Monthly archives for May, 2011

Think Like A Publisher #11… Electronic Sales to Bookstores

Just over a year ago now, Kris was standing at the end of an aisle in a Safeway grocery store as I came around the corner from the deli section. She was staring at one of those huge end-caps of gift cards that tend to fill all major stores these days. I figured she was looking for the iTunes gift card, since that’s how she controls her spending buying songs by doing one gift card at a time.

“Look at this,” she said and pointed at a gift card.

It was a beautiful gift card for the musical “Wicked.” It had the poster for the musical on the card and if you bought the card, you could download the entire musical by using a code at a web site.

I stared at it for a moment and then looked at her and I could tell she was thinking the exact same thing I was thinking.

“Put A Book On The Card!!!”

So that night I started into the research for the idea and found that it was simple and surprisingly cheap.

Over the next two months I talked to about a half-dozen indie bookstore owners, asking them if they would like to sell gift cards for electronic books in their store? All of them said “Yes!”

And all were enthused.  Especially when I talked about how little space they would take up and that I could give them a 50% discount and free shipping.

Of course they were excited, because it was a very, very simple way to make an electronic book into a physical product for an indie store to sell.

In fact, it’s the solution that just might save bookstores in this new electronic world.

How This Works Exactly

Step #1: Publish your book to electronic publishing, including Smashwords. Set up the book for free on a Smashwords code page. (There are other ways to do this, but this is basic and simple for the moment.)

Step #2: Have a plastic credit-card-sized gift card printed with your book cover on one side.

Step #3: On the back of the card print the free Smashwords code under a black scratch-off bar plus directions and other information.

Step #4: Either give the card away as a promotion at signings and such or put the card into a cardboard hanger with a price and sell to bookstores.

That’s it. Just about as simple as it gets.

What Kris and I Decided to Do

Kris and I thought about starting up some business to do this for us and others, then just decided to use the cards ourselves for promotion at signings and conferences and to sell through our own company. Why did we back away from a business model?

Because anyone, any indie publisher can set this up just as simply as we could do it.

I hinted at this idea early in this series because the more I got into the idea, the more research I did, the more excited about it I got.

In the meantime, a new start-up company, EnThrill, in Canada has decided to try the idea. If you want to see the nifty video about what this new company is planning, go to

But this company is brand new and very small and smartly moving very, very slowly, as they should. They are only in Canada and will be only doing a few test stores this summer with a very small catalog. And even next fall they will be taking only limited titles. In essence, they are becoming a publishing company with this as their main way of distribution.

But again, anyone can do this. Any author, any company. Anyone.

The idea of selling books like gift cards just like other companies sell gift cards is easy for any of us to do, and start-ups like Enthrill will only help knock down some barriers into stores.

But that said, I can’t imagine too many barriers.

Indie bookstores have been looking for a way to sell electronic books in their stories and this is it. The idea is simple, cheap, and every book takes up less room than a regular book, yet it is something the customer can walk out of the store with in a bag.

If we standardize the size of the cards, imagine in ten years parts of every bookstore being like a record store, with bins of books we can just thumb through like we thumb through albums.

First The Details

— Any book, fiction or nonfiction, that is in electronic format, can be sold this way.

— You can use Smashwords coupon codes on the back of the card or set up your own page on your web site for the download address. Right now the simple way is use Smashwords coupon code since Smashwords buyers can use credit cards and can download any format they want. Very simple.

(If you do not understand Smashwords coupon codes, please go to and read the instructions on discount or sales coupons.)

— Card printing is easy. All I did was Google “gift card printing” and found all kinds of places. Dozens and dozens and dozens of printing offers.

Prices range all over as is normal, but I tended to find printers that could use my cover pdf file, my back cover pdf file (full color front, B/W back), scratch-off bar, 30 ml (credit card thickness), and full gloss for under 50 cents per card if I went to 500 cards. More per card if I wanted to print less.

