By Peggy Williams-
Whether you’re indie or traditionally published, placing books into stores on consignment can be daunting. Here are some tactics and tips to help you through the process.
Tactic: Approach the owner/manager with professionalism. Most independent book stores are supportive of local authors and love books set in or near their locale, so don’t be shy. However, do email or call ahead. Speak with the manager and ask for the best time to drop by the store with the books and paperwork.
Tactic: When deciding what to charge, expect a 40/60 split on the selling price of the book: The store keeps 40 percent, you get 60 percent. However, the base cost of the book and any shipping expenses come out of your 60 percent, so you’ll want to factor in those costs.
Tip: Take the manager’s advice. Book stores generally let you set the price, but the manager knows her customers and if she recommends something lower or higher, go with it.
Tactic: Get it in Writing. When you drop off your books, take along a consignment agreement. Many stores will already have one with the terms they prefer and will be happy to email or fax it to you ahead of time. Busy store owners appreciate when the paperwork is filled out in advance. Keep a copy for yourself.
Tip: You can find sample agreement forms online in case you need to make your own.
Tactic: Create an invoice. A typical length of consignment is 90 days, but you can invoice and expect payment for any books sold every 30 days. Specify in advance what should be done with any unsold books after the agreed time — will you let the store keep them longer or will you pick them up?
Tip: Take invoices along with you when you deliver the books for the rare store that is willing to pay you up front (this is more likely to happen with stores that sell your books regularly and with whom you have a relationship already established).
Tactic: Keep good records. Use Excel or a similar spreadsheet system to keep data on:
=> The store name, owner/manager’s name, address, phone number and email;
=> Date of delivery, number of books, and selling price;
=> Date of payment, invoice number, and number of outstanding books (those still unsold)
=> When to make follow up contact.
Tip: Create a separate spreadsheet page for each store; you can put multiple books on the same store page.
Tactic: Promote your books! Unless the store manager is willing to feature your books in the front window or in a special “regional authors” section, the books won’t sell themselves. Get the word out about where people can buy your books using social media like Facebook. Include information on where to buy your books on your website and in newsletters. Send email notices to anyone you know who lives near the stores and ask them to forward your email to friends and relatives.
Tip: Offer to do a book signing at the store. However, know that the most successful book signings happen when the author puts time and effort into promoting the event.
One final tip: Want to increase your book’s exposure? Think outside the box—do you have a connection with a neighborhood coffee or gift shop? Does your book have a theme such as quilting or chocolates that would make it attractive to a specialty store? Contact them too! With a little creativity and organization, success can be yours.
Bio: Peggy Williams is co-author of the On the Road mystery series, written under the pen name M. J. Williams. She has successfully placed her first book, On the Road to Death’s Door, into 11 book stores (and one quilt store) throughout Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is gearing up to offer the new, On the Road to Where the Bells Toll, to those same stores along with a slew of new outlets. Peggy lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can read her blog at MadCityWriter.blogspot.com.