Sunday, July 9, 2023

A Self-Published Author's Guide to Tampa Bay Bookstores (Updated Dec 2023)

Owning an independent bookstore is a monumental challenge. From 2000 to 2005, my mother owned a new and used bookstore in Melbourne, Florida. Although it didn't last, Once and Again Bookstore provided me insight into the workings of bookstores and their battle for existence. Unfortunately, online bookstores and big box stores still have a stranglehold on the book buying market. But in the last 15 years or so, many independent bookstores have carved a niche in their local communities.  

Independent bookstores are not a charity. Selling books is about making money. Bookstores want to make money to stay open. Authors should want to make money on their novel. We have to make our relationship as symbiotic and synergistic as possible.

There are several bookstores in the Tampa Bay area. I have met most of the bookstore owners in the area and several beyond Tampa Bay in an attempt to get my book on their shelves so they can sell my book and we can all make money. Most of them carry my novel. Some bookstores do consignment, some order from Ingram Spark, and some buy directly from me. Some don't carry my book at all. And a few I have yet to meet.

Pro tip number 1: distribute your book via Ingram Spark. Don't self-publish on Amazon if you want to work with bookstores. They won't buy books from the company that is trying to put them out of business. If you want to be Amazon exclusive, be my guest. But you are on your own.

Pro tip number 2: if you are on Ingram Spark, give your book the greatest bookseller discount. I think the discount is 50% off for booksellers. Don't ask questions. Do it.

Pro tip number 3: the best way to meet bookstore owners is to walk in their store. Look around. If your book is a fit for their store, find a book that is not yours that you want. Buy it. Then talk to them about your book. Show that you are willing to support them before you ask them to support you. Also, if you know other authors whose books the bookstore carries, discuss those connections.

This list will be broken down into how the bookstores acquire my book. There is absolutely no preferential order. I have a great relationship with every bookstore I work with. I hope this list comes in handy for other self-published authors in the Tampa Bay area and beyond. This is just my experience. Yours might be different.

Order from Ingram Spark

Oxford Exchange Book Store (Tampa)

Point of contact: Laura Taylor, Bookstore & Programming Director

Best way to contact: visit and email - Laura(@)

The Oxford Exchange is located in downtown Tampa. The bookstore only orders from Ingram Spark and does not do consignment. Hence, they are looking for books that are known or authors that will move product. I was part of the Oxford Exchange Book Fair for two years and did well. Then I approached their front counter and asked how they would carry my novel on their shelves. I emailed Laura Taylor and asked how my book can be on their shelves. Laura ordered two copies. During my next visit, I signed the books and made social media content letting my followers know the book was available at the Oxford Exchange Book Store.

Pro tip number 4: bookstores will almost always let you create content involving your book in their store. At a minimum, every time you visit a local bookstore that carries your book, take a picture of your book on the shelf and a picture of the store. Post both on Facebook or Instagram and be sure to tag the store. You can also do tiktok, youtube, snapchat, twitter, your personal website, or wherever else readers might find out about your book and the store. The more content, the better. This is an easy way to show the bookstore that you are doing your part to sell your book.


Tombolo Books (St Pete)

Point of Contact: Alsace - owner

Best way to contact: visit and email - authors(@)

Tombolo Books is one of the most high profile bookstores in the Tampa Bay area. If New York Times Bestselling authors are going to visit, they are going to go to Tombolo. While the folks at Tombolo are nice, they are busy. Getting your book approved for their shelves takes time. That said, once I was listed on Ingram Spark, I immediately filled out their local author form. I remember emailing a few times to see if they had reviewed at my book. It took a few months for them to order my novel, even after I was voted "runner-up, best book by a local author" in the local arts and entertainment newspaper and after I received a blurb from a well-known local author.

At the time, the local author form required Ingram Spark, reviews from other local authors, and an active social media presence. I see they now are doing consignment. Whatever the requirement, it is Tombolo, they are busy, and people buy plenty of books there.

Fun story: after I learned Tombolo had two copies of my novel on their shelf, I visited a brewery across the street and talked to people about my book. I mentioned I was going to visit the bookstore and they followed me and bought a copy of my book. I signed it for the buyer right there on the spot. That's how you prove to a bookstore that you can move product. 

