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12 - Retailing Books
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– Twelve --
Pricing and Commissions
The normal percentage split with bookstores is 60/40. That means that the bookstore seeks to or demands forty percent of the Retail Selling Price. My first book, “Diamondhead Jubilee” retailed at $20 and consisted of 130 pages. I found a frame shop, a dress shop, and a Super Market grocery store that sold my books on consignment at 75/25 split, or $5 to the retailer. I then approached a nearby Independent Bookstore who wanted 40 percent, but I talked the owner into compromising at taking $5.50.
As I published more book titles I established varying prices in accordance with the amount of pages each contained – as a result, one title sold for $17 retail. As time passed and I increased my distributions to other Independent bookstores, I fixed the selling price at $20 for all -- and standardized commissions offered to $5.
I was determined to keep my percentage and in some cases needed strong persuasions by using the argument of the increased costs incurred by self-publishing.
Some people claim that $20 is too high for my books which range from 125 pages to 165 pages, but the way I look at it is that Halmark greeting cards and postcards and helium balloons sell for $5 each – then why shouldn’t the effort I extend be justified with a $20 sale --- and I get no more arguments. However, when I make direct sales, I am perfectly willing to give some sort of discount, but I don’t find it necessary.
I have found that the more difficult retail locations are the Fine Arts Retailers who claim they have extra costs of gift wrapping and at Museums that are run by non-profit organizations or volunteers. In these cases, I simply state that I have to offer the same schedule to all retailers and if I treat them differently, I must alter the sale price.
As an example: A local Barnes and Noble store refused handling my books, but the local Books-A-Million, pressed by requests, wanted my books but could not alter the 40 percent cut. I simply raised the selling price to them at $25, allowing me to keep my base return of $15 per book.
With the release of the Slidell, Louisiana book, “Slidell – Camellia City,” I sold through various retail outlets including a Christian Bookstore, The remaining local Independent Bookstore demanded 40% and also requested and advised me to work with a regional distributor. I called the Distributor and afterwards decided that the toll was too high. They required that I get ISBN index numbers for each book and imposed an inventory in addition to a handling percentage in addition to the 40 percent that would benefit the retailers.
I didn’t have to argue with myself any further – I refused their services since even though they would open other sales outlets that I wasn’t selling through, but they would also sell to the same retailers I was already dealing with and would give them the increased commission rate.
Incidently, early on I purchased ten ISBN numbers costing $25 each and have never used them.
Distribution by Publisher
As I mentioned in a previous Tome, I had one book published. This opened new markets and sales exposure to book distributors, national bookstore chains, and internet retailers. This was Great? No, not so great! I advised my local dealers that they could buy direct from the Publisher and receive greater commissions and I decided to purchase 60 books for direct sales and as back-up to any retailers who ran short on inventory. My book purchases rate was at the same discount that the book dealers were getting, so I was not making any money from the transaction other than from Author’s Commissions – which is $1 dollar per book. Even the Publisher’s book review copies which they disseminated were a reduction from my commissions. This was not a good idea for me.
I decided not to proceed with any more books published in that manner. The only benefit, if any, is that I can claim that I am published as well as being self-published. The same promotional and marketing efforts I extend to all my self-published books is also required of the published book – and I don’t get but $1 per book on those sales.