I often hear authors sound flabbergasted when their books, even their newly launched publication, the one they have been working on for so long and spent a fortune, in both time and effort promoting and marketing, shows as OUT OF STOCK on major bookstore sites.
I mean, how can a brand-new novel, only published yesterday, already be out of stock? Besides, it has been published as a POD (print on demand) so it can never be out of stock… can it?
Why, if it is available from one site, is it showing as out of stock in another? It all seems so confusing.
I have been asked, “Surely if my potential reader sees out of stock against my book, they will simply by another book, someone else’s book… won’t they?”
My answer is “It is a possibility, even a probability.”
So, why can/does your newly published book show out of stock on some site and stores listings.
There are a few reasons. Much depends on who has published your book. CreateSpace (as was), KDP, or another online book publisher like Babybook, Smashwords or B2B, or a private printing company and, who holds your prime stock, if any?
That last part may sound a strange inclusion when speaking of POD books, but some places will/do hold stock, physical stock of POD books… I bet you never considered that before, did you?
Okay, so let me clarify some of this.
First, let’s speak of those who may hold actual stock of your books.
These are varied, so this is a general overview rather than a focused statement.
Many high street bookstores, even some of the larger chains, do hold some independent authors books. You may have to get ‘lucky’ (or have a proven ‘bestseller’) for your book to take up valuable shelf space which is at a premium at this level of retail, but it can happen.
There are even a few re-sellers and wholesalers who are looking closely at getting more indie authors books in front of the high-street public… but that’s another story (Pun intended.)
Bookstores generally order their books on a fortnightly basis, often guided by their sales/buying/distribution agents convoluted algorithms, which are designed to predict purchasing patterns. Hence, if your book has continued/constant high-volume sales on a site such as Amazon, your book could, possibly, maybe, end up on the shelves of your local bookstore.
This is how the bookstore, should they have an internet presence, (I don’t know one that does not), may list your book as out-of-stock. This does not mean your book cannot be purchased via that particular site, only that the store does not have it on the shelf, or on their warehouse, but your order will be dispatched as soon as the new fortnight’s order arrives from the wholesale/resale company.
The agent will order your book as a multiple/bulk order and distribute copies to the relevant stores they supply the inventory for the two-week cycle. It is these companies who would, for example, buy from Amazon as part of the ‘Expanded distribution’ should you have enabled that option.
Now, let’s get to grips with the sites that do not hold any, or very little, stock and why they may mark your book as out of stock. (This post is Amazon focused, simply because they are the largest bookseller and I am certain almost every indie has or has had, dealings with them.)
Historically, the biggest times of out of stock, or two to three weeks delivery notices, came when Amazon was solidifying its position as the major book distributor in the world. It had a long ongoing, but quiet battle, with Lightning Source and the two main suppliers Amazon used as dropships, Ingram and Baker & Taylor.
As part of the ever-growing Amazon domination, it needed warehouse space and to reduce costs, which can spiral, expediently even for a massive organisation.
Thus, Amazon reduced its stock levels of all POD books re-ordering necessary stock on a daily basis. But this was not always enough time for POD printers to supply demand in the timespan, hence out of stock messages appeared.
Now, all this and the continued adjustments since created a shift change in the marketplace. Since the demise of Createspace, KDP is now undoubtedly the main supplier of indie books to Amazon Books, as it is part of Amazon anyway. So, for the least chance of having your book listed as out of stock, or as a delayed delivery, KDP is your best bet.
Lightning Source, Blurb, Babybooks, Lulu, B2B and so on, take a secondary seat in the ongoing war for profits, which is what effects your book sales the most. You cannot blame Amazon or Barnes & Noble, Ingram or anybody else, this is what business is about, maximising revenue and profits.
So, on that basis, not one of these companies actually cares about you, or your book. (on an individual basis). It is nothing personal, your book is just another item of stock/listing among the many millions, which needs to be sold. So, if your POD company does not supply in time, has an issue with Amazon, your book may be tagged as out-of-stock.
Oh, occasionally it is a genuine mistake, someone clicks the wrong button, but that is far and less often than many would have you believe.
Even if your book is not listed on the major sites, the POD wholesale/agent distribution factors do still influence the availability of your book.
The note to take from this post, if nothing else, is the misconception most indies have in believing all orders from a POD publisher are printed there and then, to order, on the order/request of each customer. This is not necessarily true, as I have explained above.
Which is why you could see that unwanted message, ‘out of stock’ on your books sales pages, no matter which site(s) you use.
Finally, as a personal disclaimer, arse covering statement… there are far more book publishers/printers/distributors/suppliers than I have mentioned here, like TOAD Publishing… oh that’s my own Publishing house!
The secret is to choose the one, (or the several), which suits you and your needs the best.
That’s it from me just now. I hope this post has been helpful.
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