Timing is everything. Back in January, a bunch of out of work booksellers launched a project called Bookshop.org – it was meant to raise money for indie bookstores and give readers an alternative to Amazon for buying books. Instead of going through Amazon as the middleman, indie bookstores (or  anyone who signs up as an affiliate) can set up their own online bookstore. ABA-registered independent bookstores can earn 30% of the profits from online orders – and affiliates can get 10%.

The orders are fulfilled via Ingram, the huge book distributor that already works with just about everyone.

Obviously when this effort started, having a way to order books online wasn’t quite as vital as it is now – indie bookstores are hurting nearly as much as comics shops amid shutdowns and quarantines.

According to a story on Morning Brew, more than 200 independent U.S. bookstores have signed up already, and the New York Times and Slate are using Bookshop affiliate links. Simon & Shuster has launched a partnership with Bookshop and authors including Stephen King, Susan Orlean and Jason Reynolds are promoting it.

And according to a slug on the sign up page, Bookshop has already raised $589,397.65 for local bookstores. According to the About page:

How does Bookshop promote local bookstores?

  • Every receipt we email customers will inform them about the bookstores near them, and include event listings for those stores.
  • If a Bookshop customer opts in, their local bookstore will be given their email address for direct marketing.
  • Affiliate stores can create recommendation lists (staff picks, etc) on Bookshop, boosting their visibility and earning the 25% affiliate commission on every sale generated from the list.

If I’m an affiliate, how are the sales of my books handled?

  • Affiliates do not have to handle inventory, fulfillment, shipping, or customer service. All book sales are fulfilled by Ingram. Ingram’s extensive inventory and regional warehouse system ensures Bookshop that books can reach customers in as soon as 2-3 days.

If this sounds a little like another plan you may have heard of…well, a good idea is a good idea.

While Bookshop wasn’t specifically set up for comics, it can handle graphic novels and thousands of other books. I was informed about Bookshop by an indie graphic novel publisher who told me “It’s all we’re talking about.”

Several comics shops have already set up Bookshop.org storefronts, including Tate’s Comics. 

This seems like a potential revenue stream for stores as they don’t have to fuss with fulfillment, although the 30% cut is not as big as they’d get via a direct sale and the interface is pretty basic.

Still, its something.

Stores interested in setting up a storefront should check out the very informative About page. 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Waiting for retro fans and comic shop owners to pile on, saying the direct market as it’s existed for 40 years is the only way to sell comics.

  2. Based purely on the number of sales our own web store has generated so far, my guess is this won’t “save” anything, but it sure can’t hurt for stores without the ability to generate their own websites. Awful margin, though, and 100% not sustainable, esp if it encourages any level of channel-creep.

    -B

  3. I wonder what percentage of the books shipped through this are POD through Lightning Source, which may not be viable for the high quality art printing necessary for comics. The publisher I work for (primarily prose books although some art books) has switched to having Ingram/Lightning Source fulfill orders to our website since our warehouse was shut down.

  4. “Waiting for retro fans and comic shop owners to pile on, saying the direct market as it’s existed for 40 years is the only way to sell comics.”

    It took a whopping 6 hours & 40 minutes for Hibbs to show up and sulk about “web sales DoN’t CoUnT” cuz he can’t fathom not being King Dork of Nerd Mountain* in a crappy, dimly lit shop that’s hostile to everyone who isn’t exactly like him. Dudes like him are why any & every attempt to keep shops going is going to get shot down, and it’s hard to feel bad for those shop owners when they inevitably go under, since it’s their own obstinate arrogance that doomed them.

    It’s really hilarious that this site keeps covering ways to keep the market afloat but also keeps a retailer on the payroll as their “expert” that’s smugly hostile to everything except the shambles we have now.

    *Censored from the title I wanted to apply, which is far more accurate but also has swear words.

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