Why You Should Buy Direct from Small Presses

March 31, 2011 § 5 Comments

Victoria Barrett of Engine Books makes a compelling case for buying small press books directly from the small presses themselves, even though other methods (rhymes with Bamazon) offer greater convenience and sometimes a better price.

Here’s an excerpt from her full blog post.  Notice the factor of 10 figure. Geesh!

.. Okay, it’s nice to get my hands on something right away if I can get it in person, and also to not pay for shipping. And so, now and then, the laziness/thriftiness/get-it-now mentality might take over.

Then I started Engine Books, and learned a thing or two.

For example, Engine Books nets more revenue from 100 direct sales than 1,000 copies sold through conventional distribution. That’s right: A factor of 10.

This exact number won’t be true for all small presses. For Engine Books, it’s the right decision to discount wholesale prices to meet retailers’ demands. But if you didn’t know, those discounts are staggering. The best option for small presses to generate sustainable funding is either to offer retailers a smaller discount or to price the book higher to generate a little more revenue. The former means that fewer retail stores will even consider stocking the book; the latter means it feels overpriced to potential readers. And perhaps at some point, Engine Books will adopt that business model, reaching for less distribution and more stable (if modest) sources of income. This works well for many small presses. And of course, even with the bloodletting-level discount, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that bookstores will order a title. Even so, I feel I owe my authors a shot at broad availability.



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§ 5 Responses to Why You Should Buy Direct from Small Presses

  • Christine says:

    It would be great if there were some kind of online compendium of these publishers and their offerings, like an “etsy” for books, if you will. As it is, I wouldn’t even know where to begin to look.

  • Maggie says:

    Christine: it goes like this. You hear of a cool book, so you Google it. Most likely it comes up on rhymes-with-Bamazon, which you use to figure out who published it (the publisher is always listed). Then you Google the publisher, and buy the book from them directly!

    But yes, an Etsy for books would be amazing, because then you could just browse the books, which cuts out the whole step where you actually have to hear about the book before you can look for it.

    • Christine says:

      Yes, the “hearing” seems to be the crucial missing step for me. Hm.

      • @Christine: We all need to do a better job with promotion. Most of the world is struggling to figure out how. It’s a very, very hard question, one that for me means (will mean, as time passes) trying to reach a specific anticipated market for each book.

        Book Etsy would be amazing.

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