How to get your indie book into Barnes and Noble? It's not for the faint of heart. I’m having my first Barnes and Noble book signing October 12 at the B & N in Lahaina, 3 to 5 pm. Care to hop a plane and join me? I’d be delighted to give you a hug and some book swag!
The road to this day has been a painful, expensive and bumpy one, and that’s not mentioning the agony of writing the books. In spite of over half a million copies of my books sold online, I face the same challenges any indie author faces in getting books into the brick-and-mortar giant, and those can be summed up in one word: returnability.
But before we go there, here are some of the things I’ve tried to breach the walls:
- Hired top-notch team including NY cover designer, trad pub editor/copyeditor, and interior book design team, so that my print books look good as anything in stores
- Hired a saleswoman whose job was getting the books into stores, with focus on Hawaii;
- Mobilized readers to go in and ask for my books
- Paid for review and advertising on Kirkus to gain the attention of booksellers, store buyers and libraries;
- Paid extra to be listed in ALL versions of Ingram’s wholesale book catalogs;
- Paid to big bucks to be featured in IndieReader’s Eidelweiss catalog of vetted, reviewed indie books that have their stamp of approval for marketing to bookstores.
- Changed my pricing to 55% to retailer, and enabled returnability.
The last item on this list is the one that made all the difference. In fact, the only one.
Early into my author/publisher journey, my saleswoman called all the B &N’s in Hawaii. They had heard of me, had dealt with customers asking for my books, wanted to stock them, but COULD NOT, due to corporate policy, carry them until the pricing reflected their mandatory 55% cut and returnability was enabled.
Returnability is a huge risk for any indie to assume. In addition to all the money I’ve spent on advertising and other strategies I've tried tackling the print book issue, in order to be carried by B&N I have to personally assume the same risk every publisher assumes: if the book doesn’t sell, the bookseller can send it back, either to my book producer, LightningSource (with an additional pulping fee of two dollars a book) or to me personally.
I chose for them to send it to me.
Last week my first box of returns arrived on my front doorstep.
Because my books are gorgeous, high-quality trade paperbacks, they cost around five dollars apiece to produce, plus two dollars shipping. I get to suck down 30 times $7.00 (and that’s just the books coming back that I know about right now.)
But at least I don’t have to pay 2 dollars more apiece for a pulping fee. I figure I can give these copies away to libraries, as prizes to fans. Hell I can drop them off at the homeless shelter…but can I afford to invest in print? No siree.
I make one dollar per print book sold.
(Contrast that with $3.79 profit per e-book sold at Amazon, and NO risk or return cost.)
When calculating the cost of print, don’t forget to add production fees, shipping, 55% to retailer, and now I need to remember to deduct “returns.” (At a seven dollars loss per returned book versus one dollar profit per book sold, I’d need to sell 210 print books to break even on that box that just showed up on my doorstep. What a fun math word problem that was.)
So this book signing at B &N is really about my personal bucket list. I’ve dreamed of seeing my books on shelves, of going into B&N (the only retail bookstore on Maui) and seeing my books there. And now they are! I am so excited…and boy do I hope the store in Lahaina sells every one of those copies!
Now you know what it takes to get into B &N… nerves of steel, and a pocketbook that can take some hits, and THEN the phone call to the individual B & N store pitching your book.
After next month, I plan to turn OFF returnability. It’s just not a sandbox this indie author can afford to play in, and its very evident to me why the publishing world is failing under this current model. Who can afford to absorb all the returns? It would give even Michael Connolly pause if he had to pay personally for them.
Thoughts? Anyone else find another way into B &N?