Ep 10: Why Should I Discount My Book?

One of the main reasons authors publish books is to see and sell them via their favorite places like their local independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble and in their local library.

Books published via IngramSpark are distributed to all of these places, but the discount you set plays a significant role in whether or not they choose to sell your book on their shelves. Many authors ask, "Why should I discount my book?" In this episode of Go Publish Yourself, we’ll discuss the type of discount you’ll want to set based on your particular sales strategy (physical stores or online retailers) and what that discount means for your personal orders of your book. To tap into Ingram’s distribution for your book, publish today!


Robin Cutler [00:00:08] Welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. This episode is sponsored by Koehler Books, a full-service publishing solution that offers editing, design, and production for authors, and then uploads the finished product into your own IngramSpark account for you. Hello, everyone. This is Robin Cutler, the Director of IngramSpark.

Justine Bylo [00:00:33] And I'm Justine Bylo, and I manage the Author Acquisitions Program at IngramSpark. Hi, Robin. How are you?

Robin Cutler [00:00:40] Hey, Justine. So, we have a really great topic today, and I know we've talked about this kind of amongst ourselves and on some other episodes, but we're going to really drill in today into why should I discount my book? So, Justine, do you want to introduce our special guest today?

Justine Bylo [00:01:01] Yeah. So, we've mentioned this topic on a few of our other podcasts like Robin said, and we got some questions about it because it's kind of a difficult topic, I'd say. So, Robin and I talked about it and we thought that we'd bring in the expert on discounting, and that is our very own Josh Floyd. So, welcome back, Josh.

Josh Floyd [00:01:26] Hi, ladies. Thank you for having me back.

Robin Cutler [00:01:29] Tell everybody what you do, Josh, at IngramSpark.

Josh Floyd [00:01:34] So at Ingram, I'm the Global Sales Manager for IngramSpark and that covers a vast amount of roles. And one of those is working with bookstores and libraries and working with publishers to help enter that market and any other market that they're looking to get in really downstream.

Justine Bylo [00:01:50] Yes, he's very smart, "jack-of-all-trades", right Robin?

Robin Cutler [00:01:53] Yeah. So, Justine, why don't you kick us off with giving Josh a few questions here about what things that our customers need to know about discounting their book.

Justine Bylo [00:02:08] Yeah, absolutely. So, Josh, we always say on Go Publish Yourself that our authors and publishers need to set their list price and then a wholesale discount. So, can you explain to our listeners what a wholesale discount is and also how it is used in the book marketplace?

Josh Floyd [00:02:31] Yeah. So, when you're setting up your title in the IngramSpark platform, you do, you get the option to set your list price and you get the option to set your wholesale discount. That wholesale discount that you're setting is the discount that you're offering to the wholesaler, in this case Ingram Book Company, to buy your book and then turn around and sell it to their customer at a predetermined discount, their customer being the library, the bookstore, the online retailer. So, it's very important when you set up this wholesale discount that you're setting the discount appropriate to the market in which you're going to be pitching or marketing your title for sale. And I think we'll get into that a little bit further, but for each different market that you're attacking, there's a different set of standards, of terms and parameters, that you need to be aware of for that given segment.

Justine Bylo [00:03:20] So say I were, I just finished writing my book and I'm going to put it out into the market, and I really want to target indie bookstores. What do you suggest as a discount strategy for targeting that market?

Josh Floyd [00:03:38] Yeah. So, if you're going to be targeting independent or even national chain and box retailers, so we're talking traditional bookstores here, they have their own set of standard terms that they consider trade discounting terms, which is a full trade discount and returnable status. And so, the reason that they need this, is that this is the same structure that they use to purchase every other publisher's title out there when they're ordering from a wholesaler. So, when you set your title up with a full trade discount, when you're going into the bookstore market to pitch your title or showcase your book, it's going to have the same terms as a Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, or Hachette book would have coming out of Ingram to that bookstore, as well. So, what you've done is you've put yourself in the playing field to compete at least terms-wise with these other books that are flowing through.

