How Retail & Wholesale Buyers Make Buying Decisions

Greenleaf Book GroupWe will go into detail on every aspect of a book that the buyer looks at to determine whether they should put the book on their shelf or not. We will walk through everything from cover design to price point. We will take a look at why buyers make their decisions. We will also get into the mind of a customer, and their buying habits. By getting into the mind of a buyer, an independent author can make better decisions on the vital aspects of a book to make it appealing to those buyers and book distributors. This will also allow the author to understand how distribution works and why some books are distributed to more outlets than others.

The final aspect we will explore is the overall understanding of HOW a retailer buys when they make the decision to bring the book into their locations.

Big thanks to Steve Elizalde and Greenleaf Book Group for the presentation! You can see the original Meetup event here.

About Steve

Steve ElizaldeSteve Elizalde is a graduate of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. Steve has spent 7 years working in the publishing industry. As the Account Manager for HEB Grocery, Steve made all of the buying decisions for books and magazines for HEB for 4 years, during which time HEB doubled it’s book sales twice. His experience studying customer behavior has provided a very unique approach to guiding and educating authors at Greenleaf. Steve is currently the Distribution Manager for Greenleaf Book Group. He uses his experience and knowledge to further expand Greenleaf’s distribution and make it one of the top distribution departments in the industry.


  1. Jackie Dana says:

    Sorry I had to miss this meetup, and I’m sure this must have been asked in the Q&A, but… how does this work for indie authors? If we’re not with a publishing house and aren’t distributed by anyone (or just through the Createspace options), do we have much of a chance getting into bookstores other than local shops like Half Price Books and Book People?

    • Matt says:

      According to Steve, before the ebook boom retailers like HEB (where Steve worked as the book buyer for several years) used to be perfectly willing, and even interested, in working with local authors. But due to the influx of indie authors on the market, retailers have moved away from working directly with authors to working with distributors instead. So for an indie author this means that in order to get into retailers such as HEB, Walmart, B&N, and airport book stores, you probably need to find a distributor willing to take you. Greenleaf, for instance, will work with indie authors on distribution. I assume other small and medium sized publishers will as well. The contract of that sort of arrangement depends on the publisher but is some combination of a flat fee and percentage of revenue.

      Also, it’s worth mentioning that even if a retailer was willing to work directly with an indie author, the cost of shelf space is prohibitive, and in order to make a retailer believe in you, you need to prove a certain track record of print book sales. We didn’t discuss this much last night, but I also found this podcast rather informative:

    • Hi Jackie! I can add to that as well.

      As a rule, large chain stores like B&N, Books A Million, Hastings, etc. do not take authors who are Print On Demand (i.e. CreateSpace or Lightening Source). The reason being the discounts given to them are either below what they normally get, which is about 40% off the list price. To get that number, you need to offer a 55% discount to CreateSpace (CS) or Lightening Source (LSI). CS and LSI will then sell the book to the retailer at 40% off, giving a 15% margin to CS & LSI. This is a tough thing to do for most Indie authors.

      In addition, Indie authors that are Print On Demand (POD) usually mark their books as non-returnable. This automatically prevents you from getting in to any bookstore. All bookstores and other retailers require books to be fully returnable.

      If you have a local relationship, that gives you an advantage and it is not uncommon for a store manager to take in a local author. I have even seen some authors get into places like Costco on their own because of their relationship with the store manager. But, because you don’t know those outside of your own city, it is virtually impossible to get in.

      Once you develop a following in your local area and are selling well, that is when you want to approach a distributor like IPG or Greenleaf to help push your distribution nationwide.

      I hope that helps!


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