Sorry I haven't been around much, but it's been a busy couple years!
So, for the last two years, I've been working on a historical book about a specific town in Oklahoma. (Thanks HubPages, for helping make this happen!) I'm in the final stages of publishing and I need some advice.
Basically, we're looking to release the book in early July. We've begun preliminary talks with several bookstores and other organizations in the area to carry the books. There's a couple places that have agreed to take the book on consignment. I'm trying to figure out exactly how this works in the book industry.
The published book will sell for $40. It costs us $9.60 per book to have them published.
From what I've seen, consignment book sellers generally offer a 30/70 split and pay monthly. This means that I would get $28 per book, and the shop would get $12.
After that, we would have a profit of 18.40 per book.
I figure that a percentage of that will go back into the company for the purchase of future books.
Does this sound right? Has anyone else had experience in this that can offer some advice?
Thanks for your help!
The store will likely tell you what split they want, expect anything up to 50%. If they don't have a requirement offer 30% and see how it goes. They may offer ongoing stock, they may offer one off stocking and close the deal if they don't get sell-through. Make sure you have up to 5 copies ready to go. Be sure to offer a signing, if you can sell through at the signing this might extend your time on their shelves.
So far, the stores that I've talked to have been great about that, but I want to make sure that I'm getting the right deal and don't deplete our budget right off the bat. I think 30% sounds good - there's a few places, such as the historical society, that just don't have a clue so that means I have to offer them something and see what they say.
So far, I think that our initial order will be 100 copies, with 5 going to each store. I'll also carry a supply with me when we do the book signings just to be on the safe side.
Thanks for your help! What you said makes sense, and gives me a little more to think about!
Sounds to me as though you may a have a difficult time making retail sales sustainable at $40.00. Of course I have no idea what the level of interest in this particular town may be or what the demographics of your target market are. However in a Marketplace rife with free eBooks and internet discounts you may find sales tough at 40 bucks.
There are two options for getting the books on the shelves one is as you have described above however your consignment vendor share may be low at 30% of retail. All these books stores will act as if they are doing you a favor just by allowing you to stock a few in their store. If you’re self-publishing remind them you are the one taking all the investment risk, this is an easier sell to the store for them to take the 30%.
Percentages though are risky when you have fixed costs, even with a consignment deal you should define a “wholesale” price and a retail price, or price range (with a not to exceed) that the store must sell your book.
You can talk percentage of profit margin but be sure the deal is for a hard per copy amount to be paid to you. You do not want the store just operate on a 30% margin. They could decide to have a clearance sale and sell you book at 70% off, take their 30% and you’re screwed.
The other is to sell your books wholesale, this however may take some preliminary sales volume demonstrations to get a store to buy product. Using your numbers, take your production and distribution cost multiplied by two and round up to the nearest dollar to arrive at wholesale price then insist on a retail price of 1/3 above minimum not to exceed ½ above. Just remember if you want them to invest, they will be looking for larger profit margins and moving the retail price up may not help sell books. You may also have to offer a buy back if the book does not sell, so dont go spending all your profits.
For your book if the $9.60 includes shipping & distribution, marketing and all other overhead expenses then wholesale at $20.00, if you insist of the $40.00 retail price tag then wholesale at $25.00 or $30.00.
ReadytoEscape, This is some great stuff here!
About the book: The book is about the early days of Poteau, Oklahoma. To date, nobody has ever put a book together that shows any of the history of the town, and since it's the county seat of LeFlore County, there's a lot of interest in it. To date, we have more than 100 book orders from individuals (87 individuals, with some ordering extra copies as gifts), with several other "promises" to buy the book when it's released. You know how promises go though, so I'm not counting on that. Since this is a local book, I don't expect to make a lot of sales outside of the state.
We did an intensive demographic study before we started this project, as well as created a marketing and business plan to make sure that it was even worth doing the project to begin with. From our early studies, as well as information that we've followed through on later, most of the people are more interested in having it in hard copy form rather than as an e-book. We are working on an e-book format though, although it will be slimmed down a lot.
We determined the $40 price by comparing similar books in similar demographic ranges. This was actually more towards the low end of things - in Okmulgee, they have a similar book that goes for $120, which I thought was absurd!! Still, people ate it up like it was candy. Once we determined the price, we then held a poll to see how sales would be. Most of the people that we surveyed said that they would gladly pay $40, but there were a few that thought it was too high. For the first three months, we plan to offer it at that price for the people who want the first copies. After that, we plan on reducing it for awhile to 30 for a limited time and then raise it back later.
