How Do I Sell My Self-Published Book? - Captain Honey
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How Do I Sell My Self-Published Book?

15 Jan How Do I Sell My Self-Published Book?


books for sale in a bookstore

However you choose to publish, you will need to get your hands dirty with book sales to one degree or another.

If you are with a traditional publisher, you’ll do the least amount of this – possibly just at events or via your own personal network and probably with copies that you have purchased from the publisher at your author discount.

If you self-publish, you’ll be doing a lot of this unless you delegate it to a third party distributor – even then, you’ll do a lot of it.

Selling Your Book to Bookshops

As a self-publisher you can try to supply bookshops yourself – independents will be more responsive to this than the chains. You will need to offer them a good discount – between 35 and 45% is standard – and be aware that all books are supplied on a sale or return (or consignment) basis.

Here is a short overview for self-publishers of the different types of book retail outlets in Australia.

Chains, such as Dymocks are based on the concept of carrying range and depth of titles, which can prove difficult for books. Bear in mind there are some 30,000 new titles published in Australia each year, and that’s just new books. Backlist (previously published) titles run into the hundred of thousands, if not millions.

Online is the naturally the place to go for backlist (range and depth) and, increasingly, for best prices.

Still, the chains do big business for commercial books at holiday periods. Bookselling via the chains is extremely seasonal – Christmas, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Easter.

The chains have lots of leverage to demand high discounts from publishers. You won’t get any favours from them, and you’ll be quite lucky as a self-publisher if a chain bookstore will deal with you directly rather than via a third party distributor, such as Dennis Jones.

Independents. Despite the closure of many independent bookstores, this segment of the market is considered to have weathered the storm well, especially of  they specialise, know their local market really well or focus on customer service and supporting local authors. Independents are often responsive to self-publishing authors, and are a great ally to have in your self-publishing journey.

Department Stores, such as Myer and David Jones. These guys carry a tightly curated selection, relating very specifically to their audience. It is all but impossible to place books there as a self-publisher without a distributor and preferably one with a major account with them.

DDS’ (Discount Department Stores), such as BIG W, Target, Kmart, etc. carry a small range of very commercial titles which they buy at extremely high discount. Almost impossible for a self-published author to penetrate this market.


Help bookseller’s to find your book by doing the following:

Ensure it is listed on Nielson’s Book Data and Books in Print

Ensure it is catalogued with ALS, James Bennett and Peter Pal- library suppliers

Should I Use a Book Distributor?

Book distributors, such as Woodslane, New South Books or Dennis Jones & Associates, will carry individual titles from self-published authors, generally retaining about 65-70% RRP. If this seems like a lot, well that’s because it is, but remember they are passing on between 40-50% of that discount to the bookseller. When you think of it this way, their margin is not huge considering the logistical task of storing and shipping books is huge – just fulfilling orders is a big job. They also provide a sales and marketing function, to varying degrees. Most have reps that travel to bookstores to pitch books and take orders. They also manage the backend processes to ensure that your book gets up online at places like Booktopia.

I prefer to see our distributor as primarily a sales and fulfilment agent. That way I don’t get too disappointed when I have to do a significant amount of legwork myself, even in terms of letting bookstores know about our books. The reality is that a sales rep will struggle to pick your book out of the tens or even hundreds she has to sell on any given day, and the bookseller’s eyes may be glazing over by that point anyway.

A better option is to go into stores yourself. A passionate, enthusiastic author proudly clutching his book will make much more of an impact on the bookseller. I normally take a sales sheet (with the distributor’s contact information on it) with me, or a press release about the book. I am happy to make the contact and do the pitch to the bookseller (I know I can do a better job than a sales rep), but pass over the responsibility for fulfilment to our distributor.

Selling to Online Bookshops

Booktopia and the other big online booksellers generally need to be supplied by a third-party distributor. You can read Booktopia’s statement on this and about their preferred distribution partner here.

Selling to Gift Shops

Some books will be suitable for sale via the gift channel which means they might get placed into homeware stores, fashion shops, toy shops, general gift and stationery shops, etc., as appropriate.

Third party distributors supply this channel. They are non-exclusive and operate on a firm sale basis. They will generally retain between 50-60% of the RRP.

This is a great option if you have a suitable title – unfortunately, self-published titles often aren’t suitable! Books that work for the gift trade are usually illustrated and unique in some way.

Selling to Online Gift Stores

There are plenty of online stores catering to the gift market, such as Hard to Find or Down That Little Lane. Most are general, but some are much more specific which can work well for certain books. They operate in different ways but a common model is that orders are processed via the online store and orders are fulfilled (wrapped, packed and posted) by the publisher. Discounts vary but are generally around the 20-35% mark.

Selling Direct

There are many opportunities to sell your book directly. The first and most obvious is via your own website, where you can have complete control over the commercial transaction (and retain the full RRP!) and build a direct relationship with the consumer.

This works especially well for authors who have their own network or fan base, or can easily harness marketing activities to achieve that (ie they are publishing into a niche and have a product which people “need”).

Other direct sales opportunities include selling books at book launches and events, markets, industry-specific forums and conferences. You might also be able to sell your book in bulk to a relevant organization.

So, there are many ways to sell books! It all depends on what you are trying to achieve and the time you have to invest in this activity.





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