Buying Books

May 16 2018

A Glossary for Booksellers

Abbreviations and acronyms: a few in (more or less) common usage

  • AAP – Association of American Publishers
  • AAUP – Association of American University Presses
  • ABA – American Booksellers Association
  • AB – Antiquarian Bookman
  • ABTD – American Book Trade Directory
  • ALA – American Library Association
  • AV – Audiovisual
  • AWBA  – American Wholesale Booksellers Association
  • B&T – Baker & Taylor
  • BEA – BookExpo America
  • BIP – Books-in-Print
  • BISAC – Book Industry Standards Advisory Committee
  • BISG – Book Industry Study Group
  • BMI – Book Manufacturers Institute
  • CBO – Cancel Backorders
  • CBI – Cumulative Book Index
  • CD – Compact Disk
  • CD-ROM – Compact Disk-Read Only Memory
  • COSMEP – International Association of Independent Publishers
  • eom – end of month
  • FF – Free Freight
  • FROF – frontlist-on-floppy
  • HFC – Hold for confirmation
  • ID – Independent Wholesaler
  • ISBN – International Standard Book Number
  • ISSN – International Standard Serial Number
  • LJ – Library Journal
  • LMP – Literary Market Place
  • NACS – National Association of College Stores
  • NAIPR – (Need you ask?)
  • NOP – Not our publication
  • NR – Non-Returnable
  • NYP – Not yet published
  • NYTBR – New York Times Book Review
  • OP – Out of print
  • OS – Out of stock
  • PO – Purchase Order
  • PTLA – Publishers Trade List Annual
  • PW – Publisher’s Weekly
  • Ret – Returnable
  • Red Book – Book Buyers Handbook: A Manual on Bookselling
  • SAN – Standard Address Number
  • SLA – Special Libraries Association
  • TOS – Temporarily out of stock
  • UPC – Universal Product Code
  • VOR – Vendor of Record appointment

It sometimes seems that the most difficult aspect of buying books is finding the time and scheduling appointments to get the job done. Here are a few suggestions that might help take some of the pain and confusion out of the process:

For Sales Reps

  • Always make telephone appointments (even if only across the street).
  • Call for regular sales appointments 2 to 4 weeks in advance.
  • Ask for a specific day and time and then for the buyer’s suggestion. Be brief. The ideal appointment call is sixty seconds or less.
  • Try to be on time. Call if you are more than 30 minutes late. It is unacceptable to be a “no-show”. Always call and cancel.
  • Be considerate of the buyer’s time schedule as well as your own.

For Book Buyers

  • Keep a separate calendar at the store for all sales appointments. In your absence authorize others to make appointments for you.
  • Avoid telephone call-backs. Accept appointment calls whenever possible.
  • Give precedence to out-of-town reps. Local reps are usually flexible.
  • Let it be known if you are willing to see reps outside of store hours. Sales reps away from home value the chance to make an extra daily call.
  • If you must cancel an appointment, do it early. If cancelling at short notice, try to assign another person to see the rep.
  • The general rule on appointments is a mutual understanding between buyers and reps that “time is money”. Failure to make an appointment can be a missed opportunity for profit on both sides of the fence. A “blown” appointment leaves a sales rep stranded for half a day or a full day of no work and no earnings.
  • Flexibility is a welcome courtesy but strict adherence to commitments is the rule.

Bookman’s Glossary

Published by R.R. Bowker, this useful reference work defines over 1800 terms currently used throughout the publishing industry.

book vs. title

A “book” is simply a unit (as in “25 assorted books”) not to be confused in common parlance with a “title” which designates a separate and individual work (as in “Dickens is the author of 25 assorted titles”). The terms are often confused and confusing in publishing offers.


Some book buyers now request that catalogs, and sometimes marked catalogs, be sent in advance of sales appointments. This is a legitimate request but it is important that buyers understand that this request, multiplied by many accounts, is very demanding of a sales rep’s time, energy, and expense and should never be considered as a matter of course. If such a request is made and catalogs are sent in a timely manner the buyer should feel obliged to review them and prepare carefully for the sales call. It is not helpful to open the package when the sales rep arrives or to lose or mislay the materials that you have reviewed. Be open to your rep’s suggestions for additions or changes.


Commissions paid to independent sales representatives are based on the net invoice value of shipments made by the publisher direct to book outlets in the rep’s exclusive territory. Commissions are usually paid on “ledger” business, that is all shipments made to recognized book outlets whether submitted by the rep or direct to the publisher by the bookseller. These commissions are built into book prices and are therefore paid, ultimately, by the consumer.