For example, go to All Time Print and check out the prices there. You can print 100 cards for $128.00 but at 1,000 cards you get them for about 36 cents each. (I have not ordered for them, so do not know for sure on quality. Just a price example.)

—Cards with cardboard hangers will cost more. For example, you can do a holder shaped like a book that folds over and has the card inside. You can print your cover on the front of the holder and blurbs and information on the inside and the cost will run about 50-60 cents per card, depending on volume. Again, shop around.

So if you do a decent volume per book, it brings your total for a card with folder to just under $1.00 per card with holder that could hang in a bookstore.

Say $1.00 per book to be high and safe. (A book is plastic gift card and holder with your cover and information printed on the holder as well.)

SHOP AROUND for best prices. Maybe even try your local printers.

Think Like a Publisher

How can a small indie publisher use these cards????

I am certain I haven’t even begun to figure out the many, many ways. But first let me talk simply about selling your electronic books through indie brick-and-mortar stores. Then I will talk about promotion.

Selling to Stores

First you will need to figure the profit margin.

— Novel online price is $4.99. (Or higher. If you are a discount 99 cent publisher, forget this idea and jump to the promotion section below. But I am certain traditional publishers will be picking this idea up quickly over the next few years at their sales prices.)

— You will want to sell your book into bookstores at the same price or less as your electronic book. So let me use $4.99, the price WMG Publishing prices novels at.  That will be an impulse buy for bookstore customers.

— On the hanger print the $4.99 book price.

— Offer the bookstore 50% discount plus free shipping if they order at least 10 books in this format from your catalog. (Shipping will be about 50 cents per card shipping priority flat rate.)

The Math

#1… Your costs: $1.00 printing plus .50 shipping = $1.50.

#2…You get paid ahead from the bookstore $2.50. (50% discount)

#3… Total profit per book is $1.00 per card or $10.00 per ten. (For you math challenged, that’s 20% profit.)

(On how to find the stores, reread Think Like a Publisher #9.)

That simple.

Without doing a POD paper version, you get your electronic book into brick-and-mortar bookstores.

And find more readers.

Who will then look up your other work.


One of the great values of these cards is simply promotion. If you don’t do the hanger and do large enough print runs, you can have a plastic card for around 35 cents or less per card.

On that card on one side is the full cover picture of your book. On the back is a free code to let the reader you hand the card to read your book for free on any device they may own.

And you can leave the free code open for as long as you want or close it when you want. (I would tend to leave it open to be honest to draw even more readers if the person you gave the card to gives it to another person. You know, like lending a book. Gets you more and more customers for your other work.)

Kris and I will have numbers of these cards with us everywhere we go in the future.

Giving a reader a free book by handing them an attractive, colorful gift card is about as good as promotion gets these days.

And note, you can even sign the card. Tough to sign an electronic book before now.


The new future of books is almost here. Books on gift cards.

But they won’t be called “gift cards.”  They will be called “books.”

Electronic books in a physical product, for the same price, can now get into brick-and-mortar bookstores and make bookstores a great mark-up.

Customers can easily buy they, give them as gifts, even wrap them up as stocking-stuffers.

It is easy for any publisher of any size to do.

Gift Card Books take up less of the very expensive bookstore shelf room. You can get a hundred of these in the space of ten paperback books.

So my challenge to you all is this:

Indie publishers, lead the way.

Authors, for promotion, lead the way.

The traditional publishers and chain bookstores will not be far behind.

In ten years you can imagine a bookstore with paper books and thousands of electronic books on cards on huge racks and in bins.

If you doubt that future, just walk into any major store now and look at the huge gift card racks.

And imagine those racks full of cards that contain books.

Have I said lately how much I LOVE THIS NEW FUTURE???


Copyright ©  2011 Dean Wesley Smith


I want to thank everyone who has supported this series, and at some point you will all get a full copy of this series. Maybe even on a gift card. Thanks!

