After surviving the challenge of meeting readers, creating interest in your book, and selling it, we face the less glamorous, business side of sales: getting paid. Most authors are trusting, and maybe just a wee bit reluctant to pay attention to this critical step. It’s the right/left brain principle at work, I suppose. It’s in our best interests to defy that tendency and pay attention.
A Tale of Two CRMs —
When to bypass the CRM and contact the book chain’s home office
A CRM is a Community Relations Manager. This person schedules and promotes author book signings, arranges signs in the store, where your table and books will be, how many books they have on hand and other vital details. The CRM also serves as a liaison with the large book chain’s home office. Yes, that means $$.
While traveling some distance from my home, I enjoyed a lovely book signing at one of the national bookseller chains. It was in the sun belt with my mother-in-law. She graciously put out word of my signing to her club friends, and I enjoyed a strong turnout and good sales. The CRM was appreciative of my sales, gracious, and invited me back for my next release. The books were there, the table prominent, and payment was prompt and glitch-free.
One month later, I traveled to visit a friend in the midwest, I enjoyed another wonderful book signing … at a store in the same chain. My lifetime friend, Pam, graciously put out the word to her friends, and I again enjoyed a strong turnout and good sales. Large signs were posted in the windows and the table was well placed, but communication was lacking: the store had ZERO books on hand when I arrived. Had I not schlepped a couple dozen books from my personal inventory, it would have been a disaster. I was organized, and had prepared a blank invoice, just in case. I was able to leave the CRM with an invoice before I even left the store.
Four months later, I still had not been paid. This was not a small amount – these books were hardback and retailed at $26.95 each. Numerous phone calls ended with the CRM promising to contact home office to get me paid. After five months and five fruitless requests, I circumvented the CRM and contacted the home office. A rep from accounts payable said I was not “in their system.” She FAXed me a form to complete, I FAXed it back, and voila! After almost six months I received my check.
What was the difference between the two chain stores? The prompt-pay store’s signing was in July and the slow-pay store’s signing was in August. If store #1 paid, that meant I was in their system, right? Being “in the system” means it’s easier for them to order your books and, apparently, pay you. I signed six times with this chain, and was “in the system” so I thought that book supply and payment should be efficiently handled.
I didn’t assume this, though, and brought my own book supply, cumbersome and expensive when flying, what with baggage fees. That saved my signing.
My advice: always maintain an author inventory, always schlep a minimum number of books to your signings. Invoice immediately. When your contact person doesn’t seem to be working for you, politely move on and contact the home office accounts payable department to see what you can do to expedite payment.
More advice: if you’re selling at a conference, try your best to collect your payment before you leave the conference. I sold several books at a conference, but because of a prior commitment I left before it was over and “assumed” the bookseller would be efficient. In these trying times, he was financially challenged, shall we say? It took two months of e-mails and needling from the conference organizers to get that check.
Wherever you sign, the good news is, if you have payment problems, it means you’ve sold books. You might not have thought you’d have to ravage your bank account and tear a few hairs out to accomplish it, but hey, you sold books.
Got a payment nightmare to share? More tips? If so I hope you leave a comment, and meanwhile, I’m wishing you good sales and prompt payments.