Monday, November 10, 2008

To sell, or not to sell?

Vicki here with a question for other writers. How do you feel about providing your own books to a bookstore for a signing?

I’m not talking about a library talk or a craft show or some such thing where there isn’t anyone else to provide your books, so you load your boxes into the trunk of your car and head off for the day.

But a regular bookstore, that is part of a big chain of bookstores?

Point in question – I did a signing on Saturday. I arranged the signing in the summer, but the store didn’t get my books in. Whether they bothered to order them or not is, at this juncture, a moot point.

I brought my own. Financially speaking, let’s examine the prospect. I get the books from my publisher at the author’s discount of 50%. On top of that I pay shipping, and because my publisher is in the U.S., brokerage fees and G.S.T. I take the risk of buying too many books, because, unlike sales to a bookstore, they are not returnable. The books I purchase myself do not count towards my royalties, or to that all important number of books sold. (I.e. If I buy 10,000 copies of my book and give it as Christmas presents to 10,000 of my closest friends, Booksense – where publishers and agents look to see how the book is doing - will record that I have 0 sales).

For the privilege of giving me a table in the middle of the store, the bookstore takes 40% of the selling price. Therefore, once I’ve paid 50% of the cover price to get the book, 40% to the bookstore, plus G.S.T. and shipping fees (and let’s not get into whether the Canadian dollar is doing well or not which is a big factor) I might even be in the red.

With my first book, at one store I had to provide my own books for a signing, again at a big box store (Rick was my tour partner at that event) in June. After constant e-mails and phone calls, they finally sent me a cheque in January. Frankly, it wasn’t worth the stress of trying to get my money.

So why do it – well I sold a lot of books to people who wouldn’t otherwise have read them. Hopefully, those people will be looking out for the next book. I gave out a ton of my bookmarks and handouts, so perhaps some of those people will go away and decide later to get the book. However, if they return to the store where they met me they won’t find the book on the shelves, will they, because they were never in stock. Will they care enough to order it, or to buy online? Who knows.

What do you other authors out there do if a big box store doesn’t get your books in? Go ahead with the signing, or say “perhaps another time.”?


Donis Casey said...

alafairOh, I would have a comment in mind, but since this is a family blog, I won't share it with you. Did the bookstore minions behave as though they were in the least abashed to have mistreated you so? If they did, I might try to leverage their guilt into some sort of favor to me. I'm guessing from your description that they did not.

Donis Casey said...

Oops, sorry about the extra word. I'd explain how it got there, but it's not a very interesting story.

Charles benoit said...

This comes back to a concept I've been considering for a while. Given that you may have lost money on each sale, wouldn't, when do we get to a point where we just give our books away? There was a great article in Wired magazine a few months back on the concept of giving away product to promote later/other sales. I'd have to work out the math (and that could take some time) but it seems to me that at some point I may be better off in the long run if I just give books away. Vicki, how's this for a radical idea? Next time they ask you to do a signing, ask them how they'd feel if you gave away a copy of one of your books (signed lovingly by you right there) to anyone who buys $50 worth of mysteries. Bet the bookstore would love it, the book buyer would love it and, since you probably lost money anyway, you might even love it.

Charles benoit said...

Yeah, you can't edit out errors from comments, can you?

Donis Casey said...

Benoit comment #1. That is an intriguing idea.

Benoit comment #2. Apparently not.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Charles, that is an intriguing idea! It reminds me of the number of ARCs that are distributed,too. Those "blockbusters" with big budgets often have a thousand or more Advance Review Copies sent to bookstores, reviewers, and others. Who are those "others," anyway?

Rick Blechta said...

1000 ARCs? Geez! That's getting close to my entire print run!