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An intriguing question regarding book sales to Waterstones came across a forum I follow. Was this another marketing opportunity? The answer certainly led into an unexpected direction.


Waterstones is a British book retailer with approximately 300 stores throughout the UK and Europe. Many of the stores have a traditional, old school appearance, reminiscent of authors such as Agatha Christie and Sir Conan Doyle. Browsing the shelves, one could imagine finding an old copy of a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Others have a modern and upbeat urban touch. From my author’s perspective, seeing one’s book on their shelf would be an undeniable privilege.


During my perusal of their website, I found a document titled Independent Publishers. The first paragraph grabbed my attention.

“Waterstones is committed to providing a unique and diverse range of high-quality books to its customers. We are keen to support independent publishing, and recognize the rich contribution that independent publishers, who have a long and prestigious heritage in the UK, make to the world of books and literature. Finding and championing publishers that are small, new, or hard to find on the high street is a big part of what we do. We welcome submissions from publishers large or small, old or new, provided they are of the high quality expected and deserved by our customers.”

WOW! A bookstore that supports independent publishers. Now, this is where the debate over the definition of independent publisher gets interesting. I prefer the high road and use the definition that states an author who is the publisher of record is an Independent Publisher.

With that in mind, I kept on reading. The next section listed the criteria to submit a book title to Waterstones’ central buying team.

1)      ISBN

2)      Title information on Nielsen BookData

3)      A Waterstones-recognized distributor

An ISBN is required along with a barcode.

My quest then turned to Nielsen BookData. Nielsen is the UK version of Bowker in the US and supplies ISBNs. In addition, Nielsen Title Editor is a free service to all publishers including self-published authors. Titles added to their database are distributed to booksellers and libraries in over 100 countries.

And yes, it was back to the publisher issue. Only the publisher of record can submit a title to Nielsen, and the book must be distributed by a worldwide distributor such as IngramSpark. Unfortunately, this does not include CreateSpace or Kindle. I did ascertain that Smashwords is on Nielsen’s list for digital distribution.

Title submission to Nielsen is a two-step process. The first is to submit a request for an account. Once the account has been approved, Nielsen provides the log-in information.

The second step is to load each format for the book that is applicable (paperback, eBook, and hardback). At first, the process was a bit confusing, but the support from Nielsen is excellent. Despite the time difference, I received a timely response to my emails.

The last area of research dealt with Waterstones’ recognized-distributor. Several companies were listed as options that included Bertrams and Gardners who are wholesale distributors. Both distributors and Waterstones are on IngramSpark’s distribution list.

Once Waterstones’ criteria has been met, an online form is available to submit the book to their central buying team. The response time is within 30 days.

I answered my question. Waterstones is a viable marketing opportunity. Even more important, was the discovery of the free service from Nielsen Title Editor and the opportunity to increase the visibility of a book title. I would recommend that any author who is the publisher of record and utilizes IngramSpark for distribution submit their book to Nielsen and Waterstones.

The following are the applicable links for Waterstones’ submission criteria and Nielsen Title Editor.

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