Publishing industry veterans know there’s a big difference between making a book available in the marketplace and making readers aware that it’s available. Many first-time authors believe that if their title appears on Amazon or on a bookstore shelf, people will come across it by default, and word will quickly spread. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth—and in fact, this usually happens in reverse!

While readers can discover books by accident when browsing through Amazon, for such a circumstance to occur in the physical world, Barnes & Noble or a local bookseller must first choose to carry and sell that book. For that to happen, a bookseller must first know about the book themselves, and then be convinced that it will sell.

How are booksellers convinced of this? Often, an already existing demand for the book will do the job. Booksellers comb through industry data, which reflects the activity surrounding a title—social media buzz, reviews in printed publications, or a combination of the two. They also take into account requests from people who come to their stores. The more people are asking for and talking about a book, the more likely it is to win a coveted spot on a bookstore’s shelf.

Often, a perfect storm of these influences is required for a new title by a first-time author to make its way to the shelf. But it might also happen because an author has walked into a bookstore, introduced himself to the manager, and shared his very worthy book, his passion, and his platform directly.

Ultimately, there are no secret formulas or magic potions that win the hearts and minds of booksellers or book lovers—but we do know that in all cases, you should start with a professionally edited, designed, and packaged book. We also know that alongside our efforts, a committed, passionate, energetic author who builds an online following can find an audience—though it may take months, or even years. When it comes to publishing a bestseller, only celebrities can boast overnight success stories. The rest of us have to keep our shoulders to the wheel, and never give up.

written by Robert Pruett, Publisher