When setting up your book to print with IngramSpark, you’ll be asked what retail discount you want to offer. IngramSpark recommends that you set the full retail discount of 55% off and make your book returnable in order to ensure its availability on Amazon and other retailers. But there are some considerations you should know before you decide on the right discount for your book.

Setting the discount at 55% can also make your book more appealing to retailers, since they want a full retail discount. However, if you’re not marketing to retail stores, you may want to choose a lower discount rate.

Since brick and mortar stores are not my primary focus, I have always set our discount to 40% on the books we’ve published through IngramSpark for the last 10+ years. Amazon will still stock and sell books at this rate, and retailers can still special order the book when requested by customers, while we earn more of each sale.

Here’s how the math looks on a book with a $20 retail price and $4 print cost:

Retail Price: $20
Less 55%: $11
Less Print Cost: $4

Retail Price: $20
Less 40%: $8
Less Print Cost: $4

As you can see, that extra 15% makes a big difference in the math.

Availability and Stocking Issues on Amazon

There is a caveat to all of this. Amazon has been showing some books as Out of Stock when they aren’t, or showing they take days or even weeks to ship, when they don’t. With IngramSpark, your books are printed and shipped on demand directly to Amazon. There is no business reason why books would have availability issues. It’s my personal opinion that Amazon has been playing games with indie publishers with this availability messaging as a way to lure us into publishing with KDP.

According to this article from IngramSpark, you should order your own book from Amazon immediately after publication. This should help Amazon develop sales history for the book, and should theoretically resolve the availability messaging issues. We have run into these issues with titles and they do typically resolve over time, but it can be frustrating to see these messages when you know your book is supposed to ship immediately via Amazon Prime.

Should your books be returnable?

You also have the option to accept returns on your book with IngramSpark. This means that any retailer who buys your book through Ingram can return the book, in any condition, for a full refund. The book industry is the only retail industry I know of that allows returns on unsold merchandise.

If Macy’s doesn’t sell out of a brand of jeans, they don’t get to return them to Levi’s for a refund. They sell them off to discounters like Marshall’s or TJMaxx. I’ve never understood why bookstores are allowed to return merchandise like this, but they are.

So, you have the choice to allow returns, which makes your book more appealing for retailers to stock. But you have to consider whether you’re even marketing to retailers and creating demand there. If you’re not creating bookstore demand, you probably don’t need to allow for returns.

Also, do you really want to financially risk these kinds of losses? If Barnes and Noble orders 200 copies of your book and returns 180 of them three months later, you have to eat the cost of those books.

On the flip side, if you ARE marketing to retailers, then you probably should set your discount to 55% and accept returns. Just be sure you understand the risks and rewards of both options before you proceed.

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