The Holy Grail of self-publishing success has to be getting your books into Waterstones—in the UK, at least.
On the face of it, it’s not that difficult. Those nice people at Gardners Books, which supplies self-published books to Waterstones, have a web page which tells you exactly what you have to do.
It seems to be a case of filling in a few forms and sending them in to Gardners, which will then inform Waterstones that a new book has hit their system and is available for ordering.
The terms are pretty stringent: while you can offer any discount that you like, Gardners strongly recommends that you offer a minimum of 57.5% per title, and that you allow your books to be ordered on a sale or return basis. And it’s worth bearing in mind that you won’t get paid for three months after you supply your books, as their terms are strictly 90 days.
But before all you self-published writers cheer and start filling in those forms, remember that none of this guarantees that Waterstones will actually order your book in: you still have to get on the road and sell it in once it's registered with Gardners. And that’s the really hard part. Because getting books into your local stores isn't going to do much for your sales figures. To make a significant number of sales you need national coverage—which is far more than one person can manage alone.