So far, we have covered steps 1 – 7 of self-publishing your first book. We’ve talked about getting your book to the point of publishing, getting your book printed, and selling your book online. This week, we’re going to explore getting your book into the hands of your audience through retail stores.
8. Getting into retail stores
It is the dream, I would imagine, of any author, self-published or not, to walk into a retail store and see their book offered for sale. I certainly know it is for me. That being said, this can often be the most difficult place to get into.
The Challenges of Bigger Retail Chains
50 % Margins – Brick & Mortar Retailer’s especially large retailers like Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, usually require a 50% margin. This means, they will buy your book from you for half of what they can sell it for. They have much higher overhead than an online store, so they need those kinds of margins simply to cover their own costs of doing business. Now, as a self-published author, you’re printing such low quantities that 50% can sometimes be your entire margin, which means you’ll gain little to no profit for every book sold.
Competition for Shelf Space – – It is sometimes hard to get your book into these venues since you are fighting for shelf space with many other people.
Extra Costs – You are responsible for not only the printing costs of your books and the shipping costs to you, you also have to cover the sipping cost to the retailer as well as the shipping costs back if they decide to send merchandise back to you. It can be a deep hole that eliminates any chance of profit, and possibly causing a loss for a self-published author.
So, while it would be fantastic to be in one of those chains, and selling thousands of books would be amazing, it would be short lived excitement when you realize you lost money on every book you sold.
Independent “Book” Stores
But not all hope is lost. This just mean you have to network and build relationships with smaller retailers, thinking outside the box, to grow your following and retail presence. This requires a lot of leg work.
Make a list of every retailer in your area that your book may make sense in, not just bookstores.
Visit each and every retailer, talking to the manager or the owner, and try to make a personal connection. In many of those cases, I was able to work out a deal where they take the book on consignment, meaning there is no upfront cost for the store, and if they sell a copy of your book, they keep 30% of the cover price. This allows you to keep a larger percentage of the profits than if you went with a major retail chain, and eliminates the monetary risk for the retailer, since they are only risking shelf space and only owe you money if one of your books is sold, making it easier to get on their shelves.
Cross Marketing – You can further entice and build your relationship with these retailers through cross marketing. Letting them know you’ll be telling people their establishment carries your book is free advertisement and exposure for them, and something they will certainly see as an added benefit for providing your book shelf space.
Follow-up is key. As you add those retailers, don’t just leave books and forget about them. Call regularly to see if they need anything. Stop in to see how your book sales are doing and what you can do to help improve the exposure. The more interest you put into your book and their store, the more interest and time they will put into you. In any venue, you sell your book it will require follow-up, but building relationships with brick & mortar retailers will require a lot more care and attention to cultivate those relationships.
To Sum Up
There are a lot of pitfalls to navigate and options to consider no matter where or how you choose to sell your book, but remember, you are still running a business. It is never wrong to ensure you are maximizing the profit potential of your book, but make sure you’re weighing the advantages between margin and volume. Sometimes it is best to take less profit per book, if you’re able to sell a significant amount more books. Now that you’ve completed your book, gone to print, and have it available to the public, where do you go from here? We’ll cover that next week, in our final installment of Self-Publishing Your First Book.