You walk into the big box book store, and there they are, the latest new releases. It’s something every author wants to know about when they get started publishing their book: when will their book be in book stores? And although new technology and changes in the publishing industry have made it easier to publish a book, it’s not any easier to get it into book stores.
We actually don’t recommend that a self-publishing/independent author push to get their book into “chain” book stores right away. The model by which the industry operates doesn’t work in favor of self-publishing or independent authors. The authors have to fund the process of setting up the distribution, printing and shipping books to and from a distributor that supplies the bookstores, and they will be paid much less per book than the list price printed on the back. Distributors will pay 50% or less of the list price to the publisher (in this case the author). For many authors, that payment will not cover the cost of printing the books, let alone help with other expenses. Books can also be returned back to the publisher, and in many cases they come back damaged and can’t be re-sold. The publisher is then also out the money they spent to ship the books to and from the distributor’s facilities. And that’s all assuming that stores place orders for the book.
The author needs to also dedicate a large portion of their publishing budget to marketing the book, as retailers won’t order a book if they don’t know it exists. Simply listing a book with a distributor doesn’t mean it begins to show up in stores.
The good news is that the Internet has made book selling easier than ever and in most cases also means higher profits for authors. Authors should start out by selling their book online to gauge demand. If the demand is there, then they can move toward physical retail options. Local book stores, some of which are experiencing growth due to the closing of big box book stores, are generally much more receptive in general to independent authors. Terms of sale will vary depending on the store, so authors need to be sure they’re entering into a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Ultimately, good marketing is what sells books, regardless of whether it’s sold online, in stores, or both, so before a book is pitched to retailers, a marketing budget and plan need to be in place.