Do You Really Want to Sell Your Book in Bookstores?

Ask anyone who’s been in the book publishing business very long that question and you’ll get a “Yes–and–No” answer. The yes because you want your book available to sell in bookstores (whether online or brick and mortar), and no, you don’t really want to sell your book there.

Huh? Some people only buy books from bookstores, so you want to be available for purchase there. But the ugly truth is bookstores are a consignment business. They don’t buy the book from you until the customer buys it from them.

Here’s how it works. Your bookstore shelves your book, but only if the store  buyer is convinced you’ll drive traffic to that store to buy the book. If you’re an author with a platform (read famous), that’s not a problem. Or, if you’re an author with an established fan base, that’s not a problem. For 98 percent of the authors, however, neither is the case.

If you do convince a store to shelve your book, the book sits there until purchased or returned for full credit (often a book is only given a handful of weeks or it’s returned). If purchased, the bookstore gets the money, cash manages the money for 30 days or so, then pays the distributor. The distributor cash manages the money for 30 days or so, then pays the publisher. Thus, even if a book sells immediately upon hitting the bookstore, it’s entirely possible you’ll wait 90 days or more for your share of the sale.

What is your share of the sale? After the bookseller and the distributor take their cuts, anywhere between 30 and 45 percent is left for the publisher. The publisher pays the cost of publishing, the cost of shipping and handling, and the overhead costs out of those leftovers. Of course, if you’re royalty published, you’re a cost to the publisher too.

Let’s say your royalty is 5 percent of net. If you crunch the numbers above, you’ll see a publisher needs to keep the cost per book at around 40 percent to break even–that’s $4.00 on a $10.00 book. So, your 5 percent is based on $4.00, which is a whopping 20 cents per book sold. However, if you have a literary agent who typically gets 15 percent of your earnings, you don’t get 20 cents per book. You get 20 cents minus 15 percent, or a net 17 cents per book sold. Royalties aren’t figured on review copies, promotional copies given away, etc.

Before you get all excited about selling your book in bookstores, do the math. You may find you do better selling in other types of venues. At least consider your options.

Happy writing!



1 Response to “Do You Really Want to Sell Your Book in Bookstores?”

  1. 1 morgan paull dies of cancer May 7, 2013 at 12:39 am

    I seriously love your website.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you make this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create my very own website and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: