Aspiring authors often believe there’s a chance to get their books into Christian bookstores and onto endcaps or big displays across the nation. And they are right. There is certainly a possibility.
The question is, at what cost?
Here are a few more areas I’d like to discuss and provide a reality check on.
When I would walk into Barnes & Noble or Family Christian stores, I always thought it was cool the way they would feature certain books with huge displays or prominent end cap placement. Then, as I began to work with some authors who wanted to get their book guaranteed placement in a leading national Christian bookstore chain, I did some research and was shocked at what I found.
Did you know that publishers pay thousands and tens of thousands of dollars to buy prominent placement in bookstores?
Do you realize that some chains require payment in order for your book to be guaranteed with “face out” placement on the shelves?
What? Endcap displays aren’t free?
That’s right. And I’m not blaming bookstores or chains for selling space to help offset overhead. However, authors need to have a clear picture of what it takes for a book to be guaranteed high visibility in those distribution channels. And when you are independently publishing and asking God for wisdom on how to promote and market, it’s vital to understand which channels are worth investing in and which ones aren’t.
Some years ago I contracted with a Christian company who had a sales force going out and hand selling titles to Christian bookstores across the country. It sounded so promising and I was so excited for the authors who took advantage of the opportunity.
But then there was the cost…free books to giveaway, sales fliers, advertisements in their catalog, extra commissions for books placed. It was a big investment in hopes that these salespeople would represent the independent authors well.
Yes, I was disappointed. The sales were dismal. But as I looked through the catalog and did more research, I saw that there were some bigger named authors in the catalog, whose credibility overshadowed newer and lesser known authors. And many of these sales teams represented other publishers in addition to this one company, so I began to think it through.
Should I have been surprised? I mean, really…if those sales people were pushing to sell product, they are obviously going to talk up the big names before others.
Now, I know that there are exceptions to every rule. An unknown author may have an incredible book that meets some needs in a unique way, and selling into and through bookstores makes sense … but my concern and warning to independent authors is to be careful … realize there are significant costs involved in marketing to bookstores, and there’s no guarantee that the bookstores won’t return the product they ordered if it doesn’t sell, again leaving the author with a large investment for little to no return.
Yes, you want to have your books available through bookstores, and all possible channels…but my advice is don’t spend a lot of your marketing budget to promote to bookstores. It simply is not a wise investment. It makes more sense to earmark those advertising dollars towards reaching your audience directly…leaving out the middle man.
I trust the truth, while sometimes discouraging, will equip you with the facts you need to make the best decisions possible in your publishing journey.