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Writing & Publishing / Advice / Re-Selling Returned Books
Re-Selling Returned Books
When it comes to the selling of books returned by distributors and bookstores, everyone's in a
different situation I guess--in my case, every one of my titles (with the exception of one printed by
Lightning Source) has a cover price at least 10 times production cost. Therefore, a $15 book
wouldn't cost me more than $1.50, and I'd net $6 by selling it at half price. Plus, I add a postage
charge that gives me some markup if the person orders a single book. (That doesn't rise if people
order multiple books--so I subsidize postage when a customer places a big order.)
I do sell more books this way--because people who find the bargains often order multiple copies
for friends and also tend to order more on impulse because of the good deal. Some keep coming
back ordering ten more at a time for gifts. And, people are more likely to order from me rather
than learning about the book on my site and going over to Amazon to order. (I make more money
at a 50% discount, with the customer paying shipping, than I would with a perfect, non-scuffed
book sold through Amazon. I don't want to underprice Amazon as I want them to sell my books,
but selling scuffed books at a discount is fair.)
As for the labor to process the order for a single book at half price, because I use Publishers'
Assistant, it takes no more than a minute to process the order (invoice/receipt and mailing label
and handling all bookkeeping), and with an efficient packing setup, packaging and postaging a
single book takes about two minutes or so. So for a single order, $6 markup plus a markup on
shipping works for me.
I agree that the equation is different with a POD book or a book with a very small print run,
which might bring the per-unit cost to $3 or even more for a book that should reasonably be
priced in the $15 range. My one Lightning Source book costs me about $5 per copy, and sells for
$18. Therefore, I don't offer any discounts when people order from me. But I don't have
to--under my agreement with Lightning Source, the Ingram sales of that title are
nonreturnable--so I don't have scuffed copies of that book.
That said, I would think that with any book priced in a way that you can sell to the trade, it should
be possible to offer scuffies at least a 20% discount plus shipping when people order directly. You
make a lot more that way than you make from a sale of a single perfect book to Ingram or to
Amazon through the Advantage program!
Upper Access, Inc.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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