Stocking Self-published Books

Understanding how distribution works in the current POD publishing model makes a strong case for focusing book sales and marketing exclusively from literally tens of thousands of online exclusive venues from the micro-niche outlets to the whopper marketplace that is Amazon.

Even though this model is over a decade old, the concept has been slow to absorb among authors and retailers alike. Visiting a brick-and-mortar store is an experience after-all, and there is value in reaching real readers in real spaces.

Whether or not to stock a book in a brick-and-mortar store is a decision for each author to make upon careful consideration to the content, market, and return-on-investment, etc., because there are distinct qualifications most books must meet in order for a store buyer to decide whether or not to physically stock a book in their store. Remember, Amazon can stock virtually every book available in the ‘cloud’ or virtual space. Brick-and-mortar stores have very real limitations in terms of space and their own ROI to consider.

So if your goal is to stock your self-published ‘on-demand’ book in physical retail locations, consider these 3 qualifications when preparing your book for publication:

  1. Retail Returns – this is like insurance for the retailer, allowing them to return any unsold books after a set period of time. A handful of full-service on-demand publishers offer this option. It will come at a cost to the author.
  2. Distribution Discount – while online retailers will often stock a book as low as 25%, offline stores will require a steeper discount – 50-55%. Their cost and investment is higher. The downside means lower royalties and/or higher retail prices for the book.
  3. Buzz – sure, books printed and sold on-demand require ‘buzz’ too, but that buzz comes before the book is sold, and sells the book. A brick-and-mortar store is taking a bigger risk, buying books that have yet to actually sell to a reader, so they’ll be looking for a book they feel has a potential to move. Don’t hesitate blowing your own horn. Or, look for a publisher that will help do it for you through options like copywriting, custom design work, personal marketing assistance, and press campaigns.

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How do I get my self-published book into bookstores?

Traditional book retail stores often look for four things when deciding to order a book or stock a book on their shelves:

1. Availability with a wholesaler like Ingram.
2. A 50-55% trade discount, which means more money for the retail store. The highest trade discount you can set through most effective publishers is 55%, industry standard.
3. A retail returns policy. A few on-demand publishers offer an optional retail returns program. The retail returns option is generally only effective when each of these other criteria are met.
4. Finally, customer demand. Bookstores also require consumer demand for your book. Creating demand, or “buzz,” is up to your promotional efforts – it’s never to early to start planning. In addition to researching your upfront publishing costs, be sure to look also into these two critical things: (1) your book pricing structure and (2) the marketing support available with your publisher.

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