How To Sell Non-Returnable Books


There are two large markets in which to sell books. One is through bookstores and the other to non-bookstore buyers. Another way to define these two book sale opportunities are Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B).

You are already familiar with B2C marketing: it is conducted primarily through retailers, including bookstores, supermarkets, airport stores, discount stores, etc. You sell a standard product through a distribution chain that takes 55–70 percent of each sale. Your income-per-unit-sold is fixed. The retailers display (not sell) your book on shelves surrounded by competitive books, mostly similarly priced. If you want to attain net sales of 10,000 books you must promote consistently, enticing 10,000 individuals to each purchase one. And these sales are “one and done,” meaning you have no knowledge of who the ultimate consumers are, removing the possibility of selling directly to them.

B2B marketing is very different from B2C marketing and provides the chance to generate large, non-returnable, repetitive sales. B2B buyers are in non-retail segments such as corporations, associations, schools, and the military. Here are some of the distinctions that define this opportunity.

There are no distribution chains, so you make the sales calls by phone or in person. Not everyone has the time, desire, or skills to do this, so there are sales reps/agents who can do it for you for a percentage of the sale. Authors who are more aggressive can find lists of potential buyers on sites like Sort the list by industry and search for those companies that could use your content to solve a business problem.

For example, a local bank wanted to thank new clients for opening a saving account. It realized that an educated customer is a long-term customer, so it focused on young clients with a promotion geared towards high school and college graduates. The bank gave each a personal finance book as a business gift, customized with the bank’s logo, as a gift for opening an account. The book featured information on loans and investment and saving techniques, as well as information on stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles. Over 7,000 books were sold on short discount.

This promotion demonstrates several other characteristics of B2B marketing. One person can purchase a large quantity of books on a non-returnable basis. Additionally, you are no longer selling a commodity product, since the form is a variable. The buyer may wish to purchase your content in a printed book, an eBook, audiobook, or other format. Since the price is negotiated, your revenue-per-sale is not fixed. A sale of 7,000 books may be discounted by 60 percent, but you might still be 10 percent more profitable than selling through a trade distributor — and the buyers pay the shipping charges! A satisfied buyer may purchase more of the original title or acquire your other titles for future promotional campaigns.

B2B marketing applies to retailers, too. One author worked with a small chain of children’s shoe stores to implement a punch-card program where every $50 spent was worth one punch on the card. Once a card was punched four times, the child or parent selected two books from those available on display. The theme was “We’ll take care of your child… from their head to their feet.” Over 4,000 children’s books were sold, and this helped build interest in the author’s other titles.

Book marketing is not an either/or proposition. Create a dual distribution strategy in which you sell through B2C retailers (including bookstores) and to B2B buyers. In both cases, sell your books to them in the ways in which they can use them, not in the way you want to sell them. Understand the customers of your customers, help them reach their goals, and you can increase your sales, revenues, and profits.

The Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS) is hosting its National Virtual Conference September 10–11

Discover how to sell to non-bookstore buyers with nine hours of book-marketing content delivered in easy-to-understand sessions. Top national speakers will help you discover how to sell your books in ways you never imagined and to people you never knew existed— in large, non-returnable quantities. The conference features national speakers focusing on critical book-marketing topics. You may attend one course or all of them – at no charge.

Click here for more information, an agenda, and to register.

APSS understands that today’s circumstances require extra effort to keep our members’ profitable. The APSS Take-Out Marketing Menu offers free home delivery of four monthly webinars to keep you motivated and informed. Plus, every Tuesday (3:30–4:30 pm ET) and Thursday (12 noon–1:00 pm) Brian Jud conducts a free consultation to answer your questions about APSS, special sales, and/or book marketing in general. Check the Executive Director’s blog at or contact for individual links which change monthly.

Click here to watch a 13-minute video about the benefits of APSS membership.


Related Posts
How To Negotiate Large-quantity, Non-returnable Sales
Know Where To Sell Books
How To Expand Your Market To Sell Your Children’s Books
Be SMART In Your Approach To The Non-Bookstore Market
Selling to Non-Bookstore Retailers



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