(or Things I Wish They’d Told Me Earlier)
Once you have a book in print (assuming it is in print from a regular publisher and not a self-published or subsidy published job), buy a case of your own book. But do not buy it directly from your publisher at the “author” discount. Instead, buy your books from a friendly independent bookseller–you must know a few of these.
“Why,” you ask, “would I do that? Why do I want more copies of my book? The publisher gave me some already and though it’s a great book, I don’t really need that many copies.” Au contraire, my lovely friend. You do need more books and you need them to be disposable books on which you earn a royalty.
Upon occasion you, the author, find yourself at a signing or an event at which there should be many copies of your book, but for whatever reason, there aren’t enough–or in some cases, any. If you have a box of your books in your car, or a small pile in your luggage, you can bring them forth and hand them over to the booksellers, who will then sell them at the usual mark up and pass a percentage of that on to you, plus any unsold books. You have saved the day, you clever author, you. Everyone loves you and you sold books that you wouldn’t have otherwise. And you got the royalty for them, too.
You need a few books for a promotional thing–donating to a charity auction, giving copies to a magazine that supported you with a contest, a last-minute review opportunity you simply must grab–but you don’t really want to give up your precious first editions. If all goes well, those books the publisher sent you are all first prints and may be worth beaucoup bucks some day, or it may be out of print entirely in a few years and you’ll want to have a few nice copies, just in case. So, again, you need that case of books so you can give away the third printings, consign a few to the right bookseller when the book is out of print, and keep the firsts for your greedy self and your friends/family/accountant.
So, it’s useful to have more books than the number the publisher sent you. But why buy them from a bookseller? Because every copy of your book that passes through the bookseller’s hands goes on your royalty report, but copies that don’t, don’t. Even if they sell later or on consignement. The royalty report is compiled from the numbers of books ordered by booksellers minus the number returned and not one book that was sold to you by the publisher, or given away by them for promotional reasons. So it’s clever for you to get those extra numbers on your report–it’s not much but it helps you and hurts no one.
And your friendly independent bookseller will usually give you as good a discount as the publisher and they may even make a profit while they do, which doesn’t suck–we want our friends to make money, right? This trick doesn’t usually work with big chains, even if your friend is very friendly. The rules may not allow them to cut you a big discount and they can’t mark the books down just for you. I’m not dissing the big stores–they can do other useful things for you–but the big box o’ books trick is most likely to get the green light from an indie–someone who can make a sales decision on the spot. Yet another reason to cultivate your friendly neighborhood independent bookseller.