Book Stocking Standards: Does Your Book Measure Up?

The Benefits of the Booksellers Return Program

Write, publish and debut on retail bookshelves, right? Not so fast. With more books coming to market than ever before, shelf space has become increasingly competitive real estate. There is no secret formula for getting stocked, but there is a standard most booksellers uphold when choosing books: If unsold copies of a book can’t be returned to the distributor, that book likely won’t get stocked.

The Booksellers Return Program (BSRP) helps your book meet this bookseller benchmark. How? Follow along below to find out.


Ingram Icon

Once your book is part of the BSRP, it’s listed as returnable in the ipage ordering system of Ingram, the world’s largest wholesaler and distributor of books.


Booksellers can now see that your book is returnable, which reduces their risk of losing money if they stock your book and it doesn’t sell.

Did you know?

The origins of book returnability can be traced back to the Great Depression, when publishers were “looking for a way to encourage booksellers to buy more books and to take a chance on unknown authors.”1

Are booksellers ordering your book?


Order Up

If a retailer chooses to stock your book, the store will place an order with Ingram.

Hit Pay Dirt

You earn royalties for all of the copies ordered.

Deliver the Goods

Copies of your book are printed and shipped to the bookseller.

Shelf Assured

Your book reaches a miltestone — retail stocking.

Success Story

Is your book selling?


Down but Not Out

It's up to booksellers which books they choose to order and stock. If your book isn't chosen after approaching booksellers, don't give up. You've still got a shot.

Show Your Stuff

Build your book's resume so that you can make a stronger case to booksellers in the future. Focus on areas which can demonstrate measurable growth:

  • Increase your book sales to prove your book's potential.
  • Build a fan base online. (Likes and followers are evidence of a growing audience.)
  • Earn credible, positive book reviews.
  • Garner media attention(e.g., articles, events coverage, interviews.)



The Circle of Shelf Life

The cycle starts over. The bookseller can choose to order more copies, meaning more books in stock for readers and more revenue in your pockets.

Renew. Relist. Repeat.

Renew the BSRP annually to keep your book in booksellers' database for ordering.

Sales Slump

In most cases, your book will be returned to Ingram, but not to worry — you still keep the royalties for all of the books returned.

Return to Form

Unsold books are recyled into new paper products.


13% of the paper fiber in new books comes from recycled books, many of whihc were unsold copies returned by booksellers.

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