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For the average self-published author, having your book picked up by Costco seems like a dream come true, because it offers exposure in a brick-and-mortar location, sales volume, and a huge level of exposure within your community. The clout that comes with it is what Jonah Berger calls “Social Currency” in his book Contagious.
Before you even bother to read this article go buy a few book reviews for your book. When you apply to Costco third party reviews are a must for credibility, social proof, and frankly without them you won't get the time of day. Several companies offer these, us included. Again, buy several and start now, because they take time to complete.
However, it is important to keep your expectations in check. If you are a celebrity or your book has an impending movie deal, you might have success convincing Costco’s book buyer to carry your book nationally. Otherwise, begin by focusing on a single store.
Here are nine steps you can take to get your book picked up by your local Costco store and beyond:
If curious, we also wrote an article about how to get your book into airport stores.
Before you ever begin pitching your book, you have some work to do. Because Costco avoids risk whenever possible, you should work to make your book look like the bestseller it is destined to be. Below, you will find some best-practice strategies to ensure your book will be considered.
1. Give your book a professional polish.
Costco almost never stocks books that are obviously self-publishedbecause this constitutes a risk. For your book to be picked up, you will need to ensure it has the look and feel of a book printed by one of the big-name publishers. Often, this starts with the cover – you will want to invest resources to make certain that your cover looks on-genre for this year’s trends. The best professional option for this is BookBaby’s cover design service.
2. Compile a single page of helpful statistics.
Busy store managers and book buyers do not have time to sift through volumes of sales numbers. Instead of wasting their time and your resources, condense the pertinent information down to a single page. At a glance, this one-page resume should show sales figures, third party reviews (buy one from us), endorsements, and anything else that shows your book is a good investment. Save this sheet and keep it editable. Like a real resume, you will want to customize it for each pitch.
Here is a Template Cover Letter For Costco:
My name is NAME with PUBLISHER NAME. I'm reaching out to request your consideration for one of our titles in your store(s). Our planned marketing campaign is extensive and includes NAME ALL MEDIUMS/CHANNELS and we hope to include distribution at some scale with Costco.
NAME OF BOOK (ISBN:#) is a DESCRIBE THE BOOK IN 2-5 WORDS written by author, NAME, from CITY/STATE. Should you decide to stock this book at any Costco location the narrative for marketing communication would heavily include language about the book being available at Costco and the author would encourage consumers to buy from your store(s).
We have included out marketing plan for your review as well as a copy of the book. If interested, the book is available at NAME WHOLESALERS and is TERMS AND DISCOUNT. If you would like to buy directly from us we offer TERMS AND DISCOUNT.
Feel free to reach out if we can be of assistance. My email is EMAIL
Pitching your book to Costco is not like haggling at a car dealership. Before you enter the store, you should have a firm grasp of the financial figures. Go in expecting a 45-55% discount. While this might seem like a lot of lost revenue, do the math to figure out how many books you would need to sell in order to make money. Because Costco offers exposure to a broad audience, that steep discount might result in sizable financial rewards.
Because store managers often have some control over the regional products on offer in their location, starting with a single store is an achievable goal. It could seem too small to make a difference, but you might be surprised. Plus once you’re in one Costco there may be a domino effect. Remember success is sequential as stated in the book Good To Great. Although you may be tempted to charge into your local Costco with your freshly-published book in hand, you will need to do some research first. Here are some ways you can ensure your pitch will have the best chance of success:
1. Walk the store aisles.
Doing some reconnaissance and becoming familiar with the store is one of the most important actions you can take. Take note of everything regarding the books stocked in your local Costco: genres, titles, covers, prices, placement, and even busy times. If your book looks similar to what is already being sold, you have an excellent chance of success. Every store’s selection will reflect customer demand, and what the store has stocked already can share what kinds of books Costco is likely to say “yes” to stocking. This strategy works particularly well if your book happens to tie into a new product line. For instance, if your book focuses on landscape design and you notice a new line of landscaping products, point this out on your one-page statistics sheet.
2. Update your one-page statistics sheet with your findings.
Remember the book resume from earlier? This is when you customize your book to this store. Because Costco avoids risk, you want to show how your book is the perfect fit for this particular store. The store manager or book buyer will notice that you have done your research. Because you are aware of trends in the store such as new product lines, find creative (but reasonable) ways to tie your book into the new Costco initiatives.
3. Make the pitch.
When you have enough data to illustrate that your book is a good fit for this particular Costco, you are ready to make the pitch. Take along your book, your single-sheet statistics page, and the anticipation that there will be a steep discount. Do not expect to sell 500 copies of your book at this first pitch. Instead, be happy to sell five books with the expectation that they will need to move within a certain timeframe. If your book is holiday-themed, make your pitch several months before that holiday, as store managers often plan these purchases far in advance. When you have made your pitch, ask if you can have a book event or a signing in the store. If you are able to do so on a crowded weekend, your book would gain exposure, and Costco customers would have another reason to come to the store that weekend.
4. Yes, some book types have better success than others.
Because different stores host different customers, some Costco locations seem to specialize in certain types of books. That might be health and fitness books, historical fiction novels, or local restaurant guides. Each Costco is unique, but locally-focused nonfiction seems to have a place in every single one. If your book is a collection of local ghost stories or a roundup of the best regional wineries, there is a bigger chance that your local Costco will carry your book.
When one Costco location has restocked your book a few times, you can begin working on your next conquest. However, keep reasonable goals as you pitch your book to more and more Costco locations. As you embark on the journey of growth, remember to keep these action items in mind.
1. Keep doing exhaustive research.
Just because you have researched one Costco does not mean that you can skip the research with the next one. With each new store, start with a fresh slate to figure out where your book can fit in the new puzzle. Remember to update your book’s one-page resume as well. When you have achieved successful sales at one Costco location, include that track record.
2. Do not expect to jump from a single store to national distribution.
Earning a spot for your book at one Costco at a time can seem like a lengthy, never-ending task. However, each location is a victory and means your book is available to a new community. Remember that because you have accepted a deep discount, your goal is to sell as many copies of your book via Costco as possible. One store at a time is a realistic way to make that happen.
While all the action items listed are helpful stepping stones, one factor is key to getting your book into Costco: make your book appear as risk-free as possible. Because Costco does not take risks when it comes to precious shelf space, your book needs to look similar to other books that Costco has already said “yes” to stocking.That includes your cover, your publishing quality, and how on-genre your book is. Collecting research and showing how your book is a good fit for each individual store is another way that you can show your book is a fantastic investment.
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