We have set a wholesale discount at 55%, which, from what I can tell, is pretty much the industry standard. I think that by doing it this way we will encourage people to buy wholesale instead of consignment. Currently, we have two bookstores that will carry the book - one of which is someone that I do marketing work for, which helps a lot. There's not a lot of book stores in the area. Most of the people that will carry the books are local business owners; hotels, the main street program, the chamber of commerce, the historical society, etc... There's a few of these places that want to work on consignment, which is the one area that I'm really not sure about. I've never done anything on consignment, so any advice here is helpful!
You've given me a lot to think about here. In fact, I printed this off so that I could mull it over for awhile. Thanks for your help!! It's very much appreciated!
It sounds like you are on the right track and $40 is more than reasonable for niche non-fiction. Maybe even on the low side.
Sounds great wish you all the best. For that kind of book don’t forget the restaurants, (especially any that cater to tourists,) Art galleries, Interior design studios and the hardware store. I have done some of my best sales at art galleries.
You know, I never even thought about any of those places! There's a restaurant here that's located in the old Oklahoma Immigration Building - they have tons of old photos and memorabilia there and I bet they would be more than happy to carry the books! There's another store around the corner, not really an art gallery, but close enough, that sells a lot of the same styles that were from the time period. The owner is extremely interested in the old history here, so I bet she'd love to carry it as well! I would have never even thought of checking with those places.. Thanks for the suggestions!
I live an hour and a half drive from Poteau. Have you given any thought of maybe donating 1 book to a library (or a couple)? I've only driven by Poteau, but never went to visit (should put that down as a place to visit when boredom strikes). If Poteau has a popular coffee shop, might not be a bad idea to keep a stock there for sell as well. Fort Smith is the largest city I can think of near you, is that where you plan to have the publishing done? Have you done research as far as the cheapest, yet good quality end product, there is for you?
Hi Urbane Chaos,
Best of luck with your book! My experience with self publishing was negative, because poetry is not a good seller, and bookstores don't like to put self published books on their shelves. So I'm glad you've spoken to a few already, you need a firm committment. My publisher priced my book too high. It was worth about $20.00 in hardcover and $15.00 softcover, but they priced it at $30.00 and $20.00, with my price being $10.00. It didn't leave me much wiggle room to purchase my own copies, sell them to metaphysical bookstores for about $5.00 more than I paid, only for the store to make another $5.00. Then they pressured me to buy books at 100 a time, but I had already invested too much money of my own into it. They lied, and said the book would be on bookshelves, I even paid for a buyback program. Check with your local libraries, they may be open to a local publisher, especially about their own or a near by town. Also, put a little blurb in a local newspaper about how a local author (you) wrote interesting facts and history about your area. You may have to give some away, so try to get your friends talking, and make sure you keep a few copies in the car with you at all times.
Hey Jean! Good to hear from you again!
It almost sounds like you went through a vanity press type of thing. With CreateSpace, all they do is print the books; you set the price and you purchase however many you need, be it only one or one hundred. The nice thing about using CS is that you retain all rights to the book. If you decide yu don't like them and want to go somewhere else then there's no contract to break or anything else, which is rare in publishing. Mr. Harwell recommend them to us, and he's used them for four or five years now without any problems.
I've talked to a few local publishers as well, but it's the same problem that I've had with The University of Oklahoma Press - they take such a huge chunk out that there's just pennies left over for the author. I understand that everyone in-between has to be paid, but for the sales volume that we expect it's just not worth going through an established publisher like that.
Doing it the way we are, I'm directly in charge of getting the books out there. That means a lot of footwork, but I would rather know exactly where the money is going and who's carrying the book than leaving it up to someone who may or may not get it out there.
If you've kept the rights to your work, I would look into CreateSpace - you may have a lot better luck with them. I believe, and don't quote me on this, but if I remember what I read right then you can use them and not have to pay a dime to sell it online. They will take their royalties, which is normal, but it beats not having it out there at all. I'm sorry that that happened to you though.. I hope that you're able to get your stuff out again without getting ripped!
