At least once a month, I receive a phone call from an author that goes something like this:
"I left 10 copies of my book at the XYZ Bookstore (fictitious name) and I haven't been paid for the books they sold. When I asked for my books back, they said they didn't have them. What do I do?"
"Do you have a receipt or something in writing stating how many books you left at the store?" I ask.
Of course, I'm sure you see the problem here. If you were selling IPods for a living would you just hand ten of them over to a store without getting something in writing? Of course not. It's not that bookstores are shady when it comes to this sort of thing, but things happen. Bookstores experience customer theft, just like any other retailer. They could have mistakenly sent them to their distributor as returns, thinking they had ordered the books. Without paperwork, how would they know?
This is why it is good for authors and bookstores to sign a consignment agreement if the author is leaving books at the store for the store to sell. It protects the author, because they have a record of leaving books at the store and how much they expect to get paid per book. It also gives the store a record of just where they got those books that are sitting on their shelves.
Here is a basic sample consignment form that you can alter and print to suit your needs, but it's pretty straightforward:
Book Title __________________________
Title Code: __________________________
This is to confirm (store name) has received (number) copies of (book title)
From (Author or vendor’s name)
For sale at $ (retail value)
(Store) will pay (dollar or percent of price) per copy sold, to be reconciled at (date).
Books will be in stock until (date) at which time it is the author's
responsibility to reclaim any unsold stock.
SIGNED: _______________________________ for (store)
SIGNED: _______________________________ for vendor
The author and the bookstore should each keep a copy of the consignment agreement.
Remember, your book is your business, and one of the basics of running any successful business is keeping good records.