Help! Should I sell in bookshops or not?


Here’s a dilemma that goes to the heart of the relationship between the inde publishing revolution and bookshops:

I’ve published my work using the on-demand printing service at Amazon Createspace. This means that I don’t have to spend out thousands getting huge quantities of my book printed and then find a way to store, package and deliver them to readers.  When anyone orders a book on Amazon, it’s automatically printed and shipped off to them.

It’s a great system which works well for some of the most innovative voices in publishing.

It allows authors to be more experimental (because the costs are proportional to the sales), and makes no difference to buyers (because print quality is always high).  It’s also more environmentally friendly than printing and pulping vast quantities of paper, and means books can be corrected and updated instantly if needed.

But there’s a catch.

It’s to do with the maths.

Let’s say, my book costs £2.99 to print.  I can sell it for £3.99 and make a pound per copy (about 3x what I’d make if I was with a traditional publisher).  So far so good.

I can also order (say) 20 coppies at 2.99, and take them to sell through a bookshop.  But, of course, they’ll want to sell for a 40% markup, so even if I don’t take a penny, the bookshop has to sell for £4.20 – more than buyers would pay online.

The only way I can make my book worth selling in a bookshop is to price it at upwards of £5.00 on Amazon.

I don’t want to – because my readers are parents of young children I know from experience that costs mount up.

The reality is, I may well end up having to do this though because I also want to see small bookshops thrive, and children be able to pick up and browse my work locally.

So, what do I do?  shut independent booksellers out of the game?  Or hike prices for hard pressed parents?

Ok, the difference is only a quid, but I’ve got the feeling that quid might be the difference between a long-term future for booksellers and a global Amazon monopoly – because whatever the future, print-on-demand is not going to go away.

So what do I do?  Anybody?

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