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The Economics of a Book Signing

I did a book signing this past weekend at Barnes and Noble. It was my third bookstore signing and second at a Barnes and Noble. Going in, I wasn’t expecting much. The first two signings were abject failures on all objectives. But I thought being home in Pensacola, where my support network is much bigger, things would be better. I also know more than I did, and had contingency plans in case everything went to shit.

How did it go? Really well! But more on that later.

Risk vs Reward

Book signings are risky endeavors vs. all the comicons I vend at. For starters, I know how much money I’m making at the event before I even set foot in the store, because the bookseller is the one who purchases the books. And it ain’t much. For the event this past weekend, BN bought 30 copies of The Island, 5 copies of The Chasm, and 5 copies each of Razia. All total, that means $73 profit.

Yep, you read that right: 55 books purchased by a bookseller nets me $73, or an average of $1.32 per book.

For comparison’s sake, when I purchase 60 books from CreateSpace or Ingram, it costs me $357 (for my most expensive book). I can then sell those 60 books at comicons for $10 or even $15 per, which nets me $600-$750. That’s a profit of $243-$393, or $4.05-$6.55 per book. That’s a pretty significant difference.

The Latergram

But that’s not the end of it. The other thing weighing over my head is the return policy. Barnes and Noble won’t stock books unless they are returnable. Ergo, if the books don’t sell, they can sell them back to the distributer. And the distributer then slaps me with a fine:

From Ingram themselves:

Returns for US Addresses: Publishers will be charged for the current wholesale cost of each book returned, plus a $2.00 per book shipping and handling charge.

When I had 36 copies of Alliances returned to me, I had to shovel out $200. The good news is, I made that money back eventually, as I had the copies of the books to sell and could recoup the costs. But that’s a big red flag for me, and why when I choose to do a book signing, I made triple sure I can sell every book on hand.

Side Note: I found out the hard way that retailers can purchase books and change their minds about it. Someone bought 13 copies of The Island in hardcover and cancelled the order after the books had been printed. When I asked them how someone could return more books than had actually been sold, they were noncommittal in their answer. 

Cost-Benefit

So why go with a bookstore vs. a comicon? Well, in the first place, there’s that intangible thing called pride and wanting to roll with the big dogs. In the second place, local events help boost my audience here in Pensacola, which will eventually lead to more sales at the bigger events like Pensacon and online. Also, without the need to buy tickets, the barrier to entry is lower, so more of my friends and family can come out and support.

13920858_10153782249666709_209711760392690594_nFor me, bookstore signings are a once-a-year (maybe) event. There’s so much risk involved that it doesn’t seem worth it to do on a semi-regular basis. And if I ever get to the point where I can draw a huge crowd of hundreds, I’d be better served buying the book myself and renting out a place. Even with the overhead costs, I’d still be making more than at Barnes and Noble.

But back to Saturday’s event! Overall, it went really well! There were some hiccups with the store and their promotion, but you know, girl can work with an empty table. Most of those who bought were friends and family, but I did have 4-5 fans, and I might’ve made a few new ones. I even managed to sell a few under the table, which meant I made more money than I thought I was going to. I’m still a long way from having lines of fans out the door, but it’s nice to know that here in Pensacola, I’ve got lot of people who care about me enough to come see.

Also this happened:

So yeah, intangible pride thing.

Published inBusiness of Indie Publishing Series
  • Faith McKay

    Three cheers for pride! I’m glad it went well 🙂

  • Morgan

    Yay! Glad it went well. And getting a book forward facing on the shelf is hard! So, win!

    • LOL! I think they just put it there because I was signing.

      • Morgan

        Or because they’d already bought the copies. Be interesting to see if it nets you more sales!

        • Nope, I had 30 when I started signing. But we’ll see! I have exceedingly low expectations for my books when I’m not there to sell them myself.

  • So happy you had an awesome book signing. And how exciting to see your book on the shelves. Congrats! 🙂

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