Many of our new authors ask the same question when they’re near to releasing their first title: ‘How do I get my book into bookshops?’ The simple answer is, ‘You don’t.’
I realise this is counter-intuitive to what many of us have grown up with, and for people over a certain age, having their book in a bricks and mortar bookshop means it will sell – but it doesn’t! Getting it into bookshops doesn’t guarantee sales. Think about this:
When was the last time that you walked into a bookshop and bought a book you’d never heard of by a writer you’d never heard of? How often have you done that in the last six months? And how many books and authors in your local bookshop have you never heard of?
Now flip the tables – how often do you think other people have walked into your local bookshop and bought a book they’ve never heard of by someone they’ve never heard of in the last six months? And if they did, what would the chances be that they’d buy your book when there’d be so many other books and authors in that shop that they’ve never heard of?
But what if you really, really want to get your book into bookshops? Here’s what you have to do:
- Buy a stock of books – so tie up money in unsold books.
- Get at least one or more bookshops to agree to take your books on.
- Negotiate a number that you can supply to them. This will likely be less than five (5) books unless they know you and know that you can ‘sell’ these books for them.
- Negotiate a retailer discount for them. Most retailers are going to want an average of 50% off – some will want as much as 60% off the RRP (recommended retail price, also known as the list price).
- Negotiate a payment arrangement – will they pay you in advance and then ask you to collect the unsold books and you refund them the money on those that haven’t sold? Or will they take them on consignment and only pay you if the books do sell? And how long will they keep them for?
- Raise an invoice to the bookshop – you’ll need an ABN to do that. But you won’t be registered for GST unless you’re likely to earn more than $75,000 per year from your writing, so your invoice will be without GST in it – and you need to make it clear on your invoice that you’re not registered for GST and that the price doesn’t include GST.
- Arrange for the books to be delivered to the bookshop, or take them there yourself. (Delivery/postage expense vs your time and transport expense.)
- Monitor how many books have been delivered to which bookshops and under what arrangements.
- Collect unsold copies and potentially refund the stores six to twelve months down the track if they don’t all sell.
Seriously? Why bother? Why do all that work to take such a financial risk?
If you’re publishing your book the smart way – the 21st century way using print on demand technology and the internet as your distribution chain – then you don’t need to rely on bookshops to sell your book. All you need to do is raise awareness of your book and let the systems take care of sales, printing, distribution and paying you your royalties.
And if bookshops start getting enquiries for your book – they can stock it buy contacting the print on demand supplier for your book, and you don’t even have to lift a finger! Sure, you may wait a couple of months for your share of the deal to flow through to you, but that’s economically smarter than tying up valuable funds in printing and distribution in the hope that your copies sell.
So do it the easy way – focus on raising awareness of your book (i.e. get marketing!) with blog posts, interviews, social media posts, library talks, giveaways, connecting with others who might benefit from or enjoy the content in your book – and let the distribution chain take care of supplying your book for you.