As a professional, this series is part of the income streams. And, to be honest, donations keeps me going on these chapters. And anyone who donates a little to the Magic Bakery tip jar, I will send a free electronic book of all these chapters combined when I am finished.

And  speaking of the Magic Bakery, this chapter is now part of my inventory in my bakery. (Confused on that, read the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing post about making money with writing.) I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Thanks, Dean

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Killing a Career

This myth just gets more and more annoying by the day. And finally, with all the new stuff about indie publishing, I figured it was time to take a hammer to the myth.

If you catch some hints of annoyance on my part in this, it’s because I think this is flat out the stupidest myth there is. It shows no understanding of the business of publishing, or the new business of indie publishing. So please be patient with me. I’ll try not to be grumpy.

The Myth: If I do “this or that,” I will kill my career.

Now, of course, 99.99999% of the time this is beginning writers saying this. You never hear a long-term professionals like me or Kris or anyone else who has gotten past a half dozen years making a living say this. Ever. Why? Because we know it’s just not possible. It really isn’t.

Professional writers don’t worry about mistakes killing careers, we worry about mistakes that will cost money or get us screwed.

Before anyone will believe me on that, let me point out what happened to one writer you all have heard about lately.

James Frey was on Oprah for the 3rd time just recently.

If getting screamed at by Oprah after lying to her in front of millions can’t kill a career, nothing can. He’s back with a new book and on the bestseller lists and has even made up with Oprah.

If faking an autobiography of Howard Hughes can’t kill a career, nothing can. And so on and so on. So many ugly things writers have done and yet if the writer kept writing, they just went right on proving the old saying that even bad publicity is good publicity.

But who can kill a career?

The writer who believes this myth can kill their own career simply by believing it. Sort of Zen, but true. Any writer that stops writing and just becomes an “author,” (a person who has written) will kill their own career. That’s how careers are killed. A writer stops writing.

What is a “Career.” My good old dictionary defines the term as “An occupation, a way of making a living.”

I  suppose by that definition it could be said I have a career. I write for a living, I sell books and stories, I indie publish, and for years I was a part-time editor. I have a reputation under this name and I have done so many things to this name, it’s stunning the name is still alive.

Kris has many pen names. Does Kris Nelscott and Kristine Grayson and Kristine Dexter have careers or are they all part of Kristine Kathryn Rusch?

I think all pen names are just part of the career of the writer. But on the other side, it can be thought that each pen name has a career. Your choice how you look at it.

I find it wonderful that I can get the income from five or ten other careers. That’s a very cool thing about writing. Just like Evan Hunter got all the money from Ed McBain’s career. Nifty how that works, huh?

And that writing under other names makes careers in writing impossible to destroy.

Why? Because even in the worst situations and after the worst mistakes, we can all just change our names and keep writing, that’s why. Unlike any other profession, we are free to just be as many people as we want to be.

A business person tied to a resume can kill a career with a bad action or choice. An actor can kill a career. A doctor can make a mistake and kill a career.

A writer can decide to stop writing, which kills a career eventually. But again, that’s self-inflicted.

But if the writer can clear out the ego and change names when sales drop or things go wrong, there is nothing to stop that writer from writing until the moment they die.

Writing careers can NOT be killed unless the writer stops writing.

Wait, let me say this one more time:

Writing careers can NOT be killed unless the writer stops writing.

But the belief that a career can be killed by a mistake is often terminal for a writer. This myth can be very dangerous if you believe it and will cause you to stop writing and kill your own career.

Let me give a couple of main examples and some minor ones of how this myth rears its ugly head these days.

Mail a Novel to an Editor Against Guidelines

Yup, I know that all guidelines say “Agented Submissions.” And for a decade before that all guidelines said “No Unsolicited Manuscripts.”

So? Who cares? (What are you all? Sheep?)

Editors need manuscripts, they are looking for good novels.

