I have spent the last three months sending emails to bookstores encouraging them to stock my book somewhere in their brick and mortar. I have very likely killed every one of those sales by getting my numbers wrong.
I made the mistake of telling them in the sell sheet that I’m distributed by Ingram. Right! There is a wholesale discount of 55%.
Wrong! Well, not wrong, just irrelevant. I got confused between Wholesale and Retail discounts.
I now understand that retailers pay 60% of the cover price. I was telling anyone who asked that they paid 45%, which, if they then followed up with Ingram and discovered I was wrong, probably put them off entirely.
So, here is how the discounts with Ingram actually work.
Ingram wants you to WHOLESALE the book to THEM for 45% of the cover price (a 55% discount).
Ingram will then sell your book to RETAILERS for 60% of the cover price (a 40% discount). Their price to the retailer includes shipping and all fees and covers the costs of returns.
You, the author/self-publisher make your profit in the narrow margin between the cost of printing the book and the 45% Ingram pays to cover the printing and royalties.
My book Dot to Dot to Dot: 88 Advanced Dot to Dot Puzzles with Extra Dots has a cover price of $15.99. I let Ingram have it for 45% of that, which is $7.19. It costs $5.19 to print the book (a chunk of which is profit for Ingram as the printer). So, I get $2.00 per book.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how much money I get per book if I turn everyone off with my misinformation!
Since the release of Dot to Dot to Dot: 88 Advanced Dot to Dot Puzzles with Extra Dots, I’ve been doing almost nothing but selling it to stores. Selling. Not making sales.
It’s been a steep learning curve for me as an indie author, figuring out what to say and how to say it, especially with such a unique and new kind of book. But, I think I might finally be getting the approach right.
Here’s what I’m doing.
I’m looking for bookstores that might actually carry this kind of book. This means doing a search for bookstores on Google, then going to each webpage (or Facebook page) to look at their stock and get a contact email. No used-book stores, obviously. They need to have a children’s section, even though my book has adult-appeal. And, they have to have an email address. I have gotten next to zero replies from stores when I tried to ask for a buyer’s contact information through their email form.
I’m sending each store an email that introduces the book and gives them a sample of the puzzles to try. Silly me, when I first starting reaching out, I gave a very brief paragraph. ‘Hey, I wrote a book. Check out the attachments.”
It’s too easy to NOT click on the attachments and trash the email. So, now I include as much detail in the message as possible, including the description, the distributor and the wholesale terms. The first paragraph is the elevator pitch. The rest of the email is me pretending they said ‘keep talking.’
With each bookstore, I’m looking for something that might help me make a connection between the store and the book. Does it stock unusual books or just the best sellers? Do they carry toys and other playthings? Do they focus on family fun, education, holidays? If any of these details are apparent, I mention them in the body of my email (which is otherwise a template—not ideal). This has already worked for me, finding a shop that carries very unique and unusual books and giftware. Fireworks Galleries in Seattle has taken a chance on 40 copies. I’m taking credit anyway.
I started out sending only the sell sheet and a sample. But, when I buy a book, I want to look at it, flip the pages, read a bit. It’s too expensive to send out review copies. (Not at $20 a shot!) So instead, I’m sending a PDF mini-book. It has the full cover spread (go ahead, judge me, please), a contents page, the instructions, a sample puzzle, a solutions page, and the sell sheet. I want to convey as much about the book as possible.
Hopefully, I’ve done enough to convince a buyer to open the sample package, try the puzzle, and order copies. Let’s wait and see.