DISCLAIMER: The author of this article owns BookLocker.com and competes directly with AuthorHouse.
I received the following letter last week:
I was interested in your article on book return policies. Recently, I published a book with AuthorHouse and was expected to contact bookstores myself. When they found out there wasn’t a return policy in place they wouldn’t order my book. AuthorHouse then came out with a fee (currently $699) for book returns. They wouldn’t cooperate with advertising either even though it was part of the package. The publisher would not help with the most important part of the presentation of my book. Both publisher and bookstores expected me to do it all myself.
Here’s my response:
Unfortunately, what you’re describing regarding marketing your own book is also common in traditional publishing. You give up all rights to a traditional publisher and, unless you’re a celebrity or demand marketing help and funds up front (good luck with that) in your contract, you will be responsible for the vast majority of your book’s marketing, if you want any marketing activities performed at all.
Lots of authors assume that landing a traditional contact means they’ll get a big advance, that they’ll get lots of marketing help (ads in magazines, a paid book tour, etc.) and that they’ll also be able to see their book in every bookstore they walk into (and gets tons of royalties, year after year).
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many authors are lucky to get an advance but then don’t ever earn more than that advance. If their book isn’t immediately successful, the publisher pushes it aside and moves onto the next book. Some authors can’t even get their editor to call them back after a few weeks of slow sales. They have no choice but to do the marketing themselves. And, if there’s nothing in your traditional contract that stipulates what marketing activities are the responsibility of the publisher, you are stuck with doing all the marketing yourself, if you want your book to survive. The publisher knows this. Why should they spend time and money doing something the author will do for them for free out of sheer desperation?
Regarding AuthorHouse – they’re not a traditional publisher. Their business model is built around how many authors they can get in their door and how much money they can get out of each author.
AuthorHouse isn’t going to help you market your book unless you pay them big bucks. Need an small ad in the New York Times? That’ll be $2650.00, please.
Need a “personal media valet” (whatever the heck that is!)? That’ll be $4,000!
Expanded publicity package? $600!
Heck, they even charge you $500 to review your own book – a book they published! It’s shameful, if you ask me.
Want to make your book returnable? $699! And, that does *not* guarantee that every bookstore will stock your book. On the contrary, you could pay the $699 and still never see your book in one bookstore, and never make that money back in bookstore sales. Let’s face it. If making your book returnable resulted in enough sales to justify the expense, wouldn’t AuthorHouse be offering this service for free? I mean, they do profit from each book sale, right?
Anytime a company charges you a fee for something that *might* make something else happen – that they will profit from – you should question their motives and the possible success/failure of that product/service.
Even if you make your self-published book returnable, most (if not all) bookstores won’t want to stock it. Most traditionally published books are not stocked by the stores. There simply isn’t enough shelf space for all the books published each year. You’ll be lucky to get two copies stocked in each of your local bookstores, which is certainly not enough copies to justify the $699 you paid to AuthorHouse!
It makes far more sense to spend that $699 buying copies of your own book, and attempt to sell them directly to bookstores yourself, or on consignment. At least then you have books for your money instead of just throwing $699 to AuthorHouse.
In fact, if you really want your book to appear in stores, you’d probably have more luck pitching it to a specialty store in your town, rather than a bookstore. There’s a great article on this topic HERE.
Contrary to what you might believe, less than half of books sold are purchased through bookstores! There is a GREAT article featuring a variety of fascinating bookstore and publishing statistic by Tom and Marilyn Ross HERE.
Like I’ve always said, the most effective, and least expensive, way for an unknown author to sell books is directly to the customer via creative and smart online marketing. You can do it for free and you don’t have to spend weeks begging one bookstore after another to call you back, only to be rejected or to land a small sale and then later have the books returned, damaged and unsellable.
Marketing to bookstores is a waste of time. Paying to make your book returnable is a waste of money. Read more HERE.