After the agents, editors, and the marketing departments at publishing houses have all made their decisions about what will be published, in what quantities, and how the finished product will look, there is one final decision maker who ultimately decides what books will be presented for sale to consumers: The buyer for the bookstores. The decision maker for the independent bookstores is often the owner, or the owner and several employees.
The chains have corporate buyers who specialize in different areas. The buyer looks at the prior sales history of the author, or if it is the author’s first book, the buyer will look at similar titles or topics. Of course the publisher’s sales rep, or the distributor, lets the buyer know of the marketing push the title will receive.
If advance reading copies (ARCs) are available or galleys – the uncorrected page proofs of a book, those are sent to the chains and major independents three to four months prior to the title’s publication date.
Booksellers usually buy their first order of a new title from the publisher through their sales reps. Subsequent orders can be placed directly with the publisher, through a distributor or wholesaler, which allows the bookstore to batch their orders to several different publishers and receive one invoice and make only one payment. It allows the bookstore to return books from different publishers to one place –the wholesaler.
The decisions book buyers make about what titles to stock are a blend of taking into account the sales pitches from publishers’ reps, historical sales data available about an author or a topic, knowledge of their customer base—and to a large extent simply what their gut instinct tells them will be popular.