Should I set my book as “returnable” on IngramSpark? | Accept returns on your self-published book?

I see this question a lot from authors who are using IngramSprak or hear many of them say that they just can’t afford to list their books as returnable on IngramSpark. So I’m going to go over why you would do this, how you would do this, and what I do for my book strategy.

One of the biggest benefits of self-publishing your print books through IngramSpark is that you can set them as returnable. The primary reason to make your book returnable in IngramSpark is that brick-and-mortar stores want to see this when they order your books. I go into this in detail in my new book Going Wide: Self-Publishing Your Books Outside The Amazon Ecosystem. Basically, bookstores don’t want to order 20 copies of your book and get stuck with them if they aren’t moving. They have limited room on their physical shelves and in their storeroom. If it isn’t selling they want to know they can return the books and get their money back.

The way you make this election in IngramSpark is really easy

So I can do yes- return in the US and Canada and the bookstore can deliver it back to IngramSpark where they could send it out again (likely if it is being returned it is damaged though). I could select yes-destroy which gives the bookstore the option to send it back, but it means I’m still out the cost of the book one way or another, there’s no option to resell. Or I can pick no which means retailers can still order my book or sell it through their website but they know that I’m not accepting any returns.]

Now I mentioned the cost there. Yes, if a store returns my book, IngramSpark is going to have to apply that credit somewhere. So let’s go through this example. Let’s say my paperback book costs $5 to print and the retail price is $15 My local bookstore ordered 20 copies at the 50% wholesale discount (easy math here). They paid $150 for those 20 books. Before shipping that book order cost $100 to produce. So I make $50 from this transaction. Let’s say after two months the store has sold half their copies, but that was slow going. They want to return the other 10 books at the rate they paid, $7.50 per book. That means they want $75 back from IngramSpark, who passes that cost along to me. But I only made $50 off this transaction (again ignoring shipping costs here for easy math). Oops, that means I’m in the red $25.

I see a lot of authors get caught up with this potential issue. The books have already been printed, that’s a sunk cost now. Yes, IngramSpark could send those out the next time an order comes in from another retailer, but they aren’t going to stock those books forever just waiting for a sale to come in. For this reason, I see a lot of authors panic that they can’t afford to make their books returnable.

I hope this answered your questions for whether you should make your book returnable in IngramSpark and how to do it. Best of luck!

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