Why Should I Discount My Book?

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Before you can determine how much to discount your book you need to consider your ideal sales channels. Will you make it available online, in physical stores, or both? Do you plan to make it available in libraries, chain stores, indie bookstores, or all of the above? Your discount will depend on how and where your book is going to be available. IngramSpark allows you to change your discount, but you still need to understand how book discounts work.

Listen Now to Ep.10 of Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark Self-Publishing Podcast

What is a Wholesale Discount?

Wholesalers include online retailers like Amazon, as well as brick-and-mortar retailers like Barnes & Noble and Costco. The wholesale discount you set determines how much the wholesaler will actually pay for your book. They sell your book at list price. The difference between the two is their compensation, or profit. If they can't make a profit from selling your book, they won't buy it.

Use IngramSpark's Publisher Compensation Calculator to better understand what your publisher compensation will be on wholesale orders.

It might seem counterintuitive to discount your book, but consider what you are getting in return. IngramSpark's distribution channels include more than 39,000 retailers and libraries. When you take advantage of these sales channels they become part of your sales force. They can give your book the kind of exposure that would be impossible for you to achieve on your own. You'll do better selling 2,000 books at a discount through major distribution channels than you would selling 200 at list price on your own.

Taking on the Competition

1. Traditional publishers: Traditional publishing houses, like Penguin Random House, offer retailers a discount so the retailer can make a profit. In order to compete for shelf space, you must also offer a discount. If you don't want your title rejected by retailers, set your book up with a competitive wholesale discount and offer returns.

2. Other self-publishers: Not all self-publishers understand why they should offer wholesale discounts, so they don't. The savvy indie author, like you, is already beating out a million other self-publishers just by knowing the necessity of offering these discounts. This knowledge puts you on the same playing field as major traditional publishers.


Having a wholesale discount lends you credibility and professionalism as you market your book to retailers. Because having a this discount makes you competitive with traditional publishing houses, retailers will see that you know what you're doing. They know what they're doing, too, so if your discount falls short, it makes it more difficult for them to do business with you.

Do Online Retailers Need a High Discount?

Online retailers differ from physical retailers in that the end sale is to the reader, so it's not necessary to offer these retailers a high discount. Because the sale is already made when a reader orders from Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, there's no risk involved for those outlets. Physical bookstores take risks when they buy your book; it might not sell and it's taking up valuable inventory space that might be better served by a different title. You should still discount the title to online retailers as is standard industry practice, but you can get away with a shorter discount than you would offer a physical retail store.

How Does the Discount Work on Books Ordered by the Publisher?

When you, the publisher, order your book yourself there is no discount involved. With these publisher-direct orders, all you are paying for is printing and shipping. You make a profit when you then sell the book yourself. For example, if you're hosting a book signing you might order 100 copies of your book to have on hand for the event. You sell the book to individuals at list price. Your profit is the difference between the price you paid for printing and shipping, and the price individuals pay for your book at the signing. Or perhaps you know a schoolteacher whose class is going to read your book. You can order books for the students yourself at the publisher-direct price and invoice the teacher according to your agreed-upon price.

Use IngramSpark's Print and Ship Calculator to calculate your printing and shipping costs.

Do Libraries Need a High Discount?

Libraries are different altogether because they're not trying to sell your book. They have a set budget for purchasing books so you don't have to offer them a high discount. However, you do have to make sure your title metadata properly catalogs your book for library purchase; otherwise they'll never find it.

For more information about discounting your book to libraries, online retailers, and physical bookstores, check out Episode 10 of IngramSpark's free self-publishing podcast, Go Publish Yourself.


IngramSpark Podcast Go Publish Yourself

IngramSpark Staff

Hi there! It's your friendly IngramSpark staff here, happily sharing a wealth of publishing knowledge with people from all walks of the self-publishing biz.