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The Spanish Helmet
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message 1: by Greg (last edited Feb 22, 2012 12:01PM) (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Hello All,

I need your advice. Because I am so far away from NZ, I don't know what is normal in the book market there anymore. Now I have a situation that looks great but I don't know what to do.

Here goes...

A major NZ retail chain (not naming anyone) wants to buy in a substantial order of my novel and stock it in all of their stores. Great! Well...
Here is the problem. They cannot open an account directly with me (against policy) so need me to go through a book distributor. Book distributors in NZ take 65% of the retail price excluding GST. The result, is that for me to even make a measly couple of dollars per book, the retail price would be $39.95!

Now, I think that is too expensive. The store says if I can get it down to $34.95 it will sell out fine. I also find that expensive.
If they would let me supply them directly, they can still have their same % mark-up and sell them for $19.95. Or even $24.95 if they prefer.

Some of you have read The Spanish Helmet and may have even held one in your hands. It is a high quality print and format and looks the same as any other bestseller on the shelves. But is it worth $39.95? Would you really pay this for a book?

What price do you think I should be aiming for?

Granted, the store involved definitely knows the NZ book market... but they are also in denial if they don't think that market is rapidly changing.

The other risk involved, is that in supplying them with - for example - 400 copies on the first order, I pay for them up front and don't get paid for 3 months at least. Then, if the shop can't sell them due to the high retail price, they can return them and I am stuck with them all and no money.

What do you think? I am running low on options, other than starting my own book distribution company and selling said retailers a few other indie titles and supplying direct (if I have 4 or more books for sale, they would open an account). That might be something for Marita or any other indie Kiwi authors hanging around here to comment on.

Help! Between a rock and a hard place. I may have to now turn down the store and miss out on getting my work out to Kiwis.

Angie (seren-lucy) | 1147 comments Hi Greg. I will respond in depth to your question in the next day or so. Only four weeks into the new school year and I already have a case of 'kid germs'. I need to wait until my head is less fuzzy! The NZ book market is in denial, but so too are many NZ consumers.

message 3: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Thanks Angie, look forward to your response.

message 4: by Matt (last edited Feb 23, 2012 08:53PM) (new)

Matt Hammond (httpwwwgoodreadscommilkshake) | 8 comments Hey Greg. Here's my suggestion.
The Spanish Helmet is currently for sale on the Book Depository website for $12.94NZ with free delivery to NZ.
Add on $3 a book as your profit and sell to them for $16 a copy. They can then add a standard mark up of 40% ($22.40) plus add on GST @ 15% bring the RRP up to a min of $25.76. Offer it to them on sale or return, so there is no risk to them. Obviously you can tweak the figures to increase your cut from the deal. They also have some movement to raise the RRP

The downside is you'll need to cover the upfront purchase price from the Book Depository, and the bookstore may not pay you until they have sold a number of copies which might be a few months (hopefully not).

This is the way I got 'Milkshake' into the local bookshop in Nelson. If you've got yours into a chain then fair play! but of course the quantity/risk is greater.

Another suggestion would be to ask Wheelers Book Distributors to take it on. The only thing is they ask for publishers details and I think you're self-published? So they'll have to order direct from you - and you of course get your cheapest deal via Book Depository, so you're just adding another link in the cost chain!

Finally. I've just checked and noted you published via Createspace. So you should be able to order author copies direct from them for around $3 - $5 each? But then you'll have to pay postage to NZ on top.

Hope that helps. Matt

message 5: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Hi Matt,

The problem is, I would love to distribute directly to the chain via CreateSpace. The chain cannot do this. They only deal with distributors.
The high retail price is the result of me ordering from CreateSpace directly to the chain, and then the huge mark-up that follows.

If the chain (it is THE BIG ONE) were able to deal directly with me, I wouldn't have a problem at all.

Hence, my frustration.

If I supply directly to chain, I can let them have it for $12 NZ per book including my royalty and all freight costs.
If I go through the distributor at $12 per book, then that is considered 35% of the RRP excl GST. Thus, (12 / 35) * 100 = RRP ex GST. $34.28 + GST. OUCH!

I sell it direct to chains in Switzerland and they sell it on very well for a song. If only the NZ chain would allow this, we could go ahead tomorrow.
I just don't see the point in trying to sell it at $39.95 in the stores as it would surely not do as well if it was $19.95. Seems to just be setting it up for failure.

message 6: by Matt (last edited Feb 24, 2012 12:23PM) (new)

Matt Hammond (httpwwwgoodreadscommilkshake) | 8 comments This is why book retail prices are so high in NZ!