BookendsYbor (Tampa)

Point of Contact: Teresa - owner

Best way to contact: visit and email - read(@)

BookendsYbor is the newest bookstore in the Tampa Bay area. They are so new, their brick-and-mortar storefront isn't even open (as of June 2023). They do however have a bookmobile they are bringing to local pubs and breweries. They are also planning to be part of the Ybor Saturday Market.

I found BookendsYbor via I followed them on social media, dropped them an email, told them how much I am looking forward to their opening, and mentioned my book. They said they would look into ordering it from Ingram. Within two weeks, they had copies in hand. I then visited their next bookmobile event, chatted with a few customers, and their copies of Curveball at the Crossroads were sold. Hopefully this is the start of a great author-bookstore relationship.

Bookstore1 (Sarasota)

Point of contact: Byrn - Director of Programming

Best way to contact: email - bryn(@)

Bookstore1 is located in downtown Sarasota. I have been part of the Bookstore1 Book Fair for the last two years. In preparation for their event, Bookstore1 orders five books per author every book fair via Ingram Spark. If authors don't sell all five, the store will carry the book on their shelves until they sell. Bryn and the team are great and very nice. They do a great job of promoting the book fair and the authors. Bookstore1 is an hour away for me, so it is a little difficult to visit regularly. However, they host author events and book club readings regularly.

The Gilded Page (Tarpon Springs)

Point of contact: Julia - owner

Best way to contact: visit and email - thegildedpagebookstore(@)

The Gilded Page is a relatively new bookstore in Tarpon Springs. I visited The Gilded Page first, and while there, I discussed how they carried an author I am friends with. Then I mentioned my book and how it might be a fit on their fiction shelf. Julia agreed and ordered a copy of Curveball at the Crossroads.

The Gilded Page both orders local books on Ingram if possible or they do consignment. If doing consignment, they ask for up to five books from the author. If they order on Ingram, they order one at a time. I prefer the upfront revenue of Ingram so I opted for that. I re-visited The Gilded Page a few weeks later to sign the copy they received as well as to make some social media content of my book at their store.

Book & Bottle (St Pete)

Point of contact: unknown

Best way to contact: visit or website 

Book & Bottle is a bookstore/coffee shop/wine store in downtown St Petersburg. They have a small selection of books on one wall of their store. The few times I have visited, they were nice, and I enjoyed the drink and the ambiance. Due to their limited selection, they are preferential to new books.

However, in researching this blog post, I discovered their author request form. I filled it out and requested them to consider my book for both their inventory and their local author open house. Within a few weeks, they ordered a copy of my novel and it is on their shelves.

Portkey Books (Safety Harbor)

Point of contact: Crystel - owner

Best way to contact: Visit

Portkey Books is a small bookstore in Safety Harbor, Florida and the most recent store to carry my debut novel. As a small store, they are very selective in the books they carry. To echo my pro tip above, you have to be on Ingram and a return policy is recommended.

Portkey Books asks that local authors donate their first book to the store as an act of good faith. After that book sells, they will continue to order the book from Ingram as long as they sell. As my publisher cost is $6, that's worth it to me. Hopefully, after one copy sells, they order more copies and more copies after that and I make the $6 and more via Ingram.


Books at Park Place (Gulfport)

Point of contact: Nancy - owner

Best way to contact: visit and phone (727) 388-9093

Books at Park Place is probably the most similar to what my mother's bookstore was. Coincidentally, Books at Park Place was the first bookstore my novel was in. Books at Park Place is consignment only for self-published authors. They have a form for self-published authors to sign that describes the business relationship.

Among the benefits of working with Books at Park Place is that Nancy and her team will promote local authors just as much as well-known authors. Books at Park Place designates an entire side wall to local authors and I have visited and seen my novel among others in the front window display. They also have a great relationship with many authors and Nancy and her team are willing to answer any questions authors may have about working with Ingram and the selling process. Unfortunately, they haven't done as many author events post-pandemic as they did in the past. Perhaps that will change soon.