Justine Bylo [00:04:30] So, does this "even the playing field" for our authors and publishers?

Josh Floyd [00:04:36] It doesn't necessarily "even the playing field", it just gets you onto the field. So, what it does, is it helps lower your barrier of entry into this market. And what I mean by that is when you walk into an independent bookstore and you're pitching your title, or a Barnes & Noble, and you're pitching your title and they pull your book up on iPage, which is Ingram's ordering interface for these retailers, they can look at it and see exactly what terms are listed with your title. So, they know right away if it doesn't have a full trade discount or it's nonreturnable that this is not a publisher that typically deals with the independent bookstore or the physical bookstore world really, because they don't have their terms set for such. So, what happens is when you walk in, you may get a rejection. "Hey, your discount's too short" or "hey, you're nonreturnable, we need it returnable." Whereas, if you walk in already with a full trade discount and returnability, you've knocked out two of the excuses you may get right off the bat for somebody not wanting to pick up your title. And what that does is that lends merit to your content. So, now it's not the terms that they're looking, or worried about, it's not your publishing house name that's listed there on that information, now it's the quality of content. Is it relevant to my store? Does it fit? I know I can get it in a manner that I'm used to ordering books.

Robin Cutler [00:05:52] Yeah, it just kind of sets you up as a professional publisher, rather than just a self-publisher. Don't you think that's how the bookstore would perceive you?

Josh Floyd [00:06:04] Yes, it's going to give the notion that you have more knowledge about what you're doing than just kind of rolling out the gate and getting started and learning. So, it does, it shows a little more professionalism in your approach.

Robin Cutler [00:06:18] So, what about online retailers and your strategy there as far as your discounting? When I mean online retailers, I mean like Amazon.

Josh Floyd [00:06:30] Yeah, so with an online retailer, their structure's a little bit different than a bookstore's is. And what I mean by that is, when an online retailer makes a sale, they're selling it to the end customer. They're selling it to the reader. So, if I was to go online to buy Robin's book and I went to barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com and purchased the book, I'm the end user of that product. So, barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com is just processing a transaction to get the book from where it's located to the person that just ordered it. So, there's a little bit less speculative buying, because it's a final sale. So, they're not hoping to sell the book, the book is already sold. And they’re not sitting around on a shelf taking up inventory space, or taking up, yeah, inventory space within the warehouse of shelving at these companies because the book is going from creation to the end user. Whereas, in the bookstore world, it's going to come in, and the sale is not final just because a bookstore bought it. An end reader still has to come in and make that purchase. So, there's some risks there in putting those dollars out there on the shelves. So, with an online retailer, you can actually get away with a shorter discount. So, what I always tell authors and publishers, when they're thinking about how, when they sit down and they put on their hat to be the marketer or the salesperson for that book or for their books, think about it in a manner of where am I directing these folks with my messaging to buy the books? Am I directing people to their independent bookstores

Josh Floyd [00:07:57] or their local national chain bookstores, or am I directing people to barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com to buy the book? If I'm not so concerned with the book being on the shelf of a bookstore, then I can get away with a lower discount. And in the IngramSpark world, I believe the range is 30% to 55%. So, if I was going to be traditionally chasing bookstores, I would want to be 53% to 55% discount, so that it has its full trade discount. But if I'm only attacking the online market and driving people online to make these purchases and I'm not so concerned with my book being on the shelf of a bookstore, then I can get away with the lower end of the spectrum, the 30%, the 35%, 40% discount.

Robin Cutler [00:08:39] Yeah, that makes really good sense. So, the magic number, if you are targeting, I just want to reiterate what you just said, Josh. The magic number, if you're targeting booksellers, brick and mortar booksellers, is 53% to 55%; is that correct?

Josh Floyd [00:08:59] That's correct.

Justine Bylo [00:09:01] And returnable.

Josh Floyd [00:09:03] And returnable, yeah. So that's another attribute of the IngramSpark platform that's really great for self-publishing authors is that you have the ability to go returnable or nonreturnable based on the market in which you're marketing your title.