Commissions paid on books that are returned or result in bad debts are deducted from the rep’s commission statements. Thus overselling or selling to accounts with slow or bad credit is counter-productive for the rep. Commissions generated by telemarketing sales should be (but are not always) divided equally between the travelling rep and the telemarketer.

National chains and superstores are sold at their headquarters and are (usually) not visited by reps in the field but some publishers pay a commission or fee on “ship to” business to the territory rep. A smaller commission is paid to reps on sales to wholesalers in their territory.

The increasing volume of business which booksellers are directing to wholesalers outside their region is causing some needed changes in the way that commissions are paid. A few national wholesalers (notably the Ingram Book Company) can document their shipments into each state and supply publishers with monthly net figures. A small commission (usually 1/4 or less than the full commission paid on direct business with the publisher) is being paid by some publishers to their reps in the field based on these reports.

When chains or large independents can supply their reps with copies of significant orders ($500 or more at net) placed through wholesalers or can provide quarterly or annual sales figures net of returns, then reps can submit this proof of documented purchases to their publishers and receive (from some) a larger commission (usually 1/2 the regular rate) on this business generated by their sales and services to these accounts.

Reps need, and appreciate, bookseller support and proof of documented purchases when it is available, to persuade more publishers to adequately compensate their whole rep organization for their sales services, both in the field and at the headquarters location.

This issue is, currently, of critical importance as the distribution structures of the industry change and develop. Wholesalers do not always supply sales figures. Publishers do not always pay reps commissions on your wholesaler orders. Vendor of Record programs eliminate or cut to a fraction your reps’ commission income. Reps will not be able to continue service to accounts that direct most of their business to wholesalers.


Good credit information is an essential tool in business and usually mandatory when you wish to open an account with a new supplier or a vendor that is new to your bookstore. You should prepare a standard credit information report, reproduce it and keep a supply readily at hand to give to sales reps when you place an order with a new publisher.

Two tips: Using national wholesalers as credit references is not helpful. Credit managers expect most booksellers will keep their jobber accounts current. It is better to establish and maintain excellent credit relationships with three medium or small vendors (preferably one each in the east, the midwest, and the west) with whom you do business frequently and then use them consistently as credit references.

If you need fast delivery of a first order with a new vendor send a check in partial payment with your order and credit application. Naipr recommends you fill out this standard credit application form and keep a supply on file to fill requests for this information. It will save time and scribbling while your rep or mailman stands and waits.


FRF is a program sponsored by Naipr to supply disks for reps each selling season that list all of the new titles of each rep’s various publishers. Booksellers using WordStock or several Ms-DOS based inventory control systems (including IBID) can machine-read these disks to import title information in BISAC (Book Industry Standards Advisory Committee) format that assures accuracy, and uniformity in access to the bookseller’s database. Funded by reps and supporting publishers, this service is free to booksellers.


Conventional wisdom imported from several other industries that have used just-in-time theories of inventory control suggests that the optimum purchasing strategy for booksellers is to maintain the broadest possible inventory of titles with the minimum possible stock level per title. Frequently reorders in small quantities that are supplied rapidly from local or national wholesalers tend to increase turns, and increased turns of inventory build higher return on inventory investment. The speed, convenience, and ease of consolidating purchases with a cascade of efficient wholesalers is attractive but should be tempered by consideration of opportunities for high discount, dating, cooperative advertising, and other special offers made by publishers seeking direct business with booksellers. just-an-excuse? There are many unquestioned advantages to doing business with wholesalers but using them as a one-stop source for most or all of a bookstore’s inventory can be a convenience with a price. It may save paperwork, hassles, time, or labor but it does not necessarily save money. And dealing exclusively with wholesalers can also have some hidden costs in terms of the character, diversity and interest of your inventory, your business relationships in the industry, and your margins. A balanced approach to buying books…sometimes direct to take advantage of special offers or availability, sometimes through wholesalers to supply immediate needs…requires good organization and smoothly operating systems. The effort is well worth the trouble.


Publishers’ policies vary widely on this subject so you must always check the Red Book but, in general:

  • Non-returnable means you own the books once you have accepted delivery and exchanged defective books or titles shipped in error.
  • Exchangeable means you own the books but unsold copies may be exchanged, under specified conditions, for saleