Book Sales: What are the Sales Channels/Options? - article

Published authors want to sell books. Books are sold in a wide variety of ways. Here is a quick overview of some the sales channels open either to publishing houses and/or to self-published authors.

Direct Sales

Some companies and individuals choose to undersell all competition by offering direct sales to readers. Usually, direct sales are available on a company’s or author’s website, and books are shipped to readers free of charge or for a nominal fee. With direct sales, books are sold at a substantial discount compared to other kinds of retailers.

Big Box Stores

So-called “big box stores” are superstores , such as Wal-mart and Target, as well as warehouse clubs, such as Sam’s Club and Costco. Books are delivered to these types of stores through specialized distribution companies. For example, Anderson Merchandisers handles book distributions to Wal-mart. Each big box store has its own supply chain, and should be contacted directly for specific instructions on how to enter that chain. Books are sold at a substantial discount by these retailers.

Independent Book Stores

Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon is an example of an independent book store. The American Bookseller Organization represents independent booksellers throughout the United States. These stores sometimes have agreements with distributors. Others have independent book buyers. Contact the store directly for instructions on how to sell books there. Independent bookstores sell books both at discount and at full price.


Libraries can be contacted directly for sales, but many publishers reach librarians through the annual American Library Association Conference. This conference provides an opportunity to present books directly to many librarians. Publishers display their books at the exhibition portion of the conference and provide advance reading copies. Authors, editors and sales staff are often on site at these events to help persuade librarians to review and purchase books. Library price is often higher, because it reflects the special, expensive, sturdy binding libraries prefer.

Online Retail

Most brick and mortar stores have online divisions to sell books. Beyond these websites are major booksellers, such as Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon charges the seller a percentage fee when the item is sold. Books may be sold for a full or discount price.

Local Stores

Publishers and authors can sell books at local stores. Many kinds of stores sell a few choice books to enhance their businesses. Health food stores and coffee shops sometimes carry a few select titles. Local gift stores and museums also carry books. To sell books at these kinds of stores, contact the local store buyer. Books may be sold at a full or discount price.

Author Events

Authors speak at a variety of events, such as book launches, conferences, and book fairs. An author must operate as a small business to sell his books. So, he must register with local and state governments and collect taxes on sales. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers expert advice to those wishing to start and manage a business. At author events, books may be sold at a full or discount price.

Share this story
Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn
  • This is helpful information thanks

  • Very helpful information, but would be helpful to have an Australian content to help with the various conferences, e.g. Australia Library Conference.
  • Former Member
    Former Member
    Hi Naveed -- I'm so glad you found this information useful! If you search on "SALE" or "SELL" here on the ALC you'll see other great content like this. I particularly like the reference to "other stores" because reaching out to non-book stores gives you a lot more options and helps you narrow your efforts to where your audience might actually be instead of hoping that your audience wanders into a book store and finds you. For instance, if you write a cookbook based on organic ingredients, your audience may likely be at a farmers market and you could sell it there. If your poetry is about caring for our environment then it might find an audience at the local home and garden show or via a well placed ad on an environmentalist website. If it's about romantic love, perhaps it would sell well in a bridal shop or a local bridal convention.
  • I am yet another author - a poet - who is particularly inspired by this polite information. I can sense some change in my prospects from reading the above, and I think poets are likely to spread their messages quite adequately with such a fine array of choices.
  • This information was very good, and I look forward trying to get my book into some of the chain stores.