You send them a great few page sample of your novel with a good cover letter, a short synopsis and a SASE and they will look at it. They might send you their form letter saying “get an agent” but they will look at it for the most part. And if you are close, the editor will write you a letter, and if your book is good and it fits, they will buy it.

Over a dozen of the writers coming to workshops here have sold first novels recently without agents by simply mailing to editors. (And ten of them used IP attorneys instead of agents to negotiate the deal, but that’s another blog post.)

You all remember editors? The people who can buy books at publishing houses? Remember?

So sending a manuscript directly to an editor will not kill your career.


1) The editor won’t remember your book if they didn’t buy it.

I know many of you think you are the center of the universe, but honestly, the editors don’t remember manuscripts or authors they don’t read.

2) There is no such thing as a blacklist unless you threaten the editor with a gun.

3) Honestly, the editor can’t come to your house and yell at you. Honestly, they just won’t care if it doesn’t fit their line.

4) The worst they can do is just toss your manuscript away. You are out a few bucks postage. Shrug.

Yet I have heard hundreds of writers say “If I mail my book directly against guidelines to an editor, I will kill my career.”

You won’t!

But you might sell a book and actually start a career.

If I Publish a Bad Story I Will Kill My Career

I love this from new writers who think they actually know what makes a good story or a bad one. Of course they don’t.

And to be honest, when it comes to my own stories, I don’t know either. No writer is a good judge of their own work. None.

Any writer who thinks they are a good judge of their own work has far too much ego, or has spent far too much time in creative writing classes.

Professional writers can spot when another person’s story works or doesn’t work and why, but on our own stuff, we suck. Nature of how the brain works and again a topic for another post.

And indie publishing anything bad will not kill a career. It just will mean no one buys it.

Really is that simple.

You know… Trust the readers.

And if you are really afraid of a story, put it under a pen name and don’t tell anyone. Just let it sit there.

Publishing a story you think sucks won’t kill your career!!

It might make you a little money, however.

More Silly Thinking

Example… Kris got a letter the other day from a writer flat believing that if he self-published anything it would completely kill his career. Of course, he was a beginning writer, wasn’t selling anything, and thus had no career. But he was convinced.

Example… I have heard many, many times from writers that if you don’t have an agent, it will kill your career.

I haven’t had an agent for seven years. I keep selling and making money. Interestingly enough, it’s always beginning writers or someone with only one or two novels published that tell me this. We have talked about this myth already bunches of times in other comment sections, but it is always framed by “…if you don’t have an agent, it will kill your career.”

Truth: These days having an agent can do more damage to your income and long-term copyrights and income stream than not having one. Far, far more. Honest.

Example… I have received many letters over the last few years from writers afraid to negotiate contracts for fear it will kill their careers.

Kris and I have walked away from many, many contracts that had bad clauses that we just wouldn’t sign and we negotiate everything and we still make our living at this business of fiction writing.

In fact, if writers grew a pair among the hordes, we actually might get royalty rates for electronic publishing moved upward. But this fear of “killing a career” by negotiating a contract hurts us all.

And even worse, writers let agents do the negotiating, agents without legal degrees who can’t practice law but do so anyway, and who are more concerned about keeping the publisher happy then helping the writer. Yeah, that gets us good clauses.

Any wonder contracts have been getting worse and worse over the last five years? It’s all because writers are afraid of killing their careers. Most don’t even have careers in the first place because they aren’t making a living at their fiction.

And why aren’t they?

Because fear never gets you anywhere in business, folks.

I asked a few other professionals about other examples of where they hear this silly myth and I got hordes and hordes of stories, all funny to me and the other professionals, but all very real and believed by the young writers spouting the myth.

And these stories range all over the map.

Example… A writer who thought that if he didn’t rewrite a manuscript at least ten times, he would kill his career. Hadn’t sold anything yet for some reason. (grin)

Example… Another beginning writer was convinced that a bad cover on a book (he thought bad) would kill his career. His first novel and he thought he knew more than the art department in the publishing company and was trying to get another cover his friend drew to replace the cover. He did far more damage to his reputation than a hundred bad covers could have done. But he was convinced a bad cover would kill his career.

