I was making the rounds in my area, Northshore MA/Southern NH, to bookstores introducing myself and attempting to get copies in on consignment.
An independent bookstore with 4 local locations immediately hit me with their "Book Consignment Program" sheet for local authors. Took it home, studied it, and found this:
1. 50% discount off retail.
2. Administrative fee of $50.00 per store.
3. They want return rights and do not pay shipping.
4. They pay only for items sold, not for stolen or damaged.
5. Twice a year they pay.
Also, for $100 they will feature your book on one email blast to all 4 stores mailing list.
For $250 you can have an author event and signing.
For $300 you can have the signing and your book will be stocked in all 4 stores.
They were not interested in ordering my book through Ingram's, etc. because of 25% discount.
I figured, under all scenarios, that if everything went super and I was lucky I might make .75 a copy.
What does everyone think?
More and more bookstores are starting to charge fees to authors to shelve their books or host events. I avoid them. There are still plenty of independent--and chain--bookstores that don't charge fees.
It's still not cost-effective. How many books do you have to sell at your share after the publisher has taken his in order to pay for gas, time, and incidental expenses? I've never sold more than 5 books at a signing. My books usually netted me a bit over a dollar apiece. I didn't even make back the cost of the candy I bought for the bookstore manager.
It's a hard sell unless you're a big name. It'd rather keep the candy.
Yes, I. J. You're right. It seems to me there is a whole industry now built on scalping published and non-published authors. I know it was always there, but I don't remember it as being this extreme. Everybody seems to be in on the fleecing now: some authors, retailers, publishers, agents, writers conferences, etc. It's ridiculous.
Also, thanks for the feedback to Jon, Jack & Beth.
The business of selling books is changing. The policies you discussed are the reasons bookstores are closing their doors. I remember Joe Konrath writing about how he practically killed himself going from store to store, state to state, trying to get his books out there before the eBook wave began. It just is not cost effective--particularly for an indie author--to sell through a bookstore. Just my opinion. I will be interested in seeing how efforts like Amazon's imprints do in the print trade.
Jed: I had two screwball mysteries published by a tiny, unloved press back in 2007 and 2008. I promoted hard, visiting over three dozen bookstores, a dozen NJ libraries, 9 mystery conventions including Malice Domestic three times at my agent's urging. I bought ads. I asked for and received over 20 online reviews. Somewhere around 2009, I complained here about Barnes & Noble never having carried my books and I got some advice I didn't like: Why didn't a give up the self-promotion and concentrate instead on writing the best book I could write. The advice came from our very own IJ Parker. I said something like "People can't buy what they've never heard of," and while that idea certainly has merit, I think now IJ was right all along. There are so many of us novel writers, standing out is very tough. Maybe only a really really good book will do it. I'm not giving you advice. I'm giving you my experience and hope. :-)
Well, thanks, Jack. Mind you, I arrived at my view very late and after many very painful experiences. I was first published by St. Martin's Press on a two-book contract. My local B&N refused me a signing because my publisher hadn't cleared it. You see, bookstores get kickbacks for placement and author appearances. That was my first bad experience with a publisher and a bookstore. Penguin, my second publisher sprang for a 5 store statewide tour, all independent bookstores. They paid for one overnight stay (very nice, too) and offered to pay for gas. I sold at most 16 books altogether. After that I informed Penguin that I would no longer do signings, and I haven't. I did sign some books at 2 Bouchercons, but that required little input on my part. In fact, my signed novels should be so rare as to command huge prices some day. :)
Jack & I. J., I agree with your thoughts. You can't beat advice to spend your time writing the best book you can. And certainly social media and promotion, most of which doesn't reap much, can absorb a lot of valuable writing time. Although I'm still attracted to coming up with out of the box promotional ideas if they're fun and profitable.
Maybe the right approach is somewhere in the middle and different for everyone. Mine would probably be about 80% writing, 20% promotion. And it's nice to know those book signings, etc. aren't worth it. I've always hated talking in front of groups. So if I do anything promotion-wise, I might as well enjoy it and make sure there is some financial benefit and more importantly, that it doesn't take away from my writing time. Because, boy, can promotion and/or social media do that.
P. S. I've noticed that there are some up & coming authors (who will remain nameless) who have very deep pockets from other fields or spouses and have their own P. R. firms and other commercial assistance. The above probably does not apply to them.
Personally I wouldn't do business with a store with that hard-line attitude. It's obvious they're taking advantage of hopeful authors. They have nothing at all to lose and you have very little (if anything) to gain by tying up your money in books that may or may not sell. And considering their "sheet" I wouldn't trust them to give you a fair accounting anyway.
I'd really look for some other way to promote. If I knew of a good one, I'd certainly tell you.
Jed, under those terms, don't bother. Heck, it's tough enough at regular terms of 40% discount and copies on consignment. Plus, you're a needle in a haystack, unless they have a special push for you.
You're right, spend the time writing more, writing better. Better books will sell more than lost hours and hundreds of dollars to return a few copies.
I will say that I enjoy signings, and enjoy connecting with people on a personal level and making new fans. (But don't do it if you don't like it.) I invite a target audience so there will be people- we had a signing during the one big snowstorm, so the store had no outside customers other than my supporters and friends, who dropped by and still made it a success.
I'm constantly amazed at bookstores who work very hard to turn away much potential business from people trying to keep them relevant. Idiots- and then they complain that no one buys there anymore. Duh.
Ah, that bookstore. Would their name rhyme with Roadschool?
Hi Dale, Thanks for the good feedback. I have, of course, passed on doing anything with those stores.
By the responses of a couple of people, I guess I'm not supposed to mention them by name. Although I don't see why not. They make the offer to authors in writing.
Anyhow, they have 4 stores in our area with the umbrella entity rhyming with "you go." Need more? Let me know; I'll email you.
I agree with Ms Parker. I've never done a signing for several reasons. Mostly because I'm sadly very shy about promoting me stuff, but I have tried. The only really independent bookstore in my area gave me the brushoff because of the POD tattoo I have on my forehead. The biggies simply ignored my requests. Barnes and Noble has some sort of policy for authors to get a signing, but it's too much for me to deal with, and lastly, from everything I've heard, and from what I already figured, unless you're a celebrity, very few people are going to rush over to see you in person and buy your book. I know advertising pays, but it's very costly and working with a small publisher, neither of us can afford to take bread and milk from our children to pay for advertising. By the way, I happen to know an Author who had her hardcover book published by one of the Big Publishers. It even won a prize, but after three months, the publisher pulled the book and it's dead. Gone without explanation. I'll just stick with my small publisher and scrape by without big royalty checks.