In the short time that I’ve had a published book on the market, people have frequently asked where they should buy it. Those asking the question usually want to make sure that I get the most money possible from their purchase. That’s great –and certainly appreciated– but there are reasons why the most profitable transactions for an author are not the only sale types that can benefit them in the long run. This information is geared towards people who know an author from a small, independent publisher. So, what are the different options to buy a book from these types of authors, and how does each option benefit the author?
Buying Directly from the Author
This is obviously the easiest way to get a book from an author if you see them regularly. It’s also the easiest way to get a signed copy if that’s something you desire. Direct-from-the-author is almost always the most profitable for them. Their publisher probably allows them to buy copies at or close to the wholesale price that they offer to bookstores and online stores –roughly half the retail cost in most cases. The good thing is that there’s no middleman taking a cut, so the author gets the entire difference of the retail price minus the wholesale cost.
Buying Directly from the Publisher
This is typically the second-most-profitable method of purchasing for the author. It’s the best method for the press itself, financially and otherwise. If you purchase from the press, they get the full retail price minus a modest royalty paid to the author. Shopping with the press increases the chance that you see another book that interests you enough to purchase. Obviously that’s good for the publisher. It also gives immediate, direct feedback that people are interested in the book, which helps the press decide if they should keep printing copies and supporting the author with marketing efforts.
Buying From Amazon
Of course, Amazon is a huge part of many people’s lives, and Prime is a game-changer. Ordering through Amazon is probably the most comfortable way to order online for most consumers. If you have Prime, you also enjoy fast and free (at the time of purchase anyway) shipping. Amazon also happens to be the bane of most independent bookstore’s existence. It’s a reality that it’s the most powerful retailer in the world, so it’s just something they have to deal with. Still, it’s a bummer when people visit their store, flip through a bunch of books, then go out to their car and order what they like at a discounted rate. It’s something we all deal with when deciding between buying local and saving dollars. It’s magnified in the book world.
Amazon takes a healthy cut from every sale, so the financial benefit for publishers and authors is minimal. That doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial though. Amazon closely tracks sales and clicks and all kinds of behavior of customers. Any activity for your book, like sales and customer reviews, plays into how they position the book on the site and market it in other ways. So while an Amazon sale is not very profitable in the short term for an author, it may help grow the popularity of the book.
NOTE: You can leave a review for anything on Amazon as long as you’ve spent at least $50 on the site in the last year. A review and star rating increases a book’s credibility to browsing customers seeing it for the first time. A “Verified Review” is even better. For a review to be verified, the customer has to have purchased the book on Amazon for at least 80% of the suggested retail price. “Verified Reviews” weigh heavily into the mysterious Amazon algorithm that decides how many people see your book, where it shows up in search results, etc. If you choose to purchase your friend or family member’s books through Amazon, give them the extra boost of leaving a review or rating of some kind.
Buying from a Large Bookstore
Big-box bookstores are suffering the most of all booksellers –and have been for some time. Google “Barnes & Noble struggling” and read all of the articles you see on the first page. By the time you’re done, news outlets might already be writing new ones reporting that B&N is finally out of business. I don’t want that to happen since I support anybody selling books, but they’ve struggled with CEO issues, battled Amazon, made poor decisions about selling other products like music and toys, seen dismal electronic books sales, and –somewhat surprisingly to some– faced increasing competition from smaller, independent bookstores in recent years. It seems consumers tend to go either the fast, easy, cheap route of Amazon or go totally the other way and enjoy the intimate small bookstore experience. To be fair, it does seem like B&N has made some positive moves recently.
The benefits of buying at a large bookstore are, much like Amazon, more about growing popularity than seeing immediate profits. Sales at a large bookstore may trigger them to purchase more copies and merchandise them favorably in the store. At physical locations where an author sells copies, it may even open up opportunities for them to have reading and signing events to grow their presence.
NOTE: It’s much more likely your friend or family member’s book is available online through a large bookstore. If you want to purchase it in a brick & mortar store, chances are you’ll have to ask them to stock it, which would be a huge favor to the author you know.
Buying from an Independent Bookstore
Independent bookstores are a different animal than larger sellers. “Indies” usually thrive on having a close relationship with their surrounding community and act as a hub for book clubs, children’s events, and curated book selections. They provide experience rather than expedience; value-attachment versus volume. As such, they typically sell books at full retail price and not the discounted rates like Amazon and big-box bookstores. Low volume means higher per-book cost, which usually translates to a more favorable financial situation for the publisher and the author.
Similar to large stores, sales at an indie can mean reading and signing events. Indies, though, often attract more committed readers and provide a much better opportunity to grow a passionate and loyal fan base. Buying from an independent bookstore helps sustain those networks, which in-turn adds economic, social, and educational value to a community. Many are starting to recognize these benefits, and indies have seen promising growth in recent years.
Even though you had to read a bunch of words to get to this point, I’ll admit that there’s a really, really short answer to the question of where to buy your friend or family member’s book. It’s just one word, in fact –ANYWHERE. Seriously, I can assure you with almost complete confidence that your friend or family member will be very happy just to know that you bought a copy. Just consider all the information above and go with the best option for your situation.