Folks, I have had more bad covers than I can count over the decades. I’m still making a living.

Example... Another writer swore that if he didn’t have at least three people proof his story or novel before he indie published it, it would could kill his career. He actually said he wanted his story perfect, to which the professional telling me the story laughed and said, “Yeah, as if there is ever a perfect story in publishing.”


There is only one way for a writer to kill a career: Stop writing.

It really is that simple.

But if you go into everything you do in publishing believing the myth that you can make a mistake and kill your career, you will make all your decisions from a position of fear. And you will make horrid decisions.

And if you don’t believe me on this, just ask any long-term professional writer, a writer who has been around for over twenty years, how many mistakes they have made. The professional will laugh and then more than likely ask which year? Or which dozen do you want first? Something like that.

And most beginning writers would tell me that writing a series like Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing would kill my career because I have said so many things that are against “common stupidity…I mean knowledge.”

Hah, fooled you. I’m still here and selling both in traditional publishing and in indie publishing and making a very nice living.

And some of my agent friends even still talk to me. Shocking I know.

If you never stop writing, gain some courage, and stop worrying about killing your career, you might be stunned at what you can manage in this business. You will be writing and enjoying the writing until the day you die.

And that’s a great reward.


Copyright ©  2011 Dean Wesley Smith


You know, I had one young writer tell me one day that putting a donate button on my blogs would kill my career. Luckily, that was just as silly as everything else beginning writers believe about what can kill a career.

As a professional, this series is part of the income streams. And, to be honest, donations keeps me going on these chapters. And anyone who donates a little to the Magic Bakery tip jar, I will send a free electronic book of all these chapters combined when I am finished.

And  speaking of the Magic Bakery, this chapter is now part of my inventory in my bakery. (Confused on that, read the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing post about making money with writing.) I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Thanks, Dean

A great set of guidelines for agents

Passiveguy, a former attorney, laid out a set of guidelines that agents should follow if they are setting up a publishing program.  You can read it here:

Great stuff and spot on the money in my opinion, but the truth is I laughed about halfway through because it was far, far too logical and above board for any agent to do these days. Which is a bummer.

So I stand by my position. Any agent who continues to represent clients to traditional publishing and also sets up a publishing house of their own, for whatever reason, is a scam (Unless, in the unlikely event they follow Passiveguy’s advice.)

(A logical but laughable question. Do any of the agencies thinking of doing this or starting this have attorneys who understand agency law and conflict of interest?)

Avoid these agents at all costs, folks.

Think Like A Publisher #10…. The Returns System

I can’t even believe I’m writing this post in this series. A number of people suggested it and I just looked at them like they were nuts. No indie publisher should ever allow returns or even think about them.  Duh.

Then a top indie writer, a very smart person, and someone I have followed for some time said in response to a question, “I don’t want to put my books into bookstores because I don’t want to deal with the returns system.”

I almost snorted my iced-tea all over my keyboard when I read that statement. Why would a very smart indie publisher say something that silly?

At that moment, I realized it was time to talk about the returns sytem.

I thought about doing this post as a Killing the Sacred Cows chapter. But I decided it fit here because I am trying to get indie writers to think like a publisher and sell books to more than just Kindle. And if the myth about the returns system is as bad as it appears, then I figured this was the place.

So hold on. We have an ugly myth to take a hammer to.

The myth: To sell books to bookstores, you must allow returns.

Total foolishness.

Some History

The returns system started in the Great Depression as a way for publishers to help bookstores stay in business and keep selling their books. Some publishers, but not all, continued the practice up into the sixties as a promotion that started and stopped and only included some lines and imprints.

Through the late sixties and early seventies, the numbers of books being produced exploded and almost all major publishers standardized the returns promotion to level the playing field in the expanding market.

