This started off another train of thought; if there’s any interest in my books from readers and supplies are needed, what would I have to do in order to get copies of my books onto the Waterstones’ system?  I asked the manager, who kindly replied that I’d need to register on the Nielsen ISBN store as a new author, purchase an ISBN for each book, and then register my titles and their new ISBN numbers with the Nielsen Title Editor when they send me new log in details.   After this I’d need to set up an account with the wholesaler Gardners Books Ltd (Waterstones buy from Gardners) and then find a distributor.  Gardners also supply other bricks-and-mortar stores.

I then asked on Facebook for recommendations for a print-on-demand distributor who would print my books when Gardners sent an order.  The favourite one seemed to be Ingram Spark, and so I registered with them and started to add my titles.  

So …first things first.  I registered as a new author on the Nielsen ISBN website, and purchased a block of 10 ISBNs for £159 (it was cheaper in the long run than buying individual ISBNs).  Ingram Spark also generate barcodes for free, and so I did not need to buy any from Nielsen’s.  Ingram Spark will also email you a cover template with a barcode added if you send them the ISBN number, the page count and price etc.  I then paid a $49 cover/manuscript setting-up fee per book on Ingram Spark.

More expense – I then had to upgrade my 10 paperback covers to fit Ingram’s specifications, and to ensure the back of the covers showed Ingram’s barcode, and so again asked for recommendations.  Maria Lazarou’s price at Obsessed by Books Designs was very reasonable for 10 back covers/jackets, and she is super-helpful.  Also I had used Laura at LLPixDesigns in the past, and she made a new jacket/front cover for ‘Lily: A Short Story’.  Thanks to those concerned for all the recommendations I had for POD distributors and book cover designers.

I then registered on the Nielsen Title Editor website and filled in their registration form.  I added the name of my organisation (Stevie Turner) and the number of one of the ISBNs I had just purchased (I was pleased I had previously sorted out a P.O Box address a few years’ ago for my mailing list, although you can use your own address if you don’t mind it being visible online).  I then waited for a few working days until their editors could process my form, and hey, ho, was then issued with a user name and password for the Nielsen Title Editor website so that I could add my books (use the Chrome browser for this).   I then filled in a Gardners trading account application form and sent it off.  Nielsen’s confirmed that they would send details of all my books to Gardners, and so I didn’t need to register all the books again with Gardners.

I’ve received information that once Gardners have registered me on their system (it takes a few weeks, apparently) and notified Waterstones, then Waterstones will notify me to permit me to market my books to their branches.  Ingram Spark help with marketing, for a fee of course, and include your book in their ‘Advance’ catalogue that they send out to stores, and for another fee Gardners will advertise your book, but basically you still have to do all your own marketing.   Hopefully in the New Year when my books are on the Gardners’ system I might even be able to get my local branch of Waterstones to stock them as well.

This is my project at the moment – to get all my books onto the Gardners system eventually and run a (very) small business as my own small publisher!  At the moment ‘Revenge’ and ‘The Donor’ are available on Ingram Spark, and ‘Lily: A Short Story is currently being set up.  Nielsen’s have the three titles on file, and two of them are already on Gardners although not quite yet ready to rock.  I’ve learned to be patient, and am ever hopeful that at least all 3 books will be up and running on the Gardners system by December.  The rest will follow in the New Year after I’ve saved up some more money!

Of course, getting my books into Waterstones doesn’t mean instant sales.  They may or may not sell, so I will update you all later in 2019 as to whether it’s all been worth it or not.  They say you have to speculate to accumulate, and at the moment it’s all speculation…

Here you are then… in a nutshell, the system works like this (good luck):

  1. Find a Waterstones’ manager willing to display your books (don’t give up!).
  2. When you have a willing manager, register on the Nielsen ISBN store as a new author and buy either one or a block of ISBNs.  If you do steps 2 – 10 without finding a Waterstones’ branch to take your books, then you might be paying out a lot of money for no reward.
  3. When you receive new log in details from Nielsen, register on the Nielsen Title Editor website and add your books.  You have the choice to pay extra for an enhanced book service (£145 for a year’s subscription for 10 books).
  4. Find a POD distributor, upgrade your book covers with their barcodes (you can choose as to whether you add the price of the book on the back cover or not) and pay their set up fees to add your book (s).  You can also pay $85 to have your book listed in their ‘Advance’ catalogue which is sent out to stores.
  5. Fill in a Gardners trading application form and send it off.
  6. When you’re registered with Gardners, they contact Waterstones and then Waterstones will notify you to permit marketing of your books to their branches. Don’t forget, you have to do all your own marketing, so nothing has changed there!
  7. When Waterstones places an order for your book, the order will be received by Gardners.
  8. Gardners then order from your distributor, in my case Ingram Spark.
  9. When the book is delivered to Gardners, then they supply Waterstones.
  10. You will invoice Gardners on your newly purchased headed paper (on the Gardners form you have to state how much discount you will give them), and then Gardners will invoice Waterstones.  Yes, you will be running a small business, and so it’s best to let the tax man know, even though you may never earn enough to pay any tax (you don’t have to register with your tax office until you begin trading)! 

Unfortunately I don’t know how all this works in the US.  Perhaps one of my US friends can check out the system and write a blog for American authors?