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ZineMonth Tips for Retail

This upcoming ZineMonth will be the third I've been involved in as a retailer, and I've written down some thoughts as to how publishers interested in retail distribution should approach ZineMonth. I'm always interested in carrying indie products, whether as pdfs or print, and hopefully you'll find some of this advice useful. This advice is written with the default crowdfunding platform being Kickstarter

Make it Obvious

If you're interested in selling to retailers from the start, it's always helpful to add a Retailer tier to the rewards. That way, I know right off the bat that you're interested in selling to retailers, and makes it easier for me to comb through the various projects. There is more on this below.


The first thing to know if you're selling across multiple platforms is that you're going to want to keep the price consistent between them. This means that if you're selling a book through itch, Drivethru, and your own website that the retail price is the same at each place. This isn't a rule, per se, but is a courteous way to treat your distributors and retailers. What that means, therefore, is that if a book sells for 10.00 you might see 7.00 profit for each sale on itch, 6.50 for each sale on Drivethru, and 10.00 for each sale through your own platform.

As a general rule retailers are going to want their wholesale pricing (what they pay you) to be somewhere between 50% - 65% of retail price, which means for each copy of a book you sell to a retailer and costs 10.00 retail you will get around 5.00 to 6.00 dollars or so. Which means, of course, that you want to go ahead and price your work so that, if you sell it wholesale, you make *something* once printing and other costs are accounted for.

A handy way to do this is to separate out the costs for print and pdf versions, and then bundle them back together, and then sell the bundle to retailers. For instance, let's say you've got this book that you've got pegged at 10.00 retail, but it costs 6.00 to print. You're going to lose money for each copy you sell to retailers, so what I do is set it up in the following way through Drivethru (I sell the vast majority of my stuff on Drivethru, so that sets my pricing):

  1. Print Book. Costs 10.00 retail, 6.00 to print, leaving 4.00 profit. Drivethru takes, say, a 40% cut, which means that you make 2.40 for each print book sold.

  2. PDF. Costs 10.00 retail, Drivethru takes their 40%, you make 6.00 per pdf sold

  3. Print/PDF bundle. Costs 15.00 retail, Drivethru takes their 40% (off of 11.00, not 15.00), you make 6.60

  4. Print bundle sold to retailers. Costs 15.00, they pay you 50% of retail, you make 1.50 per book.

As can be seen, you will likely be making less selling to retailers than through other platforms, but it should be looked at as a bit of a loss-leader; by having books in stores, especially brick and mortar stores, you're expanding your reach by quite a bit.


When I sell books that come as a bundle with pdfs I like to handle it one of two ways:

  1. You also sell the pdf through me, separately (I'm always looking for new pdfs to sell, btw!). This allows me to automate the process so that someone who purchases the print book automatically gets the pdf. The website builder I use doesn't let me automate that process if the pdf isn't live on the site, so I end up having to manually send the pdf.

  2. You include a code somewhere in the book for a free download. This can be to itch, Drivethru, or your own site, and takes the burden of fulfillment off you. Plus, if you handle it through your website you get more traffic coming to you, and they might find other stuff of yours to buy. For instance, all of the books I sell to retailers has a code printed on the title page that enables the buyer to get the pdf for free through my website.

Retailer Rewards

There are two ways of handling this, as well. The first, an easiest, is to have one or more tiers for retailers that offer a discrete number of books. The second is to have a retailer tier that is simply a placeholder for the retailer to register interest and is for a minimal amount.

For instance, for a book you're planning on selling retail for 10.00 each, you might have two retailer tiers:

  1. Tier One. "Buy 5 copies of the book at a 45% discount. Purchase includes a pdf for each copy sold. Costs 27.5".

  2. Tier Two. "Buy 25 copies of the book at a 50% discount. Purchase includes a pdf for each copy sold. Costs 125.00".

Obviously, you're making more money per copy on Tier One, but Tier Two allows you to purchase larger quantities of the book, which might lower the per unit price, plus, it helps you reach your goal faster.

The second option, of having a minimal placeholder tier, does little to help you reach your goal, but offers more flexibility. Typically, you're going to want to lock in how many copies each retailer wants prior to ordering.

Both are fine, and I like backing both options. However, what I have learned is that the second option is better for retailers for two reasons:

  1. If it's going to take you longer than, say, three months from when the Kickstarter ends to when you fulfill it becomes less attractive to me to back. As a retailer, it's difficult to have money tied up in projects without hope of recouping it until many months away.

  2. Tangentially, sometimes projects fail and never get made. It's easy for me to back creators with a proven track record, even for large amounts, but for first time creators -- especially those that estimate six months or more before the project is done -- it's a big turn off.

For these two reasons having a retailer placeholder tier is the way to go for me in many instances.

You're Done!

I like publishers that make my life easy, and one of the best ways to do this is, when you send out the books, you send an email to your retailers outlining:

  1. How much the book will retail for.

  2. Is it just the book, or a print/pdf bundle. If a bundle, either send the pdf or a link to the pdf.

  3. An image. It makes my life so much easier if you send me an image to use in the listing. A lot of times this can be the thumbnail you use elsewhere.

  4. Copy. If you don't send me a description of your project I've got to come up with something, and that's not always what you want me to say.

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