ISBN/Distribution. Long held assumption, not now sure.

John HainesJohn Haines Creator
edited February 8 in General Discussions
For years I have assumed that by applying a distribution package to a book, on Lulu mainly, but also applies elsewhere, that this allows a retailer to procure the book using their own usual procedures, at a genuine wholesale price. However, in discussion with a manager of a family owned bookshop, as well as a manager of a national chain, both of whom stock and sell a book of ours, that it simply isn't that easy and that is why they prefer stock to be supplied by the author / self publisher on a sale or return basis. Me and my publishing oppo are happy to do this, it'd be daft not to of course, but it would be so much nicer if the shops would just use normal procuring methods. Anyone else come across this?

Comments

  • I believe the books aren't returned to Lulu that easily. Not sure about the policy but I think most stores want to return unsold books. It might best for you to buy a few copies and give them to the stores to sell. That way they can be returned to you if unsold. They might go for that rather than lulu's return policy. I'd check with support to more factual info.
  • One problem with Print On Demand books is that they are expensive to make. Compare the cost to that of some of the major publishing houses who have almost always had the books mass-printed in China and the difference can be depressing. Then there's the retailer's mark-up. It is often they who make the lion's share of any profits. As already mentioned, there's also that Sale Or Return that most 'traditional' publishers offer. POD does not normally offer that, and for a very good logical reason. It does not really have to. No POD book usually exists until it is ordered by someone. Indeed hat could be a retailer, ordering just one via an ISBN given by a customer, or it could indeed be a retailer ordering one or two on spec after finding it on a distributor's lists, or even reading a good review about it. There's still the handicap of the high creation price of a POD book. All I can suggest about that is not to set your Royalties too high, because once a retailer has added their mark-up, the POD book could be at an off-putting price.
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  • Ta, Kevin, as one with you on your points. Now, TJN, I / we do indeed stock a shop on a sale or return basis; my oppo and I are lucky that the niche genre / market allows the book to be a little more expensive than fiction. However, it would be nice if a store would use the wholesale route, not for stock, but to fulfil the odd order. But, going back to Kevin's points, maybe wholesale doesn't really exist for POD books. I had always assumed there was once you had distro attached - now, not so sure.
  • The main advantage of POD is that no stock has to be held at all, and still due to the high cost of POD, even wholesale prices will not be that much lower. Traditional publishers often have at least 5,000 printed at a time, as a first print run, then if it is a success they may have 50,000 printed, possibly at £0.50 each or less. Printing via POD does not decrease greatly no matter how many are printed at once, but once up to a certain number one may as well have them mass-printed and ignore POD.
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  • Bookstores sell books that are in demand and on which they can turn a profit. I suppose if someone goes into a bookstore and specifically asks for a title by a POD author they might order one in but, really, chances of a POD book ending up in a bricks and mortar bookstore are slim.

    It makes me sad to see authors trying to find a way to achieve mass distribution to physical bookstores; it is not going to happen. The biggest stumbling block is that bookstores operate on a sale or return basis. Unsold POD stock cannot be returned to the publisher. Large amounts of time, effort and money go into bringing books to the attention of booksellers; there are trade magazines and trade fairs and we have none of that clout.

    Sadly, the only advice I can offer is to be happy that some bookstores are happy to take some of your books on consignment.  You are the publisher so why shouldn't you carry any financial risk involved, just like any other publisher?


  • HULSEYHULSEY UK Creator
    A few years ago, my local bookstore agreed to stock a batch of my books which I ordered from Lulu. We agreed a deal of fifty-fifty sales and there was no risk to the bookseller. He contacted me when they sold out and gave me a cheque. Okay, in the long run, I never made a profit, but it was a way of introducing the books to the public. Perhaps I should have kept up this operation and will reconsider it.      
  • SphinxCameronSphinxCameron Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    I believe Ingram Spark offers indie authors the option for sale or return basis, but from what I was reading the indie [being the publisher] bears the cost of the unsold books plus shipping costs for each copy returned [if return is selected for unsold copy rather than destroy]. Either way the returns can get pricey in a hurry.

    Since most physical stores won't order titles by the unknown it makes more sense to order your books and leave them on consignment.
  • Bookstores sell books that are in demand and on which they can turn a profit. I suppose if someone goes into a bookstore and specifically asks for a title by a POD author they might order one in but, really, chances of a POD book ending up in a bricks and mortar bookstore are slim.

    Many retailers, mainly the big ones, will often not stock any product until a demand has been created for it by the creator. Hence the vast sums major product labels spend on marketing. (It is also tax-deductible, though.)

    It makes me sad to see authors trying to find a way to achieve mass distribution to physical bookstores; it is not going to happen. The biggest stumbling block is that bookstores operate on a sale or return basis.

    One problem is that some chains of retailers use their very own buying/distribution network, and one has to get listed with them first. Which is not easy.

     Unsold POD stock cannot be returned to the publisher. Large amounts of time, effort and money go into bringing books to the attention of booksellers; there are trade magazines and trade fairs and we have none of that clout.

    Indeed. And sales reps ringing contacts and banging on doors. However I did once meet a self-publisher standing at a table with his own display on it in a major book store, attempting to sell his own books. He told me he spent around £10,000 a year on promotion. I did not ask him if he uses POD, but I doubt he does because his thick hardbacked books were £12.

    Sadly, the only advice I can offer is to be happy that some bookstores are happy to take some of your books on consignment.  You are the publisher so why shouldn't you carry any financial risk involved, just like any other publisher?


    Indeed. But is there not just joy in writing and then holding a copy in your hand? Even if that is the only copy?

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  • When all said and done, are not most book purchase made on line? Hence why so many 'real' book shops shut down.
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