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 fill out and send off an application form to 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 application with all my details 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.

My books started to appear on Gardners after about a week or so, and therefore were then available for ordering via Waterstones.   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 later in the New Year when all 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.  At the moment ‘Revenge’, ‘The Donor’, Lily: A Short Story, and ‘A House Without Windows’ are all available on Ingram Spark.   Nielsen’s have the four titles on file, and I’ve already made 4 sales.  I’ve learned to be patient, and am ever hopeful that all my books will be up and running on the Gardners system by December next 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.  So far I’ve only sold 4 books, but they say you have to speculate to accumulate, and at the moment it’s mostly 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 – 9 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 application form with all your details and send it off.  If you’re using a POD distributor like I am, then that’s all you have to do.  Gardners won’t set up a trading account with you, because any royalties will come in via Ingram Spark.
  6. When Waterstones places an order for your book, the order will be received by Gardners.
  7. Gardners then order from your distributor, in my case Ingram Spark.
  8. When the book is delivered to Gardners, then they supply Waterstones.
  9. Ingram Spark take care of the invoicing, and you just sit back and wait for your royalties to flood in (ha ha)!

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?