Indie authors talk a lot about the starting point in the distribution chain for their print books, ie publication platforms such as KDP Print and IngramSpark, and also about the ultimate retailer, the bricks-and-mortar bookstore. But we need also be mindful of organisations who play another crucial part in helping us reach our our readers: book wholesalers.
In this post, ALLi author member Clare Flynn reports on her recent visit to Gardners. This leading British book wholesaler also conducts business at an international level and is representative of similar companies serving different territories around the world.
Gardners, the leading UK book wholesaler, is just down the road from my home, so I asked to pay them a visit and get a look behind the scenes. I went armed with some questions that ALLi members had raised, but was limited by Data Protection regulations regarding any enquiries related to specific authors or books, other than my own.
Structure of Gardners
Gardners operates three warehouses on their UK site here in Eastbourne:
- a main high-rise warehouse
- the despatch centre
- a warehouse specifically to service supermarkets
Stock at Gardners
They hold 550,000 lines and have recently expanded their operations significantly with a big extension to the high-rise. As well as physical books, they handle CDs and DVDs and – news to me – ebooks (as long as the latter have an ISBN). They want to be seen as the one-stop shop for trade publishing, POD (print on demand) and digital – including libraries.
Amazon is also a major customer – and many of those books in the Amazon packaging are coming to you straight from Gardners.
Indie Opportunities at Gardners
My meeting was with the Dave Thomson, Manager for Academic Books, who also handles POD. I asked about POD and the Gardners’ Extended Catalog (GXC). Publishers can pay a fee to be included in this catalog so that books are shown to booksellers as deliverable within a week.
However, if the book is a POD title, this will be apparent on the retailer’s screen, and the bookshop may still therefore tell a customer trying to order a title that delivery could take two to three weeks or more.
I have a lot of anecdotal evidence that this happens. In fact, delivery rarely does take this long. Typically a POD title ordered on a Monday can be delivered by Friday, but this is the reality rather than the commitment. Some retailers quote the worst case as if it is the norm, especially the large high street chains who are used to dealing with trade publishers and are less confident about POD.
An alternative is to set up a Consignment Account which allows Gardners to hold a pre-agreed amount of stock, with title to the stock retained by the author or publisher. To consider an indie author for this they want to see a track record of POD sales through them and for the author have a list with multiple titles – all at the same discount.
To apply for this route, the author or small publisher needs to email first to [email protected] (Small Publishers’ Helpline). Your email needs to include a spreadsheet listing each title, RRP, and ISBN.
New titles can be considered too, but these will require details of marketing plans and any arrangements you might already have made with booksellers. The SPH team will then discuss whether to take you on.
Once accepted, a reconciliation is produced at the end of each month, and the author invoices Gardner with 30-day payment terms. To go down this route you can either:
- do small print runs (eg with Clays) and pass stock to Gardners in whatever quantities are agreed
- continue with POD but get Ingram to send the stock direct to Gardner as required (the replenishment orders will be channelled through you and not to Ingram, so you will need to keep a close watch and respond quickly)
If sale or return is offered to retailers, Gardners will invoice the returns back to the publisher/author and then pulp or return as requested.
Exports account for 35-50% of Gardners’ business, and they have benefited greatly from the fall in sterling. They are particularly strong in Northern Europe with deliveries nightly to Bol.com in Holland and Saxo in Denmark and twice weekly to Australia. The USA is also an important market with 72-hour delivery times. They are currently looking at opportunities for supplying China.
In terms of discounts, Gardners’ would like a discount of 15% and the balance goes to the retailers. This of course can vary, especially for a blockbuster book, but is probably a good rule of thumb for an indie author.
So, paring down that discount on your Ingram dashboard may not be the best decision – and may account for some of those booksellers telling prospective readers that your book is either not available or may take many weeks to arrive.
This was a very interesting visit, and watching how small deliveries for bookstores are picked in the automated high-rise was absolutely fascinating.
OVER TO YOU If you've ever visited a book wholesaler, how did their operation compare with Gardners? Do have any direct experience of using Gardners that you're happy to share via the comments box?The role of the book wholesaler in the supply chain from #indieauthors to #bookstores - @ClareFly shares her experience of a visit to @Gardners. Click To Tweet
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From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive