When you request that a store carries your book, they may ask you for a wholesale discount. This can be confusing to many new authors. Let's break this down.
Before choosing your wholesale price and/or wholesale discount, there are two other prices you need to fully understand:
Retail price: This is the amount that you decide to sell your book for. It's the price that will appear on online retailer's websites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. While most paperback picture books sell between $8.99-12.99 and hardcovers sell between $14.99-18.99, this can vary depending on your niche so always make sure to do your own research on what similar books are selling for before setting a price for your own. (Note: We said "selling for" NOT "listed as" When you do your research, don't just look at what similar books cost, look at the ones that are successful!)
Printing cost: This is exactly what it sounds like—it's the cost to print your book. This will vary depending on how you choose to print, the length of your book, print edition (paperback or hardcover), and how many you're ordering. For example, offset printing is cheaper per book but more expensive upfront and you also have more logistics, distribution fees, and shipping to calculate. With print-on-demand, you can order one copy or many, but for large orders, you'll pay more in shipping than offset. This is the number you'll need to know in order to set a wholesale price for libraries and bookstores.
Let's have an example:
The retail price of Lazlo Learns Recorder by Vicky Weber is $12.99 for a paperback, but it only costs $3.65 to print a copy through KDP (print-on-demand) and $3.95 to ship. That means for me to break even, I would need to charge more than $7.60.
This is the part that new authors forget: a bookstore CAN'T pay the retail price because they need to sell it at retail price. So if they purchase at $12.99 + shipping and then turn around and sell it in their store at $12.99, they'd lose money.
That's why they ask for a wholesale discount. It ensures that you make money AND the bookstore makes money.
So in our scenario, if I charged them $8.00 for a book, I would make $0.40 per book and the store would make about $2.99 ($4.99 - media mail shipping). Now, those margins are small but remember, this was the price for ONE SINGLE BOOK. The more books you print, the more you save on shipping. And if you do offset printing (1,000+ copies) you can get your printing price down to $1-2 per book plus shipping.
You need to find the balance so that you make a profit and so does the bookstore.
If you can't afford offset printing (financially or having the storage space) and author copies from print-on-demand companies aren't giving you the margins you'd like, you can do short print runs from local printers in quantities of 200-300 for your author copies. This is a happy medium between your two options when it comes to ordering author copies but it's not the best option for actual publication. For actual publication, stick to print-on-demand or offset printing.