Recently one of my Morgan James authors contacted me and asked, “Is my book really inside any Barnes and Noble bookstores. It was a good question and I turned to a colleague to find the answer.
I learned this particular book had been available to the brick and mortar bookstores for about six months (often the decision point marker for the retailer to return the book). Yes this book had been placed inside brick and mortar bookstores around the country (a big deal for any author) yet it was starting to be returned.
Surprise Information to Authors
When I speak with authors, they are often surprised to learn every book inside a brick and mortar bookstore is there on consignment. If the book does not sell, the retailer has the right to return the book to the publisher for a full refund. It’s a practice that began during the Great Depression and continues today. Returns cost publishers thousands of dollars each year.
Hardcover books have a high rate of return (90% some years). It’s why when you go into your local Barnes & Noble there are hardcover books in the entry way which say “Last chance.” It is the last chance for these books to be purchased before they are returned and destroyed.
Everyone loses when a book is returned—the reader who misses the opportunity to purchase the book, the publisher who risked, printed and distributed the book, the author doesn’t make a sale (royalties) and the retailer invests energy to send it back. It’s a terrible business practice which isn’t going to change in the brick and mortar bookstores.
Broad distribution to brick and mortar bookstores is a key benefit of a traditional publisher. These books are not “available” for order but physically sit inside the retailer store so anyone can immediately purchase it.
Every bookstore in the country buys books based on their perception of what the author is doing to promote their book. Are you promoting your book—and not just doing it but doing it in an effective way that gets people talking about your book and buying it? What works for one book is different for what works with another book. It will take experimentation and tracking on your part to see what will work for your book. There is no one path to success for a book. Every author has to take their own responsibility, and then be actively working at telling people about their book and encouraging them to get it at their local retailer.
For example, look at the website for my Billy Graham biography and notice the different buttons for purchase. One of them is for the local independent bookstore. Are you giving people different options to purchase your book? I recommend it.
At Morgan James, we are on the phone with our sales team every week—giving them specific details about what our authors are doing to promote their books. These sales people pass the information on to the bookstores and that is what keeps your book in the stores and not getting returned. If we don’t hear from our authors, we assume they are doing nothing—because most authors are doing nothing to promote their book.
The author who asked me if her books were in the bookstores was actively promoting her book—but she was not telling Morgan James. The communication was not happening between author and publisher.
Are you reporting your marketing activities to your publisher on a regular basis? It might be the difference between sales and returns. Ask your publisher what they need from you then deliver it on a regular basis.
Labels: authors, bookstores, communication, consistency, promotion, publisher, report, returns