Robin Cutler [00:09:18] Yeah, and one other thing that I just want to make every, make really clear to our listeners, especially the ones who are already using IngramSpark, discounts don't apply to orders that you're placing for yourself, your publisher-direct orders that you're going into the IngramSpark system and you're placing that order to either be delivered to you or directly to your customer. There's no discount applied to those orders. In the case of a publisher-direct order,

Justine Bylo [00:09:55] you're just paying for printing and shipping. Isn't that right, Justine? Yeah, that's correct. So, these discounts only apply if a retailer is buying your book. If you need a hundred copies for a signing that you're doing at a conference or something, you can go into the IngramSpark platform, buy those a hundred copies at the print cost, and ship them to wherever you need them to go. So, that's a totally different type of order that we call a publisher-direct order. So, don't think that you have to pay that 53% to 55% discount on that book. So, it's a little bit different.

Josh Floyd [00:10:36] And in that publisher-direct model that Justine's explaining there, not only do you order the books just for yourself if you're doing a signing at a conference like she mentioned, but what you could also do is if you strike up a relationship with, say I'm a publisher in California and I strike up a relationship with a school teacher in Florida, and she likes the book that I've created and wants to teach it in class and says, "Can you send me 20, 30 copies for next semester?" In that scenario, I could go onto my IngramSpark account, I could place an order for the 20 to 30 copies, put that school teacher's address in Florida down as the shipping address, and then we will print, pack, and ship those books on the publisher's behalf to that end address. And in this scenario, you, the publisher, are again, just paying for your print cost plus shipping, and then whatever invoice you work out with that school teacher in Florida, whatever discount you want to offer her off the retail price is between you and that teacher. All you're doing with us is paying printing and shipping, and then working out the sale between you and your end customer.

Justine Bylo [00:11:38] Yeah, which is a great thing. Now, I have one more question for you, Josh. I love my local library. It's great. And so, what if I'm targeting my local library? Does discount matter so much there, as it does with the independent bookstores?

Josh Floyd [00:11:54] Discount is in play, but not to the factor that it is with independent bookstores, where a library operates and buys books differently than an independent bookstore. And what I mean by that is, an independent bookstore is using its own capital, its own money to make these purchases on speculative titles that they're going to bring in and hope, sell. Whereas, a library is working with a budget that is provided to them. So, a library may not be, and is more likely not going to be, as stringent on the content or relevance of a title, because if it's a local author, they want to support that local community and they have the budget dollars to buy the book. The main thing to be concerned about in the library, is making sure that your book is cataloged properly for the library market. So, library systems have different filters that they run over titles, and if some of the catalog or data points are not there in the metadata of the title, it could easily fall through these filters where it doesn't necessarily make it to the systems of the library. And sometimes you may go into a library and say, "Hey, my book's with Ingram and they're having a hard time finding it." They may have a system in place that says if it's missing this metadata point, it's not getting in there.

Justine Bylo [00:13:02] Oh, interesting.

Josh Floyd [00:13:03] Yeah, so I'd say that to say for the library market, the two important factors are make sure that your book has the proper metadata points, is properly cataloged, with full MARC record, preferably. And then the other aspect of selling into the library is reviews. Libraries love credible reviews, whether it's from Kirkus or Library Journal or PW (Publisher’s Weekly). If you have a credible review, a library is much more likely to take a harder look at your title.

Robin Cutler [00:13:33] So, this was a great lead-in because, Josh, that you started talking about, getting your book into libraries, because this is going to be the topic of our next episode. So, everybody be on the lookout for that. I think we're about out of time here. So, Justine, it was great talking to you, and thank you, Josh, for being our guest today. I invite all of you to follow us and log on to IngramSpark.com to find out more information about our blog, our newsletter, to hear about different episodes that you may have missed. And, until next time, have a great time reading and publishing.

Justine Bylo [00:14:18] Thanks for listening.

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