Wilson's Book World (St Pete)

Point of contact: Michelle - owner

Best way to contact: visit

Wilson's Book World is a family owned and operated, used and antiquarian bookshop in St. Pete. They have a steady and loyal clientele and are very personable. They don't carry new books, but they do carry local authors on consignment. They accept three books per author and they put a copy of the book in the front of the aisle for a month before putting all the copies in their associated section. Lastly, their percentage return on consignment is the best in the area, although they don't provide the money for the books until all the books are sold.

Mojo Books and Records (Tampa)

Point of contact: Melanie - owner

Best way to contact: visit and email - mojotampa(@)

Mojo Books and Records is a combination music and book store. They have been around for a long time and have a strong underground following. They mostly carry used books and cater to the University of South Florida market. They do consignment for local authors and will carry two books at a time.

I like Mojo Books and Records. They are nice folks and they are very responsive, but although their store is divided 50/50 between books and music, their focus isn't books. If they can do more for books, and especially local authors, they could become a powerful ally.


Tiger Dust (Tampa)

Point of contact: Jason and Laura - owners

Best way to contact: visit or Instagram DM @tigerdustheights

Tiger Dust is not a traditional bookstore. They are an oddities and novelty store in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa. They feature a wall of occult, sci-fi, fantasy, and hard-to-find books. During my first visit there I realized that my book about someone who makes a deal with the Devil would fit their selection of books. They offered to buy three books from me at a 33% discount. I make a few dollars above my distributor cost and they make a $5 profit per book. Tiger Dust is also part of local merchant block party on the last Thursday of every month where authors and other creatives they carry (jewelry, art, etc) are encouraged to mingle and engage with the store patrons. I have sold and signed a few books at the Thursday block party. If your novel fits their store, Tiger Dust is recommended.

Stores that do not yet carry Curveball at the Crossroads

Back in the Day Books (Dunedin)

Point of contact: Boe Rushing - owner

Best way to contact: email (maybe): backinthedaybooks(@)

I visited Back in the Day books recently and talked to one of their employees. I had also contacted them via Facebook Messenger over a year ago. Both times they mentioned they don't carry local authors and they don't do consignment. Following my visit, I emailed the owner explaining that they are on a very short list of regional bookstores that don't carry my book and that I hope they would change their mind. Especially in the case of a local author who is selling copies in other stores. I also mentioned my book is baseball fiction and they are located 1/2 mile from a baseball stadium. Unfortunately, I have not yet received a response.

Black English Bookstore (Tampa)

Point of contact: Gwen Henderson - owner

Best way to contact: Unknown

Black English is the newest bookstore to open in the Tampa Bay area. Owned and operated by Tampa City Councilwoman Gwen Henderson, they opened to much fanfare in early December 2023. They are predominantly focused on African-American authors and books on the African-American experience. They are a small store and are very welcoming but I have not yet discussed my novel with them. If your book is a fit, I encourage you to reach out to them.  

The Book Rescuers (Pinellas Park)

Point of contact: Unknown

Best way to contact: visit or email / phone: thebookrescuers(@) / (727) 222-0495

The Book Rescuers is a giant used book warehouse in Pinellas Park. They price most of their books between $1-$3. While their business model is interesting and I applaud their efforts on banned books, my novel is not used, so I haven't worked with them.

Haslem's Bookstore (St Pete)

Point of contact: Unknown

Best way to contact: Unknown

I am listing Haslem's out of respect for one of the area's oldest local bookstores. Unfortunately, they closed during the pandemic and have not been open since. If I had to guess, my book will never be in the store and the property will turn into condos within three years.

Barnes & Noble (various locations)

Point of contact: Unknown

Best way to contact: email - crm3429(@)

Barnes & Noble is obviously not an independent bookstore. They are however the biggest box bookstore chain in Tampa Bay. That said, they don't carry self-published authors. As a chain, they don't do consignment. They also don't order print-on-demand, which includes Ingram Spark. I recently visited the new location on Westshore Blvd and asked if they would ever do a local author event and I was given a business card with the above email address. As of July 2023, I have not yet emailed.

Again, I hope this helps other self-published authors in Tampa Bay area and beyond. Self-publishing is a hustle and is a lot of work. You are not only an author, but a marketer, an event planner, and a salesperson. But the more places you place your book, the more chances it has to be bought. It is a numbers game, but by working with local bookstores, you increase your chances of success.

Good luck!

(Image from