What Are Book Returns

What Are Book Returns

What Are Book Returns

Posted on 02/08/2023 Evan Swensen
What Are Book Returns

Book returns are one of the book business terms publishers want to ensure you understand. Your royalties are based on the number of books shipped minus number of returns.

If you’ve ever been in business or had investments, you would likely have heard the phrase, Return on Investment, or ROI. In other words, you’re putting time and money into something; what are you getting back?

How much are you expecting to make or earn from some activity?

In the bookselling business, you also look at the overall return on investment, but the word returns have a special meaning.

It is surprising to most authors to discover that when a bookstore buys your books, it’s not really buying them. Instead, it’s more like putting something in a store on consignment.

Sure, your publisher will issue an invoice and all that, but a bookstore only keeps the titles for a while. After that, the unsold ones are packed up and shipped back to your publisher. [Or distributor. I’ll go over that term in another blog.]

The ones that get shipped back are called returns. As in, the books we are returning because they didn’t sell; or didn’t sell fast enough. Or, we need the shelf space for new titles.

This is how it works with brick-and-mortar stores.

The same with Amazon’s warehouse.

They’ll keep only so many on hand. But, of course, that amount is dependent upon your book sales.

This practice is another reason publishers encourage authors to have author events, signings, and be active on social media. This keeps their books in the news and sales high enough that the seller will keep your titles on hand and be willing to reorder when those in the store sell.

Publishers want booksellers to reorder your books! Because they’re their books, too.

Publishers have a stake in your success. And they never forget it.

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