Bookstores. We love to browse them. We love the services they provide. But do they serve the needs of a Self-Published Author?
Are Bookstores Worth It for Self-Published Authors?
I love Indie Bookstores, I do! I’m a Shop Small Girl, I promise! I buy books from bookstores ALL THE TIME! I wanted to say that first and foremost because today’s article might otherwise be viewed as controversial.
I’ve seen a number of articles and even a campaign sponsored by Bookshop (the leading online ordering service for Indie Bookstores) out this week encouraging readers to NOT shop Amazon for Prime Day and instead get your books from your local bookstore. In theory, I support and understand this. We NEED indie bookstores to survive and have been fighting this fight for them for years. Remember the Meg Ryan/ Tom Hanks movie- You’ve Got Mail?
BUT, as a Self-Published Author, there’s a reason I prioritize Amazon for my own books. Unfortunately, I’ve found there are things we need to know about bookstores for self-published authors.
When The Girl in the Triangle launched last year, I was all about getting it into bookstores. One, there was the romantic idea of seeing it on shelves. And two, I thought it would really be to my benefit. Exposure, free marketing right? Most of you even know I’ve done plenty of bookstore signings. However, although I met some awesome bookstore owners and people, the shine quickly wore off.
The unfortunate reality is bookstores DO NOT benefit the Self-Published Author. Some will not even consider self-published books, others make you pay to rent your shelf space and then there’s the royalty/return issue.
I did an event a few months ago and was excited they got a bunch of my books in for it. Well, in the few hours I was there- I made less than I would in one hour at a festival. (35% per sale vs 100% – printing cost per sale).
Then I learned the hard way what happens when the bookstore decides they’re not going to move the stock. They gave my books less than eight weeks before returning. Although they bought them at a 55% discount from my supplier- I had to eat the entire full price cost of the return! And I didn’t even get the books back- they were destroyed at the warehouse!
I honestly can’t even blame the bookstore for this. I get it. They are a small space and need to stock what moves the fastest. But when traditional publishers can pay for highlighted tables and window space- my book on a back shelf didn’t stand a chance.
In contrast, the Amazon beast is set up for self-publishing success. I get a 70% royalty off a sale there. The item is only printed when ordered- so no worries about unmoved stock. And Amazon eats the cost of any returns.
The world of publishing is changing. I honestly don’t know what it will look like in the future. I already know I need to prioritize getting my books into audio book form for the upcoming year. And even on Amazon the bulk of my sales comes from e-books.
Will I find in the future that paperback format isn’t worth carrying at all? I hope not! I’d hate to never again hold a book in my hands and have that magic of turning a page. For now, I’ll stick to Print on Demand.And hopefully, one day, there will be a better system for partnering with the bookstores I love.
In the meantime, I’ll say- you can still support both me AND your favorite bookstore by ordering my books off their websites and getting them sent to your house! You just won’t see me pushing for them to stock my books in store again. 🙁