The math of publishing—authors and independent bookstores on the same page

Yesterday, I visited Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, a wonderful local bookstore that, thanks to community support and local investment, came back to life after being shut down in 2005.

I was thrilled to discover that Kepler’s had ordered several copies of “Dance of Souls” at the request of a local book club, which has chosen the book for its November selection.

In addition to the satisfaction of knowing the book would be in the store, I was thrilled to find out that it actually is available to bookstores to order through Ingram, the large book distributor. This means any bookstore that orders through Ingram now has access to my book. (This in itself is good to know; it has been hard for me, as a CreateSpace author, to determine whether the book was orderable.  CreateSpace says only that “It may take up to six weeks for your title to begin populating in the distribution outlets you select,” but doesn’t notify you of availability.)

This morning, with mild trepidation, I posted a note on the Dance of Souls Facebook page about the book being available at Kepler’s. Why the trepidation? Because despite my desire to support local bookstores, doing so comes at quite a hefty price to me as an author. Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that the royalty percentage degrades quite quickly the further away an author gets from orders made by buyers clicking directly through the CreateSpace eStore. The royalty I get when the book is ordered through Amazon is slightly less, but still respectable. By the time we get to the Ingram-purchased books, the royalty is down in the 6 percent range.

But the more I thought about it, the more okay I was with sending people off to the bookstore if that’s where they want to buy the book. Six percent may seem paltry, but in fact it’s not much less than authors have always received when publishing in the “traditional” way, especially if literary agents are involved.

The bottom line: selling more books is better than selling fewer books. Since I don’t have a direct channel to hundreds of thousands of potential readers who can order directly from the CreateSpace eStore, I’m willing to give up a percentage of potential royalties in exchange for the possibility of reaching more readers (e.g., I’d rather have 6 percent of 100,000 than 50 percent of 10,000).

This bottom line puts me and the independent bookstores on the same page. So by all means, go to your local independent bookseller ( provides a handy listing) and request that they stock their shelves with “Dance of Souls.”

One thought on “The math of publishing—authors and independent bookstores on the same page

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  1. As publishers, as well as folks who own a small independent bookstore, we are constantly in awe of the authors and artists who continue to write and create despite the very small ROI (return on investment). I sat down with a young man working part-time in our shop the other day and I took him step by step through the path from author, to publisher (an imprint of another publisher), to distributor, to mega-distributor, to bookstore, to customer and where every penny goes. Leaving… not much for the author/artist! So, when Audrey happened to be in our shop for our monthly California Writers Club open mic night, and asked if we’d like a few copies to sell, we said OF COURSE! How often can an author directly hand books to a bookstore and get what a distributor might have gotten. So, come to Reach And Teach at the Dove & Olive Works building in San Mateo (178 South Blvd. San Mateo) or and get your copy!


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