Q & D Results: Self-Published Policy

A recent Quick & Dirty Survey asked: Do you have a policy for carrying self-published books?

81% of respondents said YES
19% of respondents said NO

With the YES replies, many mentioned that 1) they carried them on consignment, or 2) the books had to be available through a distributor, and
3) they could not have an Amazon affiliation. Some stores charge a stocking/shelving fee.

Since this is one of the Policy Makers subjects, I thought I’d include more of the responses (with permission) because they contain so much information that can help you form or change your own policy.

Ariana Paliobagis with Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, MT, asked me to mention that she “stole all the good bits from other bookstores!” She said, “I looked up every indie bookstore consignment agreement and policy I could find while creating ours. I also attended PNBA conference sessions on working with local authors and learned a lot from my fellow booksellers.” Here’s her initial reply:

Oh yes, this is a big one. We have requirements and work on consignment. Info on our website (see the docs at the end: http://www.countrybookshelf.com/for-authors). But I’m still not happy with it. The record keeping on my end is still too rough, and so I still dread it (and then it gets shoved off for “more important things”). My goal is to fix it by the end of the year, but I’m still not sure what a “good” system looks like.

Mary Kay Sneeringer of Edmonds Bookshop in Edmonds, WA, wrote:

Yes. I read a few pages, if I find no grammatical errors I offer to buy one copy and put it on the shelf. It then is the author’s job to get someone to come buy it. Consignment requires too much paperwork and tracking down of the author, I figure I save hours of time and create good will by just forking out the money ahead of time. If a book doesn’t sell in 9 months it comes out of inventory and goes on the used book shelf or gets donated to the friends of the library book sale.

Sarah Holt with Left Bank Books in St. Louis, MO, replied:

We carry self-published books on a consignment basis. The details of that program can be found here.

Susie Wilmer with Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO, replied:

Two and a half pages of policy and still growing! Most self published authors are great, or at least willing to understand what a store can and can not do. Some, unfortunately, spend an enormous amount of time being demanding and difficult. Still, we are committed to carrying our local authors.

Ginny Wehrli-Hemmeter of Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville and Downers Grove, IL, wrote:

Yes…sort of:  http://www.andersonsbookshop.com/local-authors  For us it’s tied to being local, too. Our self-published section is usually limited to folks who are customers of ours, or at least live in a geographic area close enough that they might be customers. Then we ask them to submit a copy for review and go from there.

And to be fair, I’ve included a NO response. Sandi Liss of SoulJourney in Butler, NJ, admitted this was a sore point with her, and suggested that I might want to soften her initial reply. After rereading it, since I found nothing offensive, I decided to keep it as is:

I don’t have a strict policy, but over the years I’ve learned one thing about self-published authors: they have absolutely no clue how the book biz works. Almost to a person, they all think I should be falling over myself to display their book, front and center, in my store. I should also be more than willing to give them tons of shelf space. And in return? They’ll give me $5 (or some other ridiculous number) per book sold. Oh, yeah. And I should do all the advertising and marketing for them, including pushing the book on social media and in my e-newsletter and flyers I hand out. For nothing in return, of course, except the extreme pleasure of having their book in my store, taking up valuable space, for the same $5. So I pretty much just say no to anyone who’s self-published anymore.


Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay