AUTHORS, PLEASE DO THE MATH! How Much Does it REALLY Cost to Sell to Bookstores?

AUTHORS, PLEASE DO THE MATH! How Much Does it REALLY Cost to Sell to Bookstores?

An author wrote in complaining about the low discount given to bookstores by her publisher for a hardcover, color-interior book. She assumed that the low discount would prevent bookstores from buying her book. The fact is, the discount should be the least of her worries. She should, instead, consider all of the other factors involved that will drain her wallet in her attempt to sell to bookstores.

First of all, paperback color-interior print on demand books are very expensive to produce. Hardcovers are even more so. In order to not only print those, but to also allocate royalties to the author, and give a discount to distributors and retailers, publishers must price those books high.

She could purchase copies at her author discount, which is often higher than the discount given to retailers and distributors, and then sell the books directly to the bookstore, offering them a deeper discount than they could get from her publisher or the distributor. But, when given all the information involved with those transactions, is that something she’s really going to want to do?

A book’s sales potential depends entirely on: 1. the book itself (subject matter, quality of writing, and editing); and 2. the author’s marketing savvy and efforts. Authors can sell more copies marketing directly to readers online than they will when trying to sell to bookstores.

I explained to her the reasons why:

You could spend several hours and lots of money marketing to a bookstore that might buy two or three copies (or only one!). There are more than a million books published each year now. Add those to the best sellers and midlist titles on the market already and there simply isn’t enough shelf space for bookstores to add books for new/unknown authors.

If your book is published by one of the author meat markets, you’re probably spinning your wheels. Publishers that publish anything and everything are known by bookstores (and libraries!) to be churning out garbage, and just having that publisher’s name in your book can doom your chances of selling it to a bookstore.

Some bookstores will shelf a a few books for a local author but don’t expect many, if any, sales because your book will be surrounded by many competing books.

I know it’s frustrating but book buying has changed drastically. Amazon outsells all bookstore chains combined, and sells far more books than any other online bookstore as well.

Amazon began by putting bookstores out of business. Of course, now they’re putting numerous other retailers out of business as well. People want to shop at home. Add free shipping to that convenience and it’s impossible for brick and mortar retailers to compete. In many cities, buyers can even get same-day delivery when ordering online.

I know we authors want to support bookstores, especially our local ones, but they’re actually doing US a huge favor when they put our new book on their shelf, not the other way around. Unfortunately, those books often go unsold. Furthermore, bookstores may require you to accept returns and those returned books may be dusty or dirty, have bent covers and pages, and be unsellable.

It’s entirely up to you but, personally, I never market to bookstores. I don’t want the added expenses of printing up business cards and fliers, driving there, meeting with the store’s manager, imploring them to carry my book…and then negotiating a transaction for perhaps two or three copies, which, in the end, will net me probably around $10-$15 after printing costs. After deducting my time and expense to “sell” those copies to the bookstore, I’m pretty far in the hole. My time can be used far more efficiently to sell far more books.

Having a website with a regular newsletter/blog, collecting online subscribers, and continually marketing my books to them via the comfort of my home is a far easier way to sell, and continue to sell, books. I have sold thousands of copies of my books in this way…far more than I’d have sold if I was pounding the pavement trying to sell to bookstores.

For more information on selling through bookstores –

Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.

About The Author


Angela Hoy is the publisher of, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

Angela lives on a 52' Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch (sailboat) with her family and pets. Keep up with her family's adventurous liveaboard lifestyle at - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."

Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors. - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!

Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.

Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)

See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.


BOOKLOCKER ON FACEBOOK - Provides links to free excerpts!



Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!

Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE


BOOK PROPOSALS THAT WORKED! Real Book Proposals That Landed $10K - $100K Publishing Contracts - by Angela Hoy

Peek over the shoulders of highly successful, published authors to see how they landed publishing contracts worth $10,000 to $100,000! An enticing yet professional book proposal is the key!

BONUS! Successful ghostwriter, Anton Marco, shares his secret for landing ghostwriting clients. Don’t miss Anton’s real ghostwriting contract at the end of this book! It provides an example of what he charges and the payment terms he requires from each client.



HowMaster: The Writer's Guide to Beautiful Word Crafting

HowMaster is a wise choice for the writer who wants to weave words around the reader’s heart.

Author Linda M. Gigliotti shows how effective writing happens.

Author Linda M. Gigliotti draws from years of practice as a private
writing tutor in the guidebook that teaches writers how to format visceral
writing that pulls readers into their book. She explains with instruction
and samples of published works how to craft writing that come to life in the reader's mind.

Read more here:

One Response to "AUTHORS, PLEASE DO THE MATH! How Much Does it REALLY Cost to Sell to Bookstores?"

  1. Anonymous  June 16, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    excellent article. Thank you.