My first book was published by (a large POD publisher). I paid a few hundred dollars to have the book “returnable” for 2 years. I was told by (their marketing department) that bookstores would readily shelve my book if I did this. However, B&N and Borders will still not carry my book.
Bookstores don’t stock the majority of traditionally published books, either, even though most of those are returnable. According to Publisher’s Weekly, 288,000 books were traditionally published in 2009 while 764,000 were self-published. There simply isn’t enough shelf space to hold all the books that are currently on the market, along with all the new books coming out. Most people buy their books online now anyway so pursuing bookstores and begging them to stock your book is usually a waste of time and money.
Even if your book was on a shelf in a store, the chances someone might find it among all the others are slim, unless the customer is looking for your specific book. If they were, they’d be acting on something they heard or read, due to your marketing activities, and they would then buy from wherever you tell them to. If a bookstore did buy from you, they might return books that are dusty, bent, or otherwise damaged and you would have to reimburse them for those anyway, losing money on the entire transaction.
At BookLocker.com, we don’t accept returns, and never have. Those pay-to-have-your-book-returnable programs are a huge rip-off, in our opinion. If making a book returnable really resulted in sales, “the other guys” would be making that service available for free. I imagine they know they’re going to make far more money from authors paying for that ridiculous service than they will from resulting book sales. We don’t offer garbage services like that because I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror if we did.
You can read our thoughts on bookstore returns here:
The best way to promote a book is directly to readers, online, via an ezine (where you can approach your fans directly, at your convenience). You don’t have to wait for them to remember you exist. You remind them, every week (or month – I recommend weekly) by offering them quality editorial while also promoting your book(s). If you have more than one book on the market, you will naturally sell more books if your ezine targets a similar audience for both.