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Monday, August 22, 2011

Chasing the Bookstore

This is a post that most authors will be unhappy to read, but really ought to know about it.



If you published with a small press, chances are you are selling your book on consignment to bookstores. What this means is that you give them your book, and they pay you after it sells.

What this really means is that it sucks to be you.

It's hard enough doing a book signing and trying to get people to buy your book. You glory over each one. Two sold. Four. Six books! If you're lucky, the bookstore will pay your right then and there for the books you sold. Some do that, and I love them.

But others will tell you it will be a few months. Others will tell you they're going to mail it right away. Chances are, if you haven't already, you will run into what I have: Bookstores that don't pay.

The first bookstore that did this to me, I believe it was oversight. I did a signing in December and they told me it would be three months. I put them out of my mind because three months was a long time away. Then around the middle of July, I realized, it's been more than three months. So I called, talked to the owner, and she said she'd mail a check. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Three weeks later I called again. Um, yeah, she forgot again. I called every day for four days until she put the check in the mail. Well, she said she did today. We'll see.

But another bookstore just doesn't seem to care. They told me to expect a check, and after three weeks I started calling to see when I should expect a check, and they got haughty with me. Started telling me I needed to talk to one person. And guess what? He doesn't have a set schedule. Nobody knows when he's in. But he's got my name and number, so he'll call me. Not.

I have two recourses: call them until they pay or write it off. Neither is a fun option, and I may never see that money no matter what I do. Ironic that I now wish I hadn't sold a single book in their store.

I've probably burned my bridges with those stores as being the author that's hard to work with. But you know what? I never want to sign books in their stores again, either.

My advice: Find out when they plan on paying you before you go there. But even more, GET IT IN WRITING. Write up an invoice with a due date, and have them sign it. I didn't do this. But believe me, I will from now on.

Anyone else have these experiences? Or is it just me???

12 comments:

Luisa Perkins said...

No, it's definitely not you. I have had very similar experiences. It's a nightmare.

But thanks for the reminder to call that delinquent bookstore in St. George!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

LOL Luisa!!! I am so sorry!

Elisa said...

wow, i had no idea this was how it works! what a pain!

Mary Aalgaard said...

What an uncomfortable possition to be in. I'm sorry you have to deal with this. It goes with the feeling of wanting to be successful and putting our blinders on to reach our goal. We say yes to something even when our gut says no because we think we have to in order to succeed. You don't have to, though. You will find better ways to be successful on your own.

Talli Roland said...

Oh, that sucks. In the UK, bookshops will just return the unsold books to the distributor, so while the author will have to pitch the bookshop to sell the book, they don't need to deal with any fallout if not.

Hugs!

Clarissa Draper said...

That hasn't happened to me but it's good to know this happens so I can learn from it. Thank you for this post.

David J. West said...

I have a store that I have been meaning to check up on - its been a year, so either I have never sold a thing...or they are dinks.

KarenG said...

The problem is with the bookstores, not with the fact that you are with a small press. Each and every one of these stores COULD order your book through WiDo's distributor but they choose not to. They would rather take your book on consignment if they have that option over ordering from the distributor, because then they are not out anything if it doesn't sell. And because they can pay when it's convenient to them, which obviously is never in some cases.

Elle Strauss said...

Talk about learning the hard way. It seems, as authors, we have obstacles and predictors at every turn. You really have to love what you do to do this job!

Abby said...

Oh gosh! This is good to know, but totally sucks for you. Ugh. I will be careful not to publish like that when it finally happens. I'm so glad you shared. Hope that check is in the mail! :)

Ann Best said...

I haven't even considered going this route; didn't have to anyway since I'm homebound with Jen. I had heard about such horror stories, and I thought, no way. I fear you will never get your money. Well, lesson learned. There ARE other ways to sell books!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

thanks, everyne, for your comments! It just doesn't seem right that on top of trying to sell our books, we have to try and collect the money from the books we sold!

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