You’re a new author or a self-publisher and you’ve always thought accepting book returns would greatly increase your bookstore sales. (That actually rarely happens with unknown authors.)
After your book goes live, you notice a few sales. But, a few weeks later, you start getting returns. You have agreed to pay the distributor to send the books back to you. Yes, at your expense. Some of the books are dusty, dirty, bent or otherwise unsellable. You’re even being billed for the printing costs of those books.
Pretty soon, you’re receiving so many returns that you’re losing money on your book…
Bookstores have a long history of ordering too many books, and then returning them for credit or a refund, often damaged, bent, and/or dirty, and at the expense of the publisher (or self-published author). At other times, the books are simply destroyed (or sold to a big salvage bookstore), again, at the expense of the publisher or self-published author. Bookstores, like other retailers, should be financially responsible for their own sales forecasts. Period. I just can’t find anything in the “returns” equation where the publisher or author should be financially responsible for a bookstore’s poor estimation of sales…
Do you send authors a message about dos and don’ts when stores ask to sell books on consignment?
Re: The item concerning marketing to bookstores in which you state:
“I recommend selling a few copies to a bookstore on consignment instead. I must warn you to not sell them more than a handful at a time because chances are most will be returned. One author reported a bookstore telling her all copies of her books were stolen. (They never paid her and I, of course, didn’t believe the bookstore was telling the truth.)”
I urge that authors selling to book stores:
1. Get paid up-front.
2. Give them written notice, with a copy duly endorsed by the store for the author’s files, that the Author will refund the price of any unsold copies returned in salable condition as determined by the author via prepaid shipment.
Some 10 years ago, my co-author and I provided some copies of one of his books on consignment to one small bookstore and one distributor. He has yet to receive payment or returned copies from the bookstore.
As to the distributor, another bookstore had recommended it to Eric and, when he mentioned he had difficulty collected the amount due despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the bookstore owner paid the invoice amount and told Eric no problem, she would deducted the amount from the next invoice she received from the distributor. It would not complain because she was a good customer.
After that, it was prepay only.
Harvey Randall, Author
A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances
Layoff, Preferred Lists and Reinstatement (2014 Edition)
The Discipline Book (2014 Edition)
The General Municipal Law Section 207-a and 207-c Case Book
I need to please ask you a question. I have started sending a copy of my book to some large bookstores out west. My first response was no, they wouldn’t accept it because of my publisher’s no returns policy. I’m afraid the other stores are going to say the same.
About once a week (sometimes more), we hear complaints from authors about misinformation and downright lies they’ve been told by bookstore clerks and managers. Just today, I received this one from a Print on Demand (POD) author…
Some POD publishers imply their books are available in all bookstores but you don’t make that claim. Why?
A teacher wrote in saying he didn’t want to sell his books to students directly but, instead, wanted a local bookstore to handle the sales for him. He asked for my advice on how to do this. My response was that this would likely only work with a small, local bookstore and that they would probably only agree to a consignment deal…
I am still a little confused about the distribution through Ingram. So, does that mean we’re guaranteed to at least have a few books in the bookstores Ingram works with? Or, does it depend on how many copies the bookstores want to order from Ingram?
Long, long ago, when we first started publishing print books back in 1999, we used to offer all retailers, schools and libraries credit. Some had ridiculous terms, like “Net 90” (meaning we had to wait three months for a check that sometimes never arrived), while others blatantly violated our purchase terms…