|Assisting the DIY author|
|Written by Christine D. Johnson|
|Tuesday, 12 November 2013 07:15 AM America/New_York|
Christian retailers explain their policies on stocking self-published books
With self-publishing becoming the norm for many authors today, Christian retailers must decide whether to stock books not published by traditional houses. We asked retailers: What is your store policy and practice regarding self-published books? Here is how they responded:
We support individuals who self-publish by offering a local consignment agreement whereby we give space to local self-published authors. We as a company receive 40% commission. The author is responsible to bring the product to the store and agree and accept our terms and conditions. All products must have an ISBN. They are responsible for any loss of product. If the product is not selling within a 90-day period, it is removed from the shelf and the author is responsible to collect it from us. If it is selling, we then renew the agreement on a rolling 90-day period. We allow self-published authors to come into the stores to do book signings on non-busy times of the year. We currently have 10 authors with consignment product. We do not allow more then 10 at a time, we have to be mindful of the space we are allocating to this service.
—Mark Hutchinson, President, Blessings , Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada
We do accept self-published books from local authors on a consignment basis if the book meets my requirements. They first must bring in a copy for my inspection. I read a few chapters to make sure the book has been well-edited and it has reliable Christian content. If it passes my inspection, I will only take about five copies. I always let the author know that it is up to them to promote the book and tell people that it is available at Dightman’s. I have a form (contract) that the author must sign when they place a book on consignment. On this form, I keep a running record of quantity sold (as verified by our computer system) and when [the authors] are paid. If the title does not sell, I will return it after one year. If it sells well, we pay the author and accept more books. The author is paid 60% of the retail price, but I let the author set that price. The book must look professional with a good binding and a decent cover.
I usually will not do an author-signing event for them unless I think it is a fantastic book. With the advent of print-on-demand, there are now lots of authors doing the self-publishing thing and meeting them all is a rather time-consuming problem. Unfortunately, many of them don’t have a clue on what makes a good book. When I ask, “Who did the editing?” some respond with, “My husband.” If I find several errors, I won’t take the book. Some even have errors on the back cover of the book!
—Donna Baker, Owner, Dightman’s Bible Book Center, Tacoma, Wash.
We accept local authors on consignment-only basis. We use a 70/30 split. Only books we approve are accepted. Usually someone knows something about the book. Books are located in space available. This is usually on a bottom shelf. Each month a report is pulled and any books sold generate a check for the person designated to receive the payment.
—Ken Flanders, Owner, The Olive Branch, Dublin, S.C.
Self-published books are handled on an individual basis. Each situation is assessed individually. We no longer accept consignments as they are too difficult to manage. Our preference is if authors have published through Word Alive or Ingram, and we can order from those suppliers with our regular orders. This allows us to purchase just one book if we so choose and re-ordering is easy, too. In the rare instance where an author approaches us with books we are interested in, but they are not available from any of our regular suppliers, we will purchase a small quantity of books directly from the author. It’s handled like we’re purchasing a nonreturnable item from a very small supplier.
—Debra Wall, Manager, Pass the Word Bibles, Books & More, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
At Pee Dee Christian Book and Supply, we seek to create a welcoming environment for local, self-published authors. As a self-published author myself, I have a great respect for the person who seeks to tell their story outside the traditional paths of established publishers. There is a platform for self-published authors beyond venues like Amazon.com. A strategic place for the selling of self-published books is the local independent Christian bookstore.
Each book submitted is reviewed by a staff member. As we review each book, we seek to discern if the book is a good fit for our customers. We proof with an eye towards good grammar and good storytelling. On many occasions one can judge a book by its cover. The cover design is also an important consideration in making the decision to place the book on our shelves. Currently we seed our store with self-published books within the appropriate categories. There is consideration being given to creating a dedicated section for local self-published authors only.
If we accept a book on consignment, we agree to give the self-published author 60% of the sale of each book. The sales history of each book is evaluated at the three-month mark. Upon our review, we will either continue to stock—and perhaps even restock—the book or return it to the author.
On a practical matter, our greatest challenge is finding enough quality time during a workday to carefully review each book that has been submitted. As I write this, there are 10 self-published books on my shelf patiently waiting to be reviewed. I am often reminded of this great truth that Solomon experienced:
The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you (Eccl. 12:11-12, MSG).
—Denny Bates, Director of Bibles and books, Pee Dee Christian Book & Supply, Florence, S.C.
I do carry some self-published books, but they’re books that I have to read and preview and OK before they come in. I also have the same policy that I do with our well-known publishers, 40% and 50%. I’ll take it on consignment for 50% discount, but if I buy it outright, it’s 40% discount. I had a self-publisher walk in and say, “Oh well, I have this $20 book and I will give you $5 of it if you sell it for me.” Well, that’s not how retail works and that’s not how I can do business. When I do take on a self-published book, we do have book signings in the store. We do try and help promote their book and get their name out there, so that’s taking on some responsibility on our part. I don’t play too many games on wishy-washy 30%, 35%, whatever percent. It’s 40% and 50% discount, the same as I would with big-name publishers. I do carry self-published books; I just adhere to the same policies as I have with other publishers.
—Danni Schneidt-Hill, Owner and CEO, Promises “His” Coffee & Cottage Shoppe, Malta, Mont.