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I’m Running an Experiment—and I Need Your Help…

I’m Running an Experiment—and I Need Your Help…

By Pat Flynn on

When I chose to self publish Will It Fly, I was told that it would be nearly impossible to get onto any bestseller lists because it was only for books that are traditionally published.

A week after it went live, it became a Wall Street Journal Best Seller.

Also, when I chose to self publish Will It Fly, I was told that it would be nearly impossible to get onto the shelves at physical book stores.

Challenge accepted.

I’m going to need your help though, and if you’re willing to be a part of this crazy experiment (and have some fun at the same time), keep reading!

Why It’s Difficult for a Self-Published Book to Get Into Bookstores

When you go self-published, you aren’t working with a traditional publishing house that has distribution and connections to the people at book stores who place orders for books.

That’s one of the benefits of going traditionally published—publishers will typically have all of those connections lined up already. So, if you’re going to self-publish a book and you want it on the shelves at book stores, then you’re going to need to somehow capture the attention of those who order books for bookstores.

Even before any orders can be placed by a bookstore, however, your book has to be available in the system where they take books orders from. For Barnes & Noble specifically, that’s a distributor called Ingram, namely with their self-publishing division, IngramSpark.

Why Can’t it Work Using CreateSpace?

CreateSpace is the print-on-demand service that you can use to sell books through Amazon, and it’s been an amazing experience working with them to serve Will It Fly on Amazon. However, Barnes & Noble and most physical book stores will not purchase books from CreateSpace for one particular reason:

CreateSpace does not accept book returns.

Book stores want to have the option to return and get their money back for books that don’t sell after they’ve been on the shelves for a while. This is something that Ingram does, but CreateSpace does not—at least not yet.

Once You’re Available on Ingram…

Once you’re up on Ingram, however, you’re in the system. Big retailers like Barnes & Noble now have access to your book, even online, and anyone can now purchase your book (via print-on-demand) through these distribution channels:

Will It Fly Barnes and Noble

Please note that this is for the paperback version of the book only. Barnes & Noble NOOK is an option but if you choose to distribute the electronic version of your book on Amazon through Kindle and select Kindle Direct Publishing Select, you aren’t allowed to distribute your eBook elsewhere during the 90 Day KDP Select period.

I ordered a book online through Barnes & Noble to see if it would work, and of course, it did. I received the book within a week and the quality is exactly the same as when purchased through Amazon.

The big test was whether or not I could order this from inside the store…

“Oh, I’m Jim.”

On Wednesdays, I usually head downtown to a co-working spot to get some work done outside of the house, and on one particular Wednesday a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make my way to Barnes & Noble.

I really wanted to see if Will It Fly could be ordered from inside the store. So, I walk up to the man at the customer service desk and ask:

“Hi, I was wondering if you could look up a book for me please?”

“Sure thing! What’s the title?” says the man.

“It’s called Will It Fly, by Pat Flynn.”

The man types on his keyboard for a few seconds…then he says,

“Ahh yes, there it is. I’m sorry, we don’t have this title available in the store right now, but it looks like I can order you a copy. Would you like me to place an order for you? We’ll give you a call to pick it up in a couple of days.”

“Uhh, sure!”

“Ok, what’s your name?”

I got flustered. I was worried about what he would think if I had asked to purchase my own book, so I said the first thing that came to mind.

“Oh, I’m Jim.”

 Jim. Good job Pat. I told my wife this story later on and she laughed at me because I don’t look like a Jim at all. Jimmy, maybe. But Jim? Oh well, I said it, so I stuck with it.

After he took my phone number, I asked when I should pay for it, and he said when I pick it up. After leaving, I noticed that I had my name on my backpack, so I took it off and held it to my side, name facing in, just in case.

Two days later…

I received a call from Barnes & Noble in the car while driving with my wife in the passenger seat. I pick it up on my hands-free set and begin to use the speaker phone:

“Hello, this is Pat Flynn speaking.”

“Hello, this is Barnes and Noble. I’m calling for Jim.”

I look at my wife, she begins busting up laughing.

Me: “This is…Jim.”

Awkward pause. Then finally, she speaks:

“Uhh, well the book that you ordered, Will It Fly, is ready for you at the Barnes & Noble. It’ll be available for you behind the cash registers in the front of the store. You have 7 days to pick it up before we return it. Thank you!”