However, to this day there are lines of traditionally published books that do not allow returns.

Traditional publishers HATE the returns system, but now are stuck with it. If all the publishers got together to change it, bookstores would sue them for antitrust, restraint of trade, and a host of other things. So the returns system is stuck in place for the traditional publishers and has been for decades. And it will be one of the factors that will really hurt traditional publishers in this changing world.

But indie publishers, smaller literary publishers, university presses, and specialty presses do not do returns and never really have, with only a few exceptions.

In 1987 Kris and I started Pulphouse Publishing and all our books were nonreturnable. Period.

All specialty presses of the time had that policy. And we all sold a ton of books. As did the presses before us and the presses after us.

The returns system is not mandatory for any publisher and never has been.

Giving bookstores the ability to return all books was simply a good deed done by publishers back in the Great Depression. That good deed, through the publisher’s own stupidity, turned around after a few decades and bit them on the ass.

What is the “Returns System” exactly in traditional publishing?

Traditional publishers use the returns system to get what is called “market penetration.” They believe (in the old system) that for a customer to find a book on a shelf, there has to be two books there. (Silly thinking, but we’ll let that go for now.)

So the sales force jam the numbers of a book shipped as high as they can get it. And thus, 50% returns became the normal for many books. Sometimes higher.

And that is accepted practice.

Yup, that’s as stupid as it sounds, but we’ll let that go as well.

What happens when a traditionally published book is returned?

—Hardbacks and trade paper are sent back full-copy in most cases.

—Mass market paperbacks have their covers stripped and the books tossed away and the covers sent back.

Traditional publishers give bookstores either full credit or partial credit for the returned books, depending on the program and the length of time the store has had the book and other factors.

(I won’t go into the fact that bookstores over the last thirty years have not had to take responsibility for their own inventory. The publishers, with the returns system, became responsible for bookstores inventory. Thankfully, that is starting to change with the decrease in chain stores and the increase in indie and specialty publishing.)

So in traditional publishing, every second book in a bookstore is returned or destroyed. And the publisher carries the loss.

That means that the price of the one book sold in traditional publishing must carry the entire cost of producing two or more books.

Yup, that’s ugly and should be avoided at all costs by anyone going into the publishing business at any level.

Not a one of the major traditional publishers has had the courage to cut the returns system in any more than an imprint or two.

Even though it is bad business and they all hate it.

(No comment once again.)

Advice to Indie Publishers

As you go through the steps of setting up your indie press, just make it a flat policy to not accept returns. State that policy on your flyer, on your web site, and every time you talk with a bookstore.

Your policy should be:

1) Cash in Advance

2) No returns

Okay, that’s done. Problem solved. Right?

Not really. 99%, but not completely.

There are two places in indie publishing you must take returns, but neither will hurt you, and both are logical and good business for you to participate in.

1) Electronic Returns.

Yup, I said that: Electronic Returns. Anyone who has done Kindle books for any time knows exactly what I mean.  A customer will often hit the “buy” button by accident or when they don’t want to, so Kindle allows them to say “Overs!” And the customer gets their money back.

On your publisher statement from Kindle that shows as a return.

That’s good business for all of us.

I wouldn’t touch an electronic book if it didn’t have that feature. I have ten thumbs and none of them work the way I want them to at times.

2) POD Returns

CreateSpace and LightningSource both have minor returns systems. And they are minor.

If you subscribe to the premium program for your book (which you will do to get cheaper books for your company), you allow your books to get into the Baker & Taylor catalog or the Ingrams Catalog for a bookstore to buy your book way.

These extended sales programs are a good thing for your sales in finding customers. You won’t sell many copies, but it allows a reader to walk into any store on the planet and special order one of your books from any bookstore.  THIS IS A GOOD THING! Duh.

Here is how the CreateSpace “returns” system works:

1… A bookstore buys a couple of your books through Baker & Taylor.

2… Baker & Taylor orders your books through CreateSpace and CreateSpace prints and ships them directly to the bookstore.

