Bookshop Guide for Independent Presses
WE ARE OOOOOPEN!!!
Customers are allowed to browse. That's right, you guys, you can and rifle and rummage to your hearts' content.
It also means we can start taking on stock from small presses again!
We thought, in order to celebrate, we would do a blog that lays out our terms for small, self-distributed presses, along with some advice arising out the experience of selling self-published/self-distributed books!
If you are a self-distributed press who wants us to stock your books, the best email to contact us on is shop[at]burleyfisherbooks.com.
So, they key points are:
- We ask for a 40% discount from the retail price
- Our terms are consignment. That means if we sell them, we pay you for them. If we don't, we give them back!
- If we take the books, please include an invoice when you bring them in or send them! Make sure it has:
- your name (and your company's name) and contact details
- each consigned title + the number of books we took; ISBNs or ISSNs are helpful if you have them
- the price to us for each title, and the retail price
- Check in with us after three months, and we'll let you know what's happening. If they have sold ahead of that, we'll probably be contacting you for a restock!
These are pretty standard terms, so it's a good guide to what you should expect when contacting other indies.
When you email us to enquire initially, please make sure that you include the following information:
- The price. Before you approach a bookshop, you need to have decided on a price, and that price needs to be able support the 40% wholesale discount that a bookshop needs to cover its costs. Please do not ask us what price it should be. Have a look around on our website at similar publications and take your lead from them. If because of your production costs etc you aren't able to put a retail price on your book that supports a wholesale discount (which, understandably, is the case with some short-run artist books), then you are going to have to look at a direct sales model.
- Title information and, briefly, why it's suitable for this bookshop. Put it right at the top. Is by a local author? Is it similar to a title you've seen in the shop or seen us yammering about on the internet?
- Your website and social media, if you have them. If you don't have them yet, consider getting them and including a list of stockists. Sometimes customers seek us out because they've seen on your website that we carry your titles, which is a satisfying moment for everyone.
- Cover image and press release. This means we can list it on our website with ease, which is very helpful when the shop is busy or something unusual is happening like a global pandemic.
We endeavour to get back to everyone who gets in touch with us. But if you don't hear from us, or if we tell you we can't take stock, it's simply because we don't think we'll able to sell it. AND: that doesn't mean it isn't a good book, it just means that we don't think we're able to reach your readership.
Is your book an angling book? Not many anglers in Haggerston. Is your book a collection of polemics by Toby Young? Not many people care for Toby Young in Haggerston.
Also, a note on the local author criteria. An author that lives in Richmond probably wouldn't count as local. An author whose uncle once had a falafel from Uludag next door doesn't count as local.
Things we have learned and mistakes we have made as publishers:
These things might also be applicable to slightly larger indie publishers with distribution. It's a list of things (read: mistakes) that we have gathered together since we started publishing, as well as things that irk us as booksellers, so it seemed a sensible time to list them!
- Print the retail price and (if an ISBN if your book has one) directly on the book. A leading study suggests not being able to find the price on the book is one of the leading causes of mild frustration in booksellers. Not doing so also stops people who are shy from buying your books. We have a lot of shy customers.
- Make sure the barcode scans before you print 1000 copies (lol)
- Think carefully about format. This will have a big impact on where your book/zine is displayed in the shop, and how long a bookshop can hold onto it. For example: we love pamphlets/zines BUT they have a limited life in a shop. They can only be displayed as face-outs on tables or on counters. They cannot live on shelves because they are spineless floppy cowards that lose their shape when bullied around by big bulky perfect-bound paperbacks. Also, you can't see what they are (because, yes, they have no spine). Face-out and table space is very limited in the shop and we have to keep turnover high to make things interesting for regulars, so realistically pamphlets are only going to last a couple of months. A perfect-bound book is more expensive, but has a longer life. Also, standard sizes exist for a reason. Display spaces are designed around them. If you're thinking about doing something unusual, make sure there is a good reason for it.
- Think carefully about finish. The advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your view) of having your book in the shop is that readers can have a good butchers before they buy. A leading study has shown that once a customer has picked up a book there is a 114% increase in probability they will buy it (don't @ me). The soft-touch matte finish that most print-on-demand services default to gives me the absolute shivers, recommend avoid. Wrapping artist books in plastic has its advantages, but it also decreases sales, unless you provide a copy customers can flick through. Also, consider things that might cause returns and damages. Booksellers hate white covers. Why? Bookshops are dusty and booksellers are dirty. We serve a lot of coffee. White covers are essentially a daily reminder, from publishers to booksellers, of our limitations.
On the other hand, carrying small press titles often leads to great camaraderie between booksellers, publishers, writers and readers, and reminds us that in fact the sky's the limit when it comes to what can be published and what people want to read. The richer the literary ecosystem, the happier we and our customers are.
For example, when we found ourselves selling out Goldsmiths Press poetry pamphlets but they were HOT CAKES of excellence that attracted poetry readers in excelsis. And then with the cartonera picture book for kids about Wittgenstein's ideas of language and meaning (and dogs) – completely unexpected, brilliant and beloved. As booksellers, we depend on your imagination and initiative as publishers to enlarge our world, so drop us that email with all the information – and, if you can, drop by the shop or webstore before you do… 🐶🎨 💙