“Thank you.”

We were close by the store, so within 15 minutes I walk inside, and purchase my own book from Barnes & Noble.


Another win for #selfpublished #authors! I was able to purchase #WillItFly at Barnes and Noble! I had to order it ahead of time, but it made its way into the catalog. Next step is to see how we can get it ordered in bulk and put on the shelves. I have an experiment I want to try, but I’ll need your help. More info coming soon…this is going to be fun! #selfpublishing #writingabook

A photo posted by Pat Flynn (@patflynn) on

The Experiment (& How You Can Help!)

This was all great—it proved that the book was in the system—but as I said earlier in order to get on the shelves, I need to capture the attention of those who order the books in bulk.

Here’s my plan, but I’m going to need your help. And yes, I have something for you if you choose to be a part of this with me…

The goal is to get Will It Fly on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. That’s just one big retailer, and there are several other physical locations a book could be sold of course (Target, Costco, Airports, etc.), but we might as well go big on this one.

In order for this to happen, we’re going to need to show them there’s a demand for this book. When there’s a demand, they will provide the supply. That’s the theory at least.

So here’s what we’re going to do…

Starting Saturday, April 30th, for 72 hours only, I’m going to ask you to help lead the front on Project Will It Fly or #ProjectWIF for short. Here’s what you can do to participate:

STEP 1: On Saturday, April 30th through Monday, May 2nd, go to a local Barnes & Noble bookstore customer service counter and ask for “Will It Fly by Pat Flynn”. If you can’t make it to a store, a phone call should suffice.

They will find it in their system and ask you if you’d like for them to order it. Say yes.

BONUS: Snap a selfie with the customer service rep and use the hashtag #ProjectWIF if you share it.

Note: If you don’t have access to a nearby Barnes & Noble, please visit and order the book there. This will still capture their attention!

STEP 2: You’ll get a call from Barnes & Noble a couple of days later when the book arrives. Pick it up within 7 days and pay for it. Be sure to keep your receipt, because you’ll need that in the next step.

STEP 3: Visit before May 31 and submit your name, email, receipt (and the optional selfie photo) so I can keep track of how many people participated, and so that:

  1. I can pay you back for your book purchase (see fine print below for details). This experiment is not about me getting more book sales, it’s about capturing the attention of Barnes & Noble, so I’m more than happy to pay you back for your participation in this experiment!
  2. So you can be entered into a drawing for a private 1-hour coaching call with me to help you with your business, no matter what phase of business you’re in. I’ll be randomly selecting one entry.

The fine print.

  • The first 500 people to submit receipts will be reimbursed for the cost of the book. All receipt entries will be eligible for the contest.
  • Only receipts from Barnes & Noble during the month of May 2016 will be reimbursed.
  • Receipts must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Pacific on May 31 to qualify for reimbursement and contest entry.
  • Reimbursement will be sent by June 30, 2016 and will be made via PayPal or gift card, and a valid email must be provided to receive payment.
  • Contest winner will be notified by email on or before June 30, 2016.
  • Contest winner will receive one 1-hour coaching call (via Skype or phone) with Pat Flynn, to be scheduled for a mutually agreed time sometime during the month of July 2016.

I’ve heard of other self-published authors getting contacted after some requests for their book in the bookstore and online, but I want to see if this is for real.

This is much more than about getting Will It Fly in a big retail book store, this is about the self-publishing industry in whole and how the lines between it and traditional publishing are now being blurred.

Let’s make some noise and show everyone that if you have a great book with a great community, you deserve some shelf-space too.

What’s the big picture? What can actually happen from this? I can imagine a new section at bookstore for self-published books—to start—but eventually I can see both self-published and traditionally published books being mixed together where one couldn’t really tell the difference between the two. I just want great books in bookstores, no matter how they are published, to be served to those looking for great books.

Another part of this experiment, if this actually works out, is to see if getting on the shelves is even worth it anymore. Should it be something self-published authors even worry about? What’s the big deal?

I know a lot of you have the same questions, and I’m happy to see if I can find the answers.

So remember, starting Saturday April 30th, head to your local Barnes and Noble, ask for Will It Fly (snap a photo with the customer service person and use #ProjectWIF), and make sure to redeem your entry and get your money back after you purchase using the link below:

I’ll keep you posted every step of the way. Let’s do this!

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