Advice for print-on-demand authors

As a fellow print-on-demand author, I’m familiar with the struggles of getting your book into stores. I’ve been fortunate enough to do some book signings, which is one way to get a book into a store. I haven’t had a great deal of success with that – I’ve had to buy my copies from the publisher, then sell them to the store. Not a profitable route, but exposure is a must. Some stores will take books on consignment, which means they put it in the store but the inventory belongs to you until it goes through the register. The store then pays you only for the copies sold, which is low risk to them.
As a book buyer, my suggestions to you are likely the same you would hear at any bookstore. Stores tend to be biased against print-on-demand books, and overcoming that bias can be difficult. The biggest hurdle, however, is the issue of returns. If the publisher will not accept returns, it is unlikely that stores will stock the book. The option to return a book, particularly a title that may not get much marketing support, is paramount. This is where consignment comes in – again, it lowers the risk to the store. In order to qualify for consignment, your book should be bound with a title printed on the spine. Spiral and other bindings without titles require too much shelf space.
Consignment may be an option locally, but the only way to get beyond local distribution is to get the book carried by a national distributor like Ingram or Baker & Taylor/J.A. Majors. This makes your book more accessible to bookstores, whereas online sales are typically direct to customers. Distributors do take a cut of the margin on the book, and the option to return is still an issue, which means stores still may be hesitant to stock the book on the shelf. They will be able to order it if a customer requests it though, so it’s still a good avenue to pursue.
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