Selling Your Indie Product to Retailers

February 13, 2021 ☼ ResourcesPublishingRetail

So you recently finished a successful Kickstarter and now you want to get it into the hands of retailers. But how do you do this? How much do you charge for your zine or book? Who pays for shipping? Or taxes?

I would not consider myself an authority on any of these topics (and neither should you) but on the heels of my successful Primeval Kickstarter I found myself asking the same questions. The following is a rough framework and what I have seen and done in my experience and based on practices and customs done in the United States. Please keep that in mind when you read through this.

I recommend being selective with the advice listed here and make sure that whatever choices you make align with best practices and legal requirements for your region.

DECIDE ON AN MSRP

MSRP stands for Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price. Sometimes also called the Sticker Price this is essentially what the consumer will be paying before shipping, and before taxes.

Do some research on this before you decide. Easiest way to do this is to ask the following questions:

  1. What are other products of a similar size and quality priced at?
  2. What is your minimum required Profit Margin?

If you’re not sure about that last question, an easy rule of thumb to keep in mind is the Rule of Doubles1.

50% MSRP = Retailer Cost (Publisher Margin) aka Wholesale

50% Publisher Margin = Publisher’s Printing Cost

50% Publisher’s Printing Cost = Printer’s Materials Cost

For example, if you want a retailer to sell your Zine at $2.00, you may sell it to the retailer at $1.00 per copy. Which means that it should cost no more than $0.50 for you to print. This margin usually accounts for the labor and time it takes in coordinating printing, shipping, etc.

More on Printing, Shipping, and Logistics can be found in this great lecture by Sean McCoy of Tuesday Knight Games.

CONSIGNMENT OR DIRECT SALE

The next big question is how are you going to sell your product. Some retailers will only do one way (again researching this if possible will help) but others may be open to two different methods.

Consignment

Thus far this seems to be the less common method for TTRPG products but I have seen and read about it in other markets (such as print novels, magazines, etc.).

With Consignment sales you:

  1. Send a package of your product to the Retailer
  2. The Retailer will then sell/post your product
  3. They will send you a periodic (usually quarterly) check with the profits from any sales

In some cases, Consignment will bring the Publisher a higher profit margin (as negotiated between the Publisher and the Retailer). Main reason is due to the fact that it is less of risk for the retailer. They are not putting their resources on the line for a product that might not sell (but we’re not gonna worry about that now).

For the Publisher, the main downside is not receiving funds in advance.

Direct Sale

Direct Sales are a little more straight forward. The Publisher:

  1. Sends an invoice to the Retailer listing the
    1. Wholesale Price of the Product (50% MSRP)2
    2. Shipping price
  2. Ships them the package of product
  3. The Retailer will then sell/post your product

The obvious advantage to this is that the Publisher receives their funds up front but is more of a risk for the Retailer. In some cases, it is slightly less profit for the Publisher than Consignment. But again, you are trading that for a drip-feed of funds which may not work for everyone. Especially smaller, indie Publishers.

OTHER NOTES

You may notice one of thing things that wasn’t listed was regarding Taxes. That was intentional. Taxes are tricky and definitely outside of my realm of expertise so I would again recommend being selective with the advice listed here. Make sure that whatever choices you make align with best practices and legal requirements for your region.

Not all retailers will be helpful in this regard but I want to give thanks to the first couple shops (specifically Jared Sinclair and Matt) who allowed me to ask these questions and blindly stumble my way into the answers needed so that we can both sell my stuff and get it into people’s hands.

FLGS / Brick-and-Mortar

Another common question is selling to Brick-and-Mortar Storefronts or FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store). This is sometimes the same process as listed above. However, some shops won’t let you get your foot in the door without having your product listed with IPR (Indie Press Revolution). That is an entirely separate article for another time.

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  1. Edit: This previously referred to the 50% Markup Rule which is another common guideline but not the one I meant to reference.↩︎

  2. Make sure to ask your retailer! Some will work with you and will pay more than just 50% MSRP↩︎