Ask The Experts – Book Marketing

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Topics Discussed Below Include:
Non-Trade Market Shipping and Rate Assistance
One-Sheet Guidelines
Discount Assistance


In selling on a non-refundable basis to a non-trade market — usual quantities of 12 to 24 books including a custom countertop POP display — who pays the shipping and at what rate? Obviously, we’d like to provide free shipping but this isn’t economically feasible. Is there any standard or rule of thumb on shipping books to a reseller?

Thank you for the information.

Answer (09/2013):

The answer to this is that whenever you have a nonreturnable sale in hand with a reseller – either within book trade or outside the book trade – the publisher can look to offer free shipping so long as a) it’s economically feasible and b) there isn’t anything else – besides the book product – that is being sold nonreturnably. Once I saw that this nonreturnable order also included a custom countertop Point-Of-Purchase display unit, it seemed to me that the shipping must be covered by those placing the order (the customer) – unless, of course, the publisher is able to get guarantee on a quantity of nonreturnable merchandise large enough to cover coin on shipping expenses incurred by the publisher that will still leave enough earned profit from the sale after the dust settles so that it doesn’t cost the publisher money to actually do it.

Bottom line: Nonreturnable sales are good for business because the books don’t come back, but “free shipping” should only be in place if it’s not going to cost more than will actually be earned by the sale. With all that logic in place, though, a publisher sometimes has to throw the proverbial hat in the air – only do it though when it comes to eating the shipping if the nonreturnable POP sales are so large – or have such large potential – that you can, on a gamble, take on that one-time large expense . . . if the POP displays and books do extremely well and you create a demand on the customer’s side, then you may then be in a position to modify the terms with which you continue to supply the demand.

~ Anonymous 

Answer #2 (09/2013):

Who pays the freight is usually negotiable, but we’ve had some buyers say their company policy precludes them from paying freight. In this case we have sometimes been allowed by the buyer to charge more for the books to cover our cost of the “free” freight.

Removing the unknown from the equation might help. Don’t just say, “Twenty-four books are $XX. XX, plus freight.” Look up what the UPS charge would be from your warehouse to their location and say “Twenty-four books are $XX.XX plus $XX.XX UPS charges.”

12 to 24 books should ship UPS—quicker and less damage—but you could mail them too (makes you look kind of like a newbie to use the mail, but….). If you do, find out what the postage is and let them know.

When we pay the freight on a small shipment coming to us, we ask the vendor to use our UPS account number when they ship. We get a good discount from UPS so it is usually cheaper than what they would pay and we don’t have to worry about the vendor overcharging us for freight. You might ask if your customer would like you to use their UPS number

BTW, I think it is a bad idea to charge your customer any more for the freight than you have to pay.

~  Stephen Blake Mettee, is the founder of Quill Driver Books ( and The Write Thought ( <> ). Steve served as Board Chair of IBPA ( and regularly teaches writing and publishing. During his time at the helm of QDB, Mettee shepherded two titles into Book-of-the-Month Club selections and one onto the New York Times bestseller list.


I want to see some examples and guidelines for creating one sheets, if that’s what they’re called, for the following:

• Bookstores
• Media Outlets
• Segment Producers
• Reviewers

Answer (07/2013):

There is a very good outline for a sell sheet to book-buyers, along with several samples on the IBPA website here:

You can adapt these for different buyers as well.

~ Lisa Krebs was hired by Jan Nathan and Publishers Marketing Association (now IBPA) in 1998 and has been a sounding board and advocate for independent publishers for the past 15 years. She was previously contracted for West Coast publicity by Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books and Disney/Hyperion.


I need advice on what discount I should offer to buyers of my book.

I know that the big distributors charge 50 to 55%, and I already have distribution with Quality Books for the library trade.

However, I’m unclear when I approach small independent book stores and pet stores (my book is about pet photography), what sort of terms I should offer them. Obviously I don’t want to offer more than I have to and I don’t want to ask them what their discount is because I want to make it seem as if I “know the drill,” re: the appropriate amount of a discount for small local vendors.

Answer (11/2011):

The publisher should establish a standard retail discount schedule including both returnable and non-returnable terms.

Most traditional publishers now have a flat trade returnable discount, e.g., 5 copies at 45%, or 10 copies at 46%. Not both, one or the other.

The pet shop probably buys its books on a non-returnable basis, and if it does, then it probably expects a 50% discount for any quantity. However, if the pet shop wants to buy the books on a returnable basis, then the publisher has to offer the same discount to the pet shop that it offers to the bookstore. Same terms to the same class of customer (Robinson Patman).

Standard payment terms are 90 days. Or the publisher could offer a cash discount of 1% off the invoice for payment in 30 days.

~ Marcella Smith is an industry professional with over four decades of experience in publishing and bookselling. Currently, she provides services to authors as a literary agent, and works with publishers facing distribution challenges. Before starting her own firm, she was the Director Small Press/ Vendor Relations at Barnes & Noble, Inc.

We hope you will find this program useful, but as with any advice, we recommend that you make sure it fits your specific business needs. IBPA does not specifically endorse or support any particular group or service.

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