Maybe go with my other suggestion - approach Wheelers who are the major supplier to schools and libraries. They were very amenable when I asked (although I've not yet completed the paperwork). Wheelers ask for publisher details. I suggest you don't put Createspace. They will order from the publisher. So make the publisher a version of 'you'. They then order from you, and sell-on via their catalogue to P**** P*** (?) (It's not Whitcoulls 'cos you're already listed as for sale there!).

Incidentally, are you sure you have the sums correct? You say $12 is considered 35% of the RRP, which makes the mark up 65%? That's quite high. Page & Blackmore wanted a mark up of 40%. Is that negotiable or just big chain tactics?

message 7: by Angie (last edited Feb 24, 2012 12:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Angie (seren-lucy) | 1147 comments OK, so my head is still a bit fuzzy and I'm not an author (oh, how I wish I was that talented) so here are the personal thoughts of a book-obsessed New Zealand teacher...

I try to avoid bookstores at all costs, unless I am browsing. I earn an OK salary, but I can not justify buying a book around $40 when, with just a little more effort, I can search the internet and find the same book on sites such as Book Depository, Amazon or Fish Pond etc for half, a third, and in some cases, a quarter of the price it is being sold in a NZ bookstore. I also buy second-hand (once read) books from Trade Me - let someone else buy them at the original high price! And in the last six months or so, I have become an avid user of my local library. They have most of the books I want. If not, they can usually do an interloan for me for $5 - much cheaper than $40!

Is this the norm? Mmmm, yes and no. It is becoming more so. My colleagues, teachers, you'll be relieved to hear, are all avid readers. It is through them that I learned about Book Depository. We are a rural school in the south of the South Island, and I think it would be fair to say that most of us purchase books on-line, otherwise we swap, or borrow from the library (including our school library). I think more and more people are thinking very seriously about how they purchase books. Greg, you are quite right when you question whether NZ bookstores are in denial? They really must have their heads in the sand if they are expecting people to pay $40 for a book. Why can't they cut out the middle man? Seems a simple solution to someone not involved in the whole book selling game. But, there must still be many NZers who will pay the $40, I guess.

I doubt they would want to sell your book around $20-$25 because then people would question why your book was only half the price of every other new release in the store. I know that your book is excellent, but if it is only half the price, is it because it is only half as good? - you know that some NZers will think this!

Have you tried The Warehouse? - I know, the image isn't great, but a lot of people buy books through them, because their prices are usually a bit lower. They do book releases/signings too.

I'm glad that you have published in book form. I read The Spanish Helmet on my iPhone, and have read other books that way too, but I'm old-fashioned (at 30) and really do prefer a book over an e-reader.

Finally, would I buy your book for $40 at a bookstore in New Zealand?... NO. And I have the insight of knowing it is a great book.

Hopefully you get something out of these ramblings! And, the best of luck!

message 8: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Matt wrote: "This is why book retail prices are so high in NZ!

Maybe go with my other suggestion - approach Wheelers who are the major supplier to schools and libraries. They were very amenable when I asked (..."

65% is the mark-up of the distributor (including Wheelers so far as I can tell). Included in that mark-up is the 50% discount for the chain. So 15% goes to the distributor. There are two distributors offering their services... Southern Publishing Group and Nationwide Books.

Page & Blackmore are, of course, a shop and selling to shops directly you can get away with the 40% discount. I do that here in Switzerland.

You say it isn't Whitcoulls, because it is already listed with them. This isn't accurate. You see, when published with CreateSpace and listed in their 3rd party distribution (EDC) the book goes to Ingram (a US distributor) and Whitcoulls Online sells it a Print on Demand from there. Someone orders, it is printed in the US, delivered direct to the customer and Whitcoulls never touches it.

As I have recently learnt, Whitcoulls Online and the stores are completely separate in this sense.
Still, just to try and be somewhat professional (hard work), I won't confirm or deny that it is Whitcoulls.

Rest assured, I am working hard on getting this sorted out. When I do, I will share my experience with other NZ indies so that they too can give it a try.

message 9: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Angie wrote: "OK, so my head is still a bit fuzzy and I'm not an author (oh, how I wish I was that talented) so here are the personal thoughts of a book-obsessed New Zealand teacher...

I try to avoid bookstor..."

Thanks for your ramblings, Angie. They all make sense.

As for your rural SI teacher friends, etc... as you may recall, I lived in rural Dunedin too. I think the folk down there are a little ahead of the game on some of this.
I have considered The Warehouse. I might look into it a little more. I would be more than happy to have it there. Whoever moves it, as far as I am concerned. Rather a discounter than a book chain on the teetering on the edge of collapse.
BTW, someone told me that PP is practically impossible to find now. I know they are still strong in the deep south, but are the disappearing up north?

message 10: by Darkpool (last edited Feb 24, 2012 04:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darkpool | 1020 comments Greg wrote: "BTW, someone told me that PP is practically impossible to find now. I know they are still strong in the deep south, but are the disappearing up north?"

