Understanding Sales

Ultimately, all authors want to sell their books in as many places as possibleboth in bookstores and online. And more books is better, right? We want to show you how, in many cases, targeted sales to smaller groups will likely be the most cost-effective and successful way to go.

How Book Distribution Works

Most retail bookstores want to buy books from a distributor, which serves as a centralized source for books from a multitude of publishers. Distributors require that publishers (or authors) sell to them at 55% off the retail price. The distributors sell to the stores at 40% off the retail price. These are standard book discounts for anyone working with distributors and booksellers. The discounts are the price of doing business.

Most authors who print 50-100 books will not get the per-book cost low enough to make money through distribution. Despite the discounts applied by wholesalers and retailers, a book’s retail price must be reasonable to attract buyers. Typically, you must print at least 500 to 1000 books to have sufficient stock for distribution and to get your per-book price low enough for profit.

If you’ve committed to selling books through distribution channels and have printed and paid for all these books, it is necessary to work with a publicist to enact your marketing plan and create consumer demand.  Using distribution channels, we believe you cannot afford to “not have a plan in place” to drive consumers to stores to buy your book.

Unfortunately, publicity and placement in stores still does not guarantee sales. Retailers can return unsold books to the distributor at any time.

A Better Sales Plan for Many Authors—D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself)

D.I.Y. direct sales is often one of the best ways to sell your book. When you put a book in someone’s hand and sign itwhether that person is a family member, a friend, a contact, or someone at an eventyou’ve sealed the deal. You don’t have to worry about paying a middleman, you don’t have to wait a long time for payment, and you don’t have to worry about returns. You’ve received cash, and the transaction is closed. The profit is yours and yours alone.

D.I.Y. is a very viable way to sell your books. You can set up sales events at libraries, gift shops, flea markets, senior residences, churches, and with civic organizations and book clubs. Any place you can set up a table gives you direct access to consumers as well as the opportunity to provide autographed or personalized copies. But your presence does not have to be physical, as selling online and attracting attention through websites, blogs, and social media is another great way to meet potential customers.

Additionally, all of your D.I.Y work can build an important sales base and attract consumer media, which can help you move strategically into the retail market. Because you only get one chance to launch your book at retail, D.I.Y. is a great way to test the waters. The upfront investment in D.I.Y. is low, and successas well as the profitsis all yours.

Added Information for the D.I.Y. Author

  • If you are the Point of Sale for your books (beyond simple sales to your friends and family), you need a Sales Tax ID Number for the state that you are selling books in. For the state of Missouri, you can find information on obtaining this ID number online: http://dor.mo.gov/business/sales/.
  • If you are selling in another state, even temporarily—for a book show, for example—be sure to check the state’s regulations. Most book shows provide information on this in their preparation literature.