Just within the last couple of years, Poteau has really grown a lot. They have the new convention center and the skatepark (we held a huge contest here earlier this year!).. then they're working on building a new library and several other things as well. The historical society should have the museum up and going sometime next year, if all goes well. Then there's the Poteau BalloonFest, which was the largest of its type in the area! I expect that this year it could easily double in size.. I've been lucky enough to get invited to work on a few of these projects and I've been extremely impressed. I'm not a native - I grew up in Florida, so for me to be impressed is saying something. If you do visit Poteau, try to come during the BalloonFest!
We plan on donating several books at various stages.
First, there's a couple that I want to give to people who have really helped us a lot and deserve copies. This will be a month the official release, and some of them will be for marketing reasons. For example, there's a local city leader that has a lot of sway in the community. She's supported this project from the start, and has a lot of connections in the area. For her getting a copy early, she's agreed to help promote the book before it's official release. In addition, we'll provide a copy to the historical society, main street matters, and the chamber of commerce.
Immediately after the release, we'll donate a copy to the area libraries; Poteau, Heavener, and Wister.
Around our six-month mark, we have a budget set aside to offer special "give-away" promotions. By helping to promote the book, we'll have some kind of contest to where people can win books. By this time, we should have our second book done on Poteau and plan to release it around then. That book is half-way done, and is simply a photo book showing Poteau places from the past compared to the present. This is also something that people have shown a great interest in.
As far as publishing, we studied a variety of methods. At first, we were talking with the University of Oklahoma Press. They were extremely interested in the book, but once we started looking at things more in-depth, we found that they would take a huge chunk out of our profits. Generally, this is alright, but for such a localized book it didn't fit with what we're trying to accomplish. Ultimately, we decided to self-publish. A local author, Joe Harwell, led us to CreateSpace, which is a P.O.D. company. He's had several books published by them and they are of excellent quality - beyond that, they are the most affordable P.O.D. company that we've found. They also provide a lot of options that most don't. In addition, they will also set us up on Amazon as well as a number of other online retailers, which the University of Oklahoma Press (and other publishing company's that we talked to) wouldn't do.
The only real drawback to P.O.D. publishing is that they don't do any of the marketing - that's up to the author. Since I have a lot of connections throughout LeFlore County, a lot of the marketing has already been taken care of. So far, everything looks good.. My main concern is just understanding how to handle the consignment sales.
Kevin's idea of placing the books in coffee shops is great! Small local restaurants, craft stores and the Chamber of Commerce or locally owned banks might be possibilities? Also, offer to speak about the book (and sign copies) at various clubs and other meetings.
Have you thought about on-demand publishing? A friend self-published a few books, and for a small fee, an online firm prints them and sends them out as people order them. It's on Amazon. The copies are hard bound and nicely produced.
Sorry for the duplication of your C of C mention, etc. above, Urban Chaos - it sounds like you've covered a lot of great potential outlets! Congratulations on the upcoming publication, by the way - it is so great to hear of Hubbers who are published elsewhere!
Kevin really has a lot of great ideas! And no need to apologize, that just reinforces the idea that it needs to be done.
I'll say this though, the idea of having book signings has always scared me a little! I have no problem talking to people, but my biggest fear is that it will be advertised and then nobody will show up. Since our first book signing is outside of town, it's a good possibility that traffic will be very slow.. Over the last two years, she's helped out tremendously, so it's one of those obligatory things, but I still can't help but worry about it..
With your friend, what company did she use? Amazon has two POD company's that I know of. CreateSpace is affiliated with Amazon, but I don't think they are wholly owned by them. Amazon has it's own POD service (or used to), but there's a lot of stipulations that they impose on authors. Last I heard, if you went with Amazon's service then there was only a very few select bookstores that were allowed to carry the book. Smaller, locally owned stores would be out of the question. CreateSpace doesn't have any of those stipulations. I've talked to them on the phone several times and they said that once the book is printed, they don't care what happens to it. We've done a lot of research along those lines and unless there's a different company that I haven't heard about yet, I think CreateSpace is about the best one to go through.
And.. I have to give HubPages props here. I've done print-media work before, mostly ghostwriting "boring" stuff, but once I joined HubPages then that's when I saw a huge difference. After a few hubs, a local magazine out of Pauls Valley contacted me and asked me if I could do a piece for them. A couple weeks later, I was contacted by a firm out of McAlester to do several articles. Pretty soon, I was getting regular work from all across Oklahoma - which really blew me away. I quit my full-time job and just went to writing.. This would have never happened without HubPages. ...and still, despite not being able to regularly check on my hubs, they're still bringing in money! Really, you just can't beat that at all!
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