Chances are you have heard of such a program. In college, the buyback policy allows you to get some of your money back on overpriced textbooks. And just like it sounds, your school or off campus bookstore will buy back your textbook once the semester is over. Don’t get too excited here though, if you are lucky you may get a third of your retail price back.

This system works out great for the university. They sell you a book at the retail price, buy it back at less than wholesale, and sell it to students next semester at a slightly discounted price. Sounds like a used car lot doesn’t it? Unfortunately for the consumer, that’s just the nature of the book business.

Now what about buyback policies for books outside of the education/university system? Well that’s an even bigger used car lot.

In the book industry, big publishing houses or their distribution companies, offer a buyback policy to retail brick and mortar bookstores. In essence, they guarantee the brick and mortar a fresh inventory of books every few weeks. The publisher or publisher’s distributor brings new books in and buys back inventory not purchased. This is great for the retailer because they don’t take on the risk of having dated products on their shelves. They also don’t have to take a loss on the books not sold.

How Do You Get A Buyback Policy?

In order to have a buyback policy for your book you will need to be published by a publisher that offers one. (Think Penguin/Random House, Simon and Schuster, or Macmillan.)

If you personally, or your publisher does not offer a buyback program for your book, then you can list your book with a distribution company that facilitates the back and forth of replenishing and removal of books. However, you will still need to provide some type of buyback guarantee to the distributor even after you pay them upwards of $1,000 to be included in their list of authors. Plus, you have to agree to their pricing of your book.

Sounds crazy I know, but remember fresh inventory equals an increase in sales. (You know, things like lattes, yearly planners, plastic key chains, chocolate bars, beanie babies, and whatever else the store has laid out as that month’s impulse buy.)

Back to books. So, what happens to the books that are returned? The ones that get bought back. They are either salvaged or destroyed. In most cases destroyed. Like covers ripped off and thrown into the recycle bin. I know this because this was one of my tasks in a former part-time research job.

According to the Learning Center’s article entitled Why Bookstores Want Books that are Returnable, generally, “Books are returnable either with delivery or with destruction. The bookstore is reimbursed the wholesale value of the books, and you or your publisher are responsible for any shipping and handling fees. Authors will typically retain any royalties earned on the unsold copies but be sure to carefully read the book return policies and terms with your specific publisher.”

So, what if you or your publisher does not have a buyback policy? Well, there are some really good options if you are willing to look at the possibilities.

  • Get your book placed in local stores, have book signings, and invite your contacts and community.
  • Take advantage of social media and Internet marketing.
  • Consign your book.
  • Invest in a marketing consultant. They will help you maximize all of the above and in most cases, it will cost less than paying the reimbursement/distributor fee.

Truth be told, the options are limitless if you are willing to think outside of the box.

“If you’re selling your book on consignment at a local bookstore, they may already have guidelines in place for the process. But, if you need to come up with your own terms and conditions with a business, keep in mind that the standard agreement gives the retailer 40% of each sale. This leaves you with 60% to cover your publishing and shipping costs and make a profit. Be sure to keep written records of everything you and the store manager agree upon.”

Read the entire article from the Learning Center here.

Hope I’ve answered some questions about buyback policies and offered some alternatives to marketing your masterpiece in an empowered way. And as always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly.

Welcome down the rabbit hole of indie-publishing possibility.

Conscious Shift Publishing consults, edits, formats, designs, publishes, and markets books. Whether writers wish to self- or indie-publish we inspire them through every step to promote their unique perspectives. CSP clients retain 100% of their royalties as well as 100% ownership of every digital file and image. Find out more at or contact publisher, Tracey Kern, at to schedule a complimentary consultation. Write on!