Reverse Shoplifting

Reverse Shoplifting Book Marketing Tactic


Build in-store awareness for your book until you’re in their database with these “reverse shoplifting” marketing strategies & book marketing tactics

1. What is reverse shoplifting?

Reverse shoplifting, in book/author terms, is the act of going into a bookstore and placing your book on their shelves in a section that best fits your book with the hope that someone will buy it. The term “reverse shoplifting” comes from the fact that you’re not actually shoplifting a book off the shelves, instead you’re placing one on the shelves in reverse. Mouse over the image below to see the book we did this for …

Reverse Shoplifting Book Marketing Tactic

2. Does reverse shoplift really work?

If done correctly, the answer is YES! Now, it works best if your book is already in the bookstore’s database so they can order more of your book if enough people start walking up to the counter to ask for it or buy it.

If you’re not in the bookstore’s database, you might want to learn how to do just that before performing implementing the reverse shoplifting technique. Check out my tutorial on using to print your book and distribute it to bookstore databases around the world through their Expanded Distribution service that comes FREE with your account when you publish your book through

3. What should your goals be for reverse shoplifting?

The first goal is not to make money up front, per se, from selling 2-3 books. No. Instead, you want to bring about awareness for your book at the bookstore among the clerks who work there when people walk up to the front counter to either ask for your book or actually buy it. “Hi, I would like to buy this?” (Clerk: “Wow, we sure are selling a lot of these. Maybe we should order more.”)

4. What are some tips for successful reverse shoplifting?

If you plan on using this strategy to create awareness for your book at the bookstores, here are some tips to follow to ensure your reverse shoplifting success:

Never place more than 2-3 BOOKS on the shelf at one time … For starters, those books cost you money. Your first reverse shoplifting experience should be a test-case only involving 2-3 books, which you can afford to lose. You have no idea how your books will do once they’re on the shelves. So, don’t throw more books away than you have to or money you spent printing them testing this strategy.

Walk into the store with 2-3 books IN HAND ... Cameras are everywhere watching you. So, it’s better to have the books already in your hand walking around the store. Customers in the store are always carrying books in their hand or putting them back on the shelves where they found them. They’re NOT pulling them out of a purse, bag, coat or a briefcase to place back on the shelf. That’s a sure sign for a security guard to walk up to you and question what you’re doing. So, keep everything in the open when you reverse shoplift.

Place them QUICKLY on the bookshelves then subtly arrange them … The act of reverse shoplifting, as in placing the books on the shelves, should be done quickly. Act like you know what you’re doing. BAM! They’re on the shelf. Now, start to rearrange the books as if you’re looking for one.

Subtly rearrange a few books to make room for yours to be seen at EYE-LEVEL … Find the category where you want to place 2-3 of your own books on their bookshelves. Then, subtly move a few books over to make room for yours. Make sure all the books around it, that you moved, can still be seen. Don’t cover up other books just to show yours. Play fair now to the others who were there before you.

Visit the bookstore every other day or so to CHECK ON YOUR BOOKS … Are your books still there? How many are left? All 3? 2? 1? If you see a few books left, that’s good. Put a few more books up on the shelf to keep the “buying flow” to the counter steady and regular. If they’re all gone, you might go to the front counter and ask the clerk, “Hi, I was in the store yesterday and wanted to buy a book called (your title). I saw some, but today they’re all gone. Will you be getting any more in?” If the clerk says (your book) isn’t in their database, that should be motivation enough for you to check out my tutorial on using to print and publish your book and get it placed in the bookstore databases around the world.

Tell your friends to ASK ABOUT YOUR BOOK whenever they go to the bookstore … This is an easy one. They don’t have to buy them, just ask about them. Every time your friends to go the bookstore, ask them to ask about your book. You should do the same! “Hi, I wanted to get some more information about a book called (your book title). Do you have it in stock? Is it easy to order if you don’t have any in the store?”

Ask about their CONSIGNMENT PLAN for local authors … Here’s the funny thing, you can probably perform this book marketing strategy WITH THEIR APPROVAL if you just ask them, “Do you have a place in your store where you put local author books who wish to sell their books in you store?” You might be surprised to hear them say, “Yes, we do!” In this case, you don’t have to sneak around placing your books on their shelves, instead, you have their permission. So, ask how many they’ll let you put up on the shelves and check in with them on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to see how they’re doing. Also, you might inquire about conducting a book signing event at their location since you’ll be placing books on their shelves. What better way to get your books sold at their store than by promoting them yourself at their store!

5. Legally, what should you know about reverse shoplifting?

While the act of “reverse shoplifting” appears to be harmless and innocent, here are some legal aspects to be aware of …

Private property … You might think you’re free to walk into a bookstore, drop your books off and leave, but remember you are on private property when you step foot into their store. Any unauthorized “marketing” activities done on their property might raise eyebrows with the management, if you know what I mean. So, be mindful about what you’re doing. Do it with discretion and respect.

Littering … In one instance, your placing paper literature (of any kind) could be deemed littering if your books don’t sell and they have to remove them from the shelf. In most cases, books on the bookshelf are purchased through book distribution warehouses and come with a return policy that allows the bookstore to return books if they don’t sell. If they catch you doing this repeatedly, and for the past 3 months they’ve been throwing your books away, if you’re caught doing this … well, it’s not known what they’ll do to you. Most likely, they’ll just ask you to stop.

Promotion interruption … Make sure you don’t cover up any other merchandise or books when you place your books on the shelves unless they know you’re placing your books up on their bookshelves with their authorization. If you’re in a bookstore alone performing a reverse shoplifting act, then make sure the books you place on their shelves sit next to other books in plain sight. Use your best “placement” judgment, but don’t cover up other books or merchandise the store sells.

Be honest with the store about your desire to “reverse shoplift” if caught … If someone asks what you’re doing, first respond with, “I’m just putting these books back …” If they say, “We’ve seen you in here before doing this.” You might respond with, “Really? I’m sorry, I’m just a starving author trying to put bread and butter on the table for my seventeen children …” Show some light humor, and see how they respond. Honestly, you might ask them if they have a “local author” program where they don’t mind you putting your books on their bookshelves. Tell them they can keep all the money. “I just want to get the word out about my book. Please don’t send me to Siberia or make me dig ditches on the chain gang.”

REVERSE SHOPLIFTING DISCLAIMER: Please note that if you do place your own books on the bookshelves of a bookstore on your own accord, you take responsibility for your own actions and any consequences (or gains) that might come as a result of your implementing this book marketing strategy called “reverse shoplifting.” Results differ for different people based on the store, your book, you, how you interact with the store staff if caught, the people who work at the store, store policies, etc. If you’re ever asked to leave and/or take your books with you, do so respectfully. In the end you’re ultimately responsible for your own actions. Period.

About Bart Smith

Bart Smith is the author of several books, professional marketer and self-publishing consultant, a personal coach, and a dynamite, motivational speaker. A self-starting, life-affirming, renaissance man, Bart is an entrepreneur at heart, who also bakes the world's best chocolate chip cookies at He shares his insights, skills, training and knowledge here, on his training website,, and helps people make money online with his online marketing shopping cart software,

Check out some of Bart's books on business, motivation, networking, coaching, checklists, and personal development.

Books by Bart Smith, MTC Founder

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