An Author’s Guide to Wholesalers

When authors reach the publicity department- and often before authors submit any work to us- we are sometimes asked questions about wholesalers. Firstly, it’s important to note that as an author, you should not have to worry about wholesalers too much, as the publisher will always deal directly with them. The only time an author would need to know specific details about all the wholesalers is if they are self-published authors.


That being said, it is good to have some basic knowledge, as it is helpful to understand that publicising the book alongside the publisher can drive for more sales, especially at the start of the book’s life.


We have listed some of the most common questions that we receive below and answered them in as much detail as we can.



How do wholesalers order?


Usually, publishers receive daily orders from their wholesaler. Following this, the sales team will fulfil the orders from their warehouse and send the books off. The wholesaler will then supply the books to those who ordered copies.


Do wholesalers stock in bulk?


How many copies the wholesaler stocks is up to one party – the wholesaler. Publishers often give a recommendation order (which is calculated based on pre-orders and multiplied) but wholesalers can choose to order however many copies they wish. This could be anything between one single copy or thousands.


Some wholesalers stock books in their own warehouse so they can provide quick turnover times, but this is usually for books that are showing promising sales. Other wholesalers only order books when an order is received at their end. The chain usually goes like this:




Where do wholesalers supply to?


Wholesalers can supply to almost any retailer. Common shops are: Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Barnes and Noble and WHSmith.



Are profits lower with a wholesaler?


Wholesalers require a discount. This is usually 40% or higher in most cases. Profits are always going to be lower when a book is purchased anywhere outside of the publishers own website. Naturally, when shops are given discounts, the net sale is going to be lower – however, going with shops means the market expands and gives the book a further reach.



Why do some wholesalers not accept new books?


Smaller wholesalers and wholesalers outside of the UK can have stricter terms. The book must already show some good sales, there must be a printer nearby, they have to receive 80% discount on consignment (sale or return terms – see below). Sometimes their terms cannot be met, but luckily there are plenty of wholesalers.



Why do Wholesalers require sale or return terms? (Consignment).


In order to avoid loss and have more space in their warehouse, wholesalers almost always require their books be on a sale or return basis. Sale or return or ‘consignment’ means when a wholesaler orders from a publisher they: 1) Only pay once the book is sold to a retailer 2) if no retailer is interested, they have 90 days (sometimes longer) to return the book to the publisher.



Why is my book not always showing ‘in stock’ with various wholesalers? 


In busier periods for both publishers and wholesalers, there can be transit times, processing times and stocking issues.

Examples of delays could be:

  • delivery drivers taking longer to deliver parcels (e.g., bank holidays and weekends)
  • Working in busier periods with less staff: when this happens at wholesalers, it means their databases take more time to be updated with stock. There  may be books in stock, but it simply has not been updated on their databases.



We hope this article proved to be helpful. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask us.

18 Jan 2022