3… You get paid.

4… Two months later the bookstore returns a full copy of the book to Baker & Taylor.

5… Baker & Taylor keeps your book in their warehouse and your account at CreateSpace is debited. (CreateSpace does not make you pay out, just deducts what they paid you from your total.)

6… When Baker & Taylor gets another order for your book, Baker & Taylor ships the one out of the warehouse and you get credited again.

That’s it. Simple and painless.

And very, very minor.

So Why All The Fuss?

Why? Because writers have made up so much crap about the returns system, the myth of returns is strong as writers start to learn how to be publishers.

And for traditional publishers who are using the old warehouse model, it is ugly. Plain and simple. Traditional publishers have to pay up front to print two books for every one they hope to sell.

But Indie Publishers don’t have to do that.

We don’t have to pay any money out at all.

We get paid when a book order comes in, before printing even happens.

If there is a return, it’s a debit on an account, nothing more. The book is not destroyed, and you don’t have to pay for another book when the next one sells. The returned one is just shipped for the next order.

In Summary:

— Returns are for traditional publishers. Indie publishers, specialty presses, and most other small presses around the country do not use the return system.

— Returns are allowed in only two minor places in indie publishing. 1) Electronic-mistake returns and 2) full-copy POD returns to distributors that do not cost you anything.

— Bookstores will buy books from your press without the return system. You must offer decent discounts as I talked about before. 40-45%.

Do Not Reduce Sales for fear of a few returns. The goal is to get your books in front of as many people as you possibly can. That should include the extended distribution through the major distributors. It’s minor since few stores will use those systems because of the smaller discounts.

But all stores will use the extended distribution for special orders for customers. And that’s a very, very good thing for your readers.

— For your own press, do NOT allow returns in direct sales to bookstores. And always have all money paid ahead. Set those two policies clearly in all your flyers and on your web site.

— However, do allow a damaged-copy return. If the dealer or customer gets a damaged copy from your printer, allow them to send it back to you and you replace the damaged book at no cost, of course. (Then use the damaged book as a promotion in some way or another. Or give it to your library to let more readers find you there.)

Returns are part of any business.

I returned a small computer last week that I bought at Fry’s Electronics and got a full refund. At Christmas we all return things that don’t fit. Returns are normal and are nothing to fear if you have a good policy in place for your business.

Traditional publishers have taken returns far, far too far, that’s for sure, and it’s hurting them. But a few minor returns are just a cost of doing business.

Do not limit your sales outlets simply because you believe in a myth.

Think like a business person.

Think like publisher in a brand new world, one where returns are limited by common sense.


Copyright ©  2011 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover photo copyright © Vladimir Melnikov/Dreamstime


This series is part of the income streams for me. And, to be honest, donations keeps me going on these chapters. And anyone who donates a little to the Magic Bakery tip jar, I will send a free electronic book of all these chapters combined when I am finished.

And  speaking of the Magic Bakery, this chapter is now part of my inventory in my bakery. (Confused on that, read the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing post about making money with writing.) I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Thanks, Dean

My Newsletter Sign-Up

Current Bundle

Bundles: A great way to discover new writers and read some of my novels or nonfiction writing books at the same time.

So if you want to read two of my books about the business of writing, you can get it in a bundle with eight other great books from other writers from Storybundle. Click on image to go to the bundle.

Smith’s Monthly Subscriptions

Smith's Monthly, an original fiction magazine featuring every month a full novel, short fiction, serial adventures, and nonfiction now available for subscriptions.

And twenty-six of them now exist... Amazing, huh? And hard to hold. Here I am holding the first five...

$6.99 electronic and $12.99 trade paper editions are available at your local bookseller. All paper subscription copies are signed. For more information, just click on the cover.


Online Workshop Schedule

These are the starting dates of upcoming online workshops. Limited to twelve writers. All have openings unless I say closed below. For sign-up and more information about each workshop, click the Online Workshop tab at the top of the page.

