Setting the terms for selling your book

Knowing where your book is available and how it is available is key to your book launch. When traditionally published, the publisher has always handled the sales and distribution of a title. That generally means a book is automatically listed with all wholesalers and retailers appropriately and according to set terms.

When you self-publish, or if you are with a smaller press or self-publishing company, it’s vital to know the terms in which your book is offered. This is key to understanding if bookstores and retailers can order the book at competitive terms or if you need to sell direct on consignment. If you are working with IngramSpark directly, you can set your terms on your own. If you aren’t, here are some general terms to understand:

Returnability

Yes, making your book returnable sounds scary. But that’s how the publishing industry works. Brick and mortar retailers will want to know if the book is returnable. This protects them from having inventory problems. It also encourages them to take a chance on an unknown author or publisher. Making your book returnable is important for authors with brick and mortar retail goals.

Discount

You can set your own trade discount at IngramSpark. Typically, retailers are looking for a 55% discount. Some authors choose 40%. Some choose no discount. To best position your book for success, retailers will expect some type of discount for purchasing your title. Your publisher may have their own terms with wholesalers and retailers. Understanding if your book is offered at a competitive discount will help you pitch the book to local and national retailers.

Barcode

Does your book have a bar code? Whether it’s price embedded (preferred) or not, ensuring that you have a barcode with the ISBN in place is key to any retail outlet.

Availability

It’s tough to go into bookstores and talk about how your book is available from Amazon. Most retailers are looking for a wholesale buying option from Ingram and/or Baker & Taylor. Make sure your book is at one or both of them.

Language

When pitching brick and mortar retailers, let them know where they can order the book. Typically this is listed on your Sales Sheet and in your pitch letter. The language on the sales sheet could be a simple asAvailable from Ingram. The letter may include more specifics, such as Available at a 55% discount on a returnable basis from Ingram. Let retailers know where (and how) they can purchase your book at a competitive price.

Sales Pitch

Who is actively selling your book? It’s not enough to just be available. If you have brick and mortar retail goals, someone needs to actively be pitching your book to bookstores. If you are traditionally published, your publisher likely has a trade, mass market and specialty sales rep in house. If you are self-publishing, you are likely your own sales team. Remember, bookstores won’t buy your book unless they are pitched the book by you or another sales rep. If you don’t have a sales team working for you, package up a nice sales and marketing kit to share with stores. Include your ordering information, availability and marketing plans.

Just making your book available at Amazon or other online outlets doesn’t mean you are actively selling it. Understanding exactly what bookstores are looking for, setting up your book properly and talking about it like a sales pro will go a long way toward driving interest (and orders) from retailers.


BETHANY BROWN is the President of The Cadence Group, a design, editorial, marketing and book coaching provider to the publishing industry. With a background in traditional publishing by way of Adams Media and Sourcebooks and close to a decade of working directly with authors and small presses, Bethany understands the challenges (and benefits!) facing self-publishers and indie presses today. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband Steve and her dog, Popeye.

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