Friday, 19 November 2010

The cost of selling to bookshops

I made a couple of visits to local Waterstones, hoping to interest them in selling Remix. The manager at the London Wall branch ordered six copies. Telling my daughter about this modest triumph, I said, "Of course, they could all come back again a bit the worse for wear in a couple of months." She asked what I meant, and I explained the system for selling books to bookshops.

The publisher sets a cover price, in my case £9.99, and a trade discount; I went for the full discount, 55%. So the bookshop pays £4.50 per copy. The print cost to me is £3.48, so I make £1.02 per sale. The bookshop decides what to charge for my book, and I certainly hope it's less than the full £9.99 (must go and check) because it's crazy for them to make five times what I do, and anyway, no one will buy it at that price.

But bookshops also require returnability. If my books don't sell, because the price is too high, or nobody notices them tucked away spine out on a low shelf, Waterstones will return them to me and get their money back. I still have to pay the printer, so I will be £20.88 worse off, unless I can re-sell these books second-hand.

"But that's retarded," said my daughter.

She's right.


  1. I bought it as an ebook. Who did you get to print it?

  2. Thanks for buying an ecopy, Rod!

    I used Lightning Source, so I could have more control and my own imprint, Hoxton Press.

    It's more work than using something like Createspace or YouWriteOn, but worth it, I think.

  3. What a ridiculous system! Your daughter is absolutely right about it.

  4. She often is, FH. I have grown my own advisor, sensible and expert in many fields. Worth all the effort :o)

  5. This is why traditional publishing has been in so much trouble.

  6. Robert, I'd say it's just one of the reasons...there are quite a few others.

  7. Thanks for the reply. I've been looking at various possibilities, though i'm still pretty hooked on the ebook thing as much on environmental grounds as anything else. Also I finally succumbed and bought an Ipad.
    I still have a problem with selling the book, I find it hard to shove it at people. Looking back on my whole life I realise I've been better at running with causes than in pushing personal ambition. I just haven't yet managed to convince myself that the book is a cause. Meanwhile on with the next one because that's more fun and can of course be done with one's head in the sand.

  8. Rod, although it's great to hold one's book in book form, I'm not sure it's worth doing when publishing via Kindle is free and provides a much more level playing field.

    The publishers have the paper book market in a stranglehold, and it's very hard to compete with them, however good/popular one's book, however much the reading public would like to buy it if only they knew it existed.

  9. Oh dear! Here's hoping your book sells!! It's doing great in Amazon!!! :-) Good luck!!! take care

  10. When I first did Boomerang (then called Close Enough for Government Work) as a paperback I tried to get local bookstores to carry it. I placed it in two, the Borders in the same shopping center as the store I was managing, and a wonderful independent bookstore called Changing Hands. Both took it on a consignment basis, which meant they took in a limited number at a time, put them on their shelves and when they sold we split the proceeds. Borders changed management a few months later and the new boss wouldn't take any more after the second batch sold out. Makes sense, doesn't it? Changing Hands was better to deal with but after a while the admittedly limited demand dried up. But last time I visited the store they still had one copy, taking up space,waiting for that discriminating buyer who just knows it will be worth something. Someday.

  11. Thanks, Kitty!

    Alan, I think the only indie books it is relatively easy to sell to local shops are guides or histories of the area.

    It used to puzzle me with my jewellery, how I'd get a meagre order for six pieces, and when they sold out, if a customer came back to buy a particular piece, they'd ring me and order it. Just the one. Whereas shops that took 30-50 items and re-stocked regularly sold thousands of pounds worth a year.

  12. Hmm, I could order Remix for £9.99 on the Waterstones or WHSmith websites, or £9.49 at Of course the random online shopper will go to Amazon and get it for £7.66. I can understand why they need to charge a little more for the running costs of the store, but with that kind of online pricing, no wonder everyone uses Amazon.

    I dislike Amazon though so the ability to buy direct from the author at the bargain price of £7.49 to include P&P&dedication is a not to be missed offer! I'm about to place a 2nd order for a Christmas present.

    Your Kindle sales continue to impress, anyway. Here's hoping they keep going.

  13. Thanks, K - yes, no wonder my paperback is not flying out of WHSmiths etc.!

    My daughter bought Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde this week; a hardback in slip cover, one of 1,000 signed by the author, for eight pounds something delivered.

    I can't compete with that - no indie can, alas. So I'm terribly grateful to Amazon for giving me the opportunity to sell my Kindle version.