Class #51… June 6th … The Business of Writing
Class #52… June 6th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #53… June 6th … Author Voice
Class #54… June 6th … Ideas into Stories
Class #55… June 7th … Teams in Fiction
Class #56… June 7th … Depth in Writing
Class #57… June 7th … Plotting With Depth
Class #58… June 8th … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #59… June 8th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #60… June 8th … Advanced Depth

Class #1… July 11th … Author Voice
Class #2… July 11th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #3… July 11th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #4… July 11th … Plotting With Depth
Class #5… July 12th … Character Development
Class #6… July 12th … Depth in Writing
Class #7… July 12th … Advanced Character and Dialog
Class #8… July 13th … Cliffhangers
Class #9… July 13th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #10... July 13th … Teams in Fiction

Class #11… Aug 8th … The Business of Writing
Class #12… Aug 8th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #13… Aug 8th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #14… Aug 8th … Ideas into Stories
Class #15… Aug 9th … Teams in Fiction
Class #16… Aug 9th … Depth in Writing
Class #17… Aug 9th … Plotting With Depth
Class #18… Aug 10th … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #19… Aug 10th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #20… Aug 10th … Advanced Depth

Sign-up and more information under Online Workshops tab at the top of the page.

Classic Workshops

You can sign up for these and start at any point. They are the regular workshops, only you don't send in the homework and you can take them as fast or as slow as you would like.

They are half the price of a regular six week workshop.

Classic Workshops offered.

Making a Living... Classic
Productivity... Classic
Discoverability... Classic
Writing in Series... Classic
Genre Structure... Classic
Career... Classic

Lecture Series

More information on these lectures under the Lecture Series Tab above.

#1... Heinlein's Rules... Dean Wesley Smith 15 videos... $75.00

#2... Read Like a Writer... Kristine Kathryn Rusch... 8 videos... $50.00

#3... How to Write a Short Story: The Basics... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 7 videos... $50.00

#4... Writer's Block and Procrastination... Dean Wesley Smith... 8 videos... $50.00

#5... Carving Time Out for Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#6... How to Research for Fiction Writers... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 14 videos... $75.00

#7... Pen Names: Help With the Decision... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#8... Motivation: Starting Easier and Writing More... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#9... Practice: The Attitude and Methods of Practice in Fiction... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#10... Master Plot Formula: How and Why It Works Today... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#11... Prolific Lecture: How to Become a Prolific Fiction Writer... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#12... The Stages of a Fiction Writer: How to Know Where You Are In Learning and How To Move Upward... Dean Wesley Smith.... 11 videos... $50.00

#13... Starting Writing. Or Restarting Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#14... Endings: How to Write Them and Understand What Makes a Good Ending... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#15... Audio Narration Lecture... Jane Kennedy.... 9 audio lectures... $50.00

#16... Your Writing as an Investment Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#17... How to Get Your Books into Bookstores Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#18... How to Think Like a Science Fiction Writer Lecture... Kristine Kathryn Rusch....11 videos... $50.00

#19... Why Some Books Sell More Than Other Books... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#20... How to Write a Page Turning Novel or Story: Basics and Tricks ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#21... The Basics of Designing Science Fiction Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#22... The Basics of Designing Mystery, Cozy, or Thriller Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#23... Paying the Price: A Working Writer's Mindset ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#24... Writing into the Dark: The Tricks and Methods of Writing Without an Outline... Dean Wesley Smith... 12 videos... $50.00

#25... Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#26... Organization... Allyson Longueira... 8 videos... $50.00

#27... Confidence... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#28... Stories to Novels... Dean Wesley Smith... 9 videos... $50.00

My Publisher

WMG Publishing Inc. is now my major publisher of all my coming novels, collections, and short stories.

Support This Blog On Patreon

I now have a Patreon page with some nifty rewards for your monthly support.

Just click on the image to go to my new Patreon page.