A special coverage from The Coalition of Visionary Resources COVR in partnership
with Kim Perkins
Why won’t some retailers carry self-published books?
It is often tough for authors, especially local ones, to comprehend why a store owner might not want to stock their self-published book. After all, aren’t bookstores in business to sell books? And why wouldn’t a retailer want to support a self-published author?
Before you make a snap judgement, there are many things to consider in this equation. Truth is, most retailers do want to support self-published authors, and especially local ones, but the way that the book distribution industry is set up may not be conducive to making that feasible.
Most mid- to large-sized retailers use a POS (Point of Sale) computer system with electronic ordering capabilities. So the book buyer might generate purchase orders for hundreds of books from many different publishers. Or they might use a distribution house and place one large order, choosing from the many publishers the distributor carries. Either way, it is not usually economical for them to order one or two titles here and there from small publishers.
There is not a large margin of profit in selling books (if you are an author I don’t have to tell you this) and if the retailer is a smaller establishment, it may be even harder to justify the work involved (order, receive, display, inventory, invoice payment) to carry one book.
And the decision may not be about money at all. The retailer may not think your book “fits” in their store, they may already have too many titles on the subject, or they may not think the cover art or description will create sales. This is their prerogative to make those decisions and it may not be personal at all.
And if your book does sell, keeping track of reordering can also be time consuming, especially if they order from distributors weekly – your book will not come up for reorder.
So, what can you do to make it easier for the retailer? One thing is to get your book carried by the distributor that the retailer uses. This may take some time and investment, and you will lose an additional percentage of the cover price, but it can also be well worth your effort. Once your book is carried by a distributor, you can market it to other stores around the country who can then easily order it too.
Another option is to approach the retailer, ask why they are not carrying your book. If their answer has to do with not being able to know when it sells, not having time to call to get you to bring in more, etc. , offer to keep track of that yourself. Perhaps the retailer would like to stock two copies of your book. Offer to make it your job to check each week to see if they need more. If they do, simply drop off one or two copies (whatever they need) with an invoice at the front desk. Often times, this will be a win-win for both parties.
You could also encourage the retailer to create a space – perhaps an endcap – that highlights local authors. If you know other local authors, coordinate with them and present the info to the retailer. Always hold in your mind that the goal is to make this easy and painless for the retailer. If you can come up with a way that they can showcase local authors and you can do some of the legwork, they may readily agree to the partnership.
Do children’s products and titles sell in the body-mind-spirit market?
The fast answer is yes, children’s books and products can sell well in the Mind, Body, Spirit section of your store. However, it’s not a guarantee that they will sell just because you place them in that section.
As with any well-planned array of products you would like to add to your store inventory, the selection of books and products needs to be carefully curated. If you are not well versed in which titles sell best, and which gifts/toys have a proven track record, get some help from your distributors or peruse catalogs with this focus.
Keep in mind that the products and books that you stock must be attractive to children, of course, but it is the parents and grandparents that purchase most of the time. Therefore, your display and product selection should focus on being appealing to those who love children as well as the youngsters themselves.
What point of sale extras can I offer to keep my customers from ordering from Amazon on their phone while standing right in my store?
I am not sure that a point of sale extra will bring you the desired result in this circumstance. The best way to have your customers be loyal to your establishment, and not order directly from Amazon while they are in your store, is to give them ample reasons to purchase from you.
The first thing to remember is that (unless you have some magical formula I have never heard of) you cannot compete with Amazon on price, so don’t even try. What you are offering is an entirely different experience that encompasses personalized service, knowledgeable staff, kindness and a smile, and hopefully a loyalty program that encourages them to purchase from you – all things they cannot get from Amazon.
Resign yourself to the fact that there will still be those who come in to peruse your merchandise and then order online without a thought of how this effects your bottom line. The key is to minimize this percentage of people and maximize those that are loyal to you.
One thing I suggest are to implement a Customer Loyalty program if you don’t already have one. You can do this with a physical card that gets punched when a customer makes a purchase, or you may have this already built into your computer Point of Sale program. Both ways are effective, cost little to manage, and can swiftly create a loyal customer base that doesn’t mind spending a bit more in person, rather than order online, because they know a reward is coming when they do. Trust me, customers love rewards!
And finally, consider an education campaign. I agree it is incredibly rude for a customer to order a product online while on your premises, however, they simply may not understand the impact. Creating a “Buy Local” education campaign (you can find a lot of helpful info online) will give them a few quick, understandable reasons why to purchase in the community where they reside. The more that they understand how they will benefit the community, and you as a retailer, the more likely that people will choose to buy local simply because it is the right thing to do.