I know where there is a PP in my part of Auckland, but I don't go in there much. There is something about the layout that puts me off. Ditto Hamilton.

Like Angie, I rarely buy new books these days, and would not contemplate paying $40 for something I could get out of the library, or buy from an online seller at half the price. I guess I have goodreads to fill the place of browsing in a bookshop these days. The 3 most recent books I bought from bricks and mortar bookstores were all at clearance price, and impulse purchases. The last time I went to a shop to buy a specific book (thinking I'd help whitcoull's stay afloat) they didn't have it, and so I went back to an online retailer. *shrugs* Sometimes it seems like they don't want people to buy books.

Angie (seren-lucy) | 1147 comments Paper Plus stores are still easily located around the South Island. My closest chain bookstore is the Paper Plus in Mosgiel, with The Warehouse directly across the street....
You are probably right when you say that rural people tend to be ahead of our urban friends in regards to book purchasing. I only have to switch on my computer to buy a book, yet to buy one from a chain bookstore I have to drive almost half an hour. And as Darkpool mentioned above, the book you go to check out is often not there. So location probably has a lot to do with it. For someone who works in the CBD of a city, it is probably easier just to pop into a bookstore during their lunch break. Internet shopping (now that I have a debit card) is the best thing in the world. It truly brings the world to my doorstep.

Angie (seren-lucy) | 1147 comments I've just realised that my closest bookstore and Paper Plus is at the Dunedin Airport for me, but I've never considered going there to do my shopping!

Darkpool | 1020 comments (clarification. I meant the paper plus in Hamilton. Not Hamilton in general. Just in case anyone misunderstood...)

message 14: by J (new)

J (ngaiob) Personally I must sadly admit I wouldn't buy a new book for $39.99, or even $34.95 these days. The mass market stuff that is likely to be in local shops I would probably prefer to pick up as an ebook much cheaper online, and the less mass market I wouldn't expect to find there anyway so just start off comparison shopping online. Confession -I have had jobs purchasing for public libraries so am familiar with the markups which also makes me disinclined to ever pay full price. I have come across people who buy from their local retailer, but would know more who see something in a shop then go on to either shop online or ask at the library.
BTW where I live are a PP, Whitcoulls, & 2 or 3 independents. The town where I work has a PP and an indie news agent. I suspect PP may be common in smaller population areas where the chain isn't interested, and because they are locally owned get more support from their locals.
The public libraries I know usually buy from publishers or a library supply outfit such as Wheelers / TLS / Peter Pal / Baker & Taylor. The benefit of the chain could be in getting your book out into reader's hands, though I suspect 400 at full price wouldn't get you prime position on the shelves. Repping seems to be very much dying out so you aren't getting that same advocacy unfortunately.
All of the above ramble doesn't really help answer your question though! I suppose it comes down to your main objective. Is it to make some profit, cover costs to get your book out there, or take a risk/hit in hope of building a profile for future work.

message 15: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Getting book out there and building profile.

The whole thing is just a big headache. Unfortunately, from where I sit, it looks like New Zealand is too outdated to want to get into the book market there. The stores are far behind with the times with pricing, even the web shops have absurd prices (Da Vinci Code still costs $25) and publishers/distributors/printers are not helping with their old tech and high rates.

I will probably just stick with the eMarket and having availability through Amazon, Book Depository etc.

By the way, Ngaio, I would be really interested to know if Baker & Taylor has The Spanish Helmet listed. If so, what is the library buy in price like?

Duncan | 5 comments Greg

Just following up on the comment by Angie. I think the Warehouse Group has something like 30% of the book market in NZ; I can remember being surprised when I read how high it was, so I would definitely follow up with them. I also liked your idea of setting up as a book distributor - it didn't sound too difficult. Worth a try I think.

message 17: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Thanks, Duncan. Food for thought. Thanks for ALL of your support.

message 18: by Colleen (new)

Colleen Mitchell | 55 comments Hi Greg,
You know, there are a lot of authors (published and self-published) in the same boat here in NZ. I've had the same problem that you describe when marketing my books, which are published by a US publisher.
The retail price is quite simply cost-prohibitive. I'm surprised the bookstores sell any books at all!
If you want to set up as a book distributor for a lesser mark-up then I'm sure there will be authors willing to work with you on that. (Me, for one). You say you need only need four authors, or was it four books? I have three titles, all of which have been professionally edited and printed by Lightning Source via my publisher. Two are novels, one is a fully illustrated children's book.
Food for thought indeed.

message 19: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Thanks, Colleen. I am going to keep this in mind for a couple of weeks.
I haven't heard anything back from the distributors or the store but know already that I need to chase them up.

