Selling Books on Consignment

These days, it’s much simpler for authors to get books into online e-stores than big retail chains, but that certainly doesn’t mean that seeing your book on the shelves of a brick-and-mortar store is out of the question. Smaller bookstores often sell self-published books alongside traditionally published bestsellers. If you want to see your name on indie bookstore shelves, here are a couple of tips to help you make it happen:

  1. Know the difference between selling up-front vs. on consignment: Some indie bookshops will buy copies of your book “up-front,” meaning if they like the quality and the content, they will pay you for a small order of copies, thus ending the transaction. Others might agree to a consignment deal, in which they display a limited number of copies and will pay you only after those books sell.
  2. Deal face-to-face: If a store is willing to buy up-front, they often have a submission process. Ask for details and follow their guidelines. Consignment deals should be made face-to-face. Bring copies of your book (five to 10 will be fine to start) and explain that you would like to sell your books in their store “on consignment.” If the store is willing, discuss a percentage (it is usually 60/40 in favor of the store, but it varies) and how long they will keep it on the shelves. Books often remain on display for less than 90 days.
  3. Get it in writing: Make sure whatever deal you and the owner agree upon is in writing and that each of you has a copy. Don’t make the deal too complicated for the store owner or it will become too much of a hassle for them. It should simply state that you will show up every 30 days to see how many copies have sold, and the owner will pay you per copy.
  4. Consider using sample copies: If you have only a few books on display, it might be helpful to label one as a “Sample” so customers will only handle that one rather than bend and fold each, leaving them unsold and looking worn. A bright “Sample” sticker will also draw a reader’s eye to your book. Just don’t expect to sell the sample copy.  
  5. Make your pitch unique: Maybe your book has a local flavor, or maybe your novel ties in with an upcoming event or holiday season. Add that spin to your pitch. Stores are always looking for a special way to sell books. Offer to host a reading, book signing,  release party or another event that will draw people into the store. Anything to help the owner sell more books, especially yours, will entice them.
  6. Don’t stop with bookshops: If you are a local author, many small shops in your town will consider supporting your book. Check with “mom and pop” stores, cafés, coffee shops, hairdressers, etc. Get creative! Selling your book on consignment is of no cost to them, is another way for their store to bring in a few dollars, and it shows customers that they support local artists.

When approaching stores about selling on consignment, make sure you are professional and upbeat. Have great looking copies of your book, give owners your business card, and — most of all — be prepared for stores to say no. While one shop may reject you, another will say yes. Once people start seeing your book for sale elsewhere, you might change some minds and get a call back. Be prepared and stay persistent. Writing and selling books is a career, not a get-rich-quick scheme. Make sure you’re in it for the long haul.       

Where would you most like to see your book for sale?