Many authors have the opportunity to speak at various events and, as such, usually have a book table in the back of the room where the audience can purchase a copy of their book. This can be a valuable source of income for the author if they have negotiated a “buy back” price (also known as the author’s discount) at the time of signing their book contract.
Some authors have the type of products that sell well at homeschool conventions or similar venues. A few will even combine resources to create larger display areas at these events for the products that fit the audience.
Check Your Contract Restrictions
It is crucial that you read your contract if you plan on selling copies of your book. No publisher will allow you to resell your books to a commercial account. In other words, don’t try to buy thousands of books at your author discount and then resell them to Walmart at a special price. That is a no-no. And is a logical restriction.
Also, it is possible that a publisher could prevent you, by contract, from selling your books in any public venue if you purchased those books at a special author discount. If you scoff at this after signing the contract and are caught, you are in breach of contract and could face the consequences.
Please pay your bills. I’ve known authors who have bought books from their publisher and then failed to pay the invoice. (Shocking, but true.) The publisher has the right to charge the money for those books against royalty earnings. But if the royalty earnings are also paying back an advance given to the author, the publisher is in a negative position. This can get ugly if the publisher has to turn over the author’s invoice to a collection agency. (Yes, I’ve known it to happen.)
What About Internet Sales?
Some authors have shopping carts on their sites and sell direct to their consumers. Others point their readers to an online store option like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ShopTheWord.com, or Christianbook.com. If you choose this option, consider using this fantastic WordPress plugin called MyBookTable. You can see this plugin in action at Enclave Publishing. (Yours may look different because Enclave had the plugin customized to fit the look of the website.)
How Cheap Can You Buy?
The author discount can vary greatly from publisher to publisher and even from contract to contract. The normal starting discount is 40% off the retail price on author purchases. Our agency usually tries to negotiate an escalating discount schedule based on the quantity purchased. It starts with open stock purchases (meaning, quantities less than what fills a case or box, anywhere from 1-48 copies) to case-lot quantities (the number of books that fit in one box is called a “case lot”) and can increase at levels of 500 and 1,000 or more for a maximum discount.
For example: Your book retails for $15.00. You can probably negotiate to buy the book in case-lot quantities at 50% off. This means your cost is $7.50 (not including freight). Thus, when you sell the book at full price on the back table, you can make $7.50 per book sold. This also gives you flexibility to sell your book for a discount on the back table if you desire.
As you can see, this can be a major source of income if you speak regularly. For example, if you sell 50 copies every time you speak, the above example could add as much as $375 per event to your revenue stream.
Remember Sales Taxes
A lot of authors forget that if they sell books, they are involved in commerce. As such, you are bound by the laws of your city and state with regard to the sale of merchandise and the collection of sales taxes. If you are not collecting sales tax on your book or audio sales, you are still obligated to pay those taxes to your city and state, depending on where you live and where the sales occurred.
Yes, it is complicated. And selling across state lines doesn’t mean you avoid collecting city and state sales tax. Please check with other authors who live in your state to see how they navigate these waters as the laws seemingly change from year to year.
Take a look at this article for a starting place in your research: “Am I supposed to collect sales tax when selling my books directly to readers in my state AND others?”
This Is a Business
Remember the business aspect of your writing life. It is important that you treat it as such. Keep great records of everything, and follow the applicable laws. And here you thought all you had to do was spend 10,000 hours writing a book.
Are there some veteran authors who can chime in and give further help from their experience?
What tips and tricks can you share that can help increase book sales at a speaking event?