Meanwhile, my wife gave birth to our second child (a boy this time) on Tuesday and so I am falling behind on 'book stuff'.

message 20: by Colleen (new)

Colleen Mitchell | 55 comments That's great news about the baby!!

message 21: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Thanks. Seems like it so far... but then, my wife and the baby are still in the hospital so things are peaceful (though busy) right now. Bound to change.

Angie (seren-lucy) | 1147 comments *C*O*N*G*R*A*T*U*L*A*T*I*O*N*S*!
Welcome to the world baby boy!

message 23: by Kerry (new)

Kerry | 121 comments Paperplus is a franchise and some of the owners really push books in a big way, others less so. One of the more prominent in Auckland is the Takapuna PP which hosts a lot of book launches. There's lots of PPs in Auckland though some are fairly small. PP have Kerre Woodham as a book spokesperson and promote her book choices in store which is more than the other chain bothers to do. I personally don't take much notice of what she promotes and find the selection of books at my local Botany PP to be quite disappointing. PP has been expanding and upgrading their stores in the past couple of years and part of their business plan was to 'build' the book part of the business. I still think their selection is poor but the pricing is slightly better than Whitcoulls.
I find that the independent bookstores here have more selection though I'm more likely to use online Fishpond (who use Book Depository themselves) as they often discount local and Australian books and they offer free postage.
The bottomline, like others have said is the price and I'm more likely to browse in a bookshop and then borrow from my library. Prices here are just too high to make regular bookbuying anything but a dream.
While I use trademe from time to time, I usually go to Betterworldbooks which offers free postage from the US and so is often a cheaper source of used books.
I like using the Wheelers Books website for getting information on books.

message 24: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) You are all basically confirming my suspicions; there is no point getting my book into a big chain if they are unrealistic about price and with the competition from online (where my books are) they don't appear to be selling much anyway.

I might talk with The Warehouse soon. As soon as I find time again.

message 25: by Tui (new)

Tui Allen (tuibird) | 282 comments Greg, have you thought of Wheelers? They're in NZ and Oz, but distribute books and e-books internationally. I'm an SP and to my amazement they approached me, not the other way around but it shows they have no bar against SPs.
They said they'd had requests from libraries for my book, Ripple. They've sent two tiny orders for print books and I've signed a contract for them to distribute the e-book. I'm mystified how it happened but I'm told it's the "Ripple Effect"

message 26: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Wheelers is not relevant to the store that is wanting to buy this novel. Good for libraries, though.

message 27: by Tui (new)

Tui Allen (tuibird) | 282 comments Schools too, which is what I'd love to reach some time.
I would think your book might be good for schools. Get the kids thinking.

message 28: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Tui wrote: "Schools too, which is what I'd love to reach some time.
I would think your book might be good for schools. Get the kids thinking."

Would love to see that, Tui (my book getting kids thinking)... but doubt that the status quo would ever allow it to happen.

Your work, however, I can see fitting in schools very nicely.

message 29: by Tui (new)

Tui Allen (tuibird) | 282 comments Thank-you. I live in hope.

message 30: by Angela (new)

Angela Oliver (lemurkat) | 50 comments That sucks. I expect I shall have the same problem if I try and take that approach, which might be why I haven't even tried yet (I'm fairly certain I know which company you are referring to).

You can also sell the epub on kobo very easily. I've done it - not that I've made a cent, but it's early days yet (only been up a month).

I have seen PoD novels in PP stores, btw, so you could try that - they take them on an individual basis. Find a store that loves books and convince them!

message 31: by Greg (new) - added it

Greg Scowen (gregscowen) Too much effort for too little gain. NZ market has to make do with ordering from Amazon or Book Depository. Which they do. And, of course, Kindle.

I used to publish on Kobo and Nook etc through SmashWords. It was a waste of time and I ditched them. Very happy with decision.
I then went exclusive to Kindle for eBooks (Kindle Select) and haven't looked back.

message 32: by Beaulah (new)

Beaulah Pragg | 8 comments Lemurkat wrote: "I have seen PoD novels in PP stores, btw, so you could try that - they take them on an individual basis. Find a store that loves books and convince them! "

Are you talking about me Lemurkat? =P

I managed to get copies of my book into two different Paper Plus stores in Christchurch and also Scorpio Books (an independent book seller). I sell the book at $24.99 there (which is a mark up of 40% over what I get). Would have sold about 14 copies or so in the last six months, which isn't huge, but then I've barely been promoting it as I was also previously working full time.

I asked Whitcoulls but got the whole, 'you need to have a distributor' line and in the end, I figured my book is available everywhere online and on Trademe, so I don't really need them. I'm just going to focus on writing the second book and getting that out to the awesome people who keep hassling me to know what happens next ;P

That being said, if you did want to set up a distribution company Greg, I might be interested =D

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