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Thoughts on Buying Books

September 19, 2016

If you are not a writer or an aspirating writer, this post will likely bore you. It’s about buying books for signing events It’s targeted to indie and self-published writers, primarily, who travel to book festivals, who stand in the heat and cold, who talk to current and prospective readers for hours on end.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of where to buy your books, I need to ask you why you wrote and published your them. Did you focus on your friends and family? Will they be your likely readership? Did you write a book with a broad sweep where your reach is beyond a limited circle? Did you write something geographically focused where you will find most of your initial readership in one area of the country?

These questions are important because they should be used to inform your choice of where to buy books in bulk for those important speaking engagements and festivals. If your focus is mostly on friends and family, your best place to buy books at discount will be your publisher. Many indie publishers offer large discounts, sometimes at cost or at 40-50% off list price. The writer makes more money per book sold; the publisher gets his money up front and does a good deed for authors who have very few books in them. The writer can’t return unsold copies, because she didn’t go through one of the wholesalers like Ingram or Baker and Taylor. Once the books are in the author’s possession, it is her responsibility to sell them or hide them under spare beds.

Createspace offers a different look at bulk purchases. Indie authors who self-publish through Createspace can buy bulk shipments nearly at cost. My local writers’ group, which is literary arm of the local arts council, produced three anthologies. Each book listed for $10. The writers’ group purchased them at $3 per book, leaving a nice profit of $7, which was applied to a scholarship fund.

Amazon owns Createspace. Amazon’s goal here is to put as many books in print (and I’m writing about print copies only) as possible. Bulk orders are not reflected in Amazon rankings. The one who benefits here is the author, who keeps more money per book. No one receives royalties except for books sold through the online outlets.

But what about those writers who have aspirations of reaching a wider audience, of attracting a larger publisher, of rising in the Amazon ranks, and who are published by a small press? I suggest these writers look at distributors who resell at higher rates per book but who report all such sales through Bookscan, the Neilsen organization that tracks all paper book sales. It’s what publishers look at before taking on a newish writer, at least new to them. It’s what gives writers viability in Amazon’s rankings.

I use There are others, but this site puts books on my porch usually within a week of ordering. I pay a percentage based on the number of books I order. Each book ordered is reported in bulk to Bookscan. This is important to me, because I believe my books have a broader reach than family and friends. My publisher picks up book sales from Bookscan, as well as from Amazon, Ingram, and Baker and Taylor when he calculates my royalties. If I bought directly from him, I’d receive no public acknowledge for the sales. I’d receive no royalties, because his discount is in lieu of royalties. I wouldn’t make a dent in my Amazon rankings.

The choice is up to the individual author. If you are more interested in point-of-sale income, go with the least expensive option. If you are interested in public acknowledgement, royalties and Amazon rankings, look into one of the discounters. Check to be sure that all sales are reported to Bookscan.

From the looks of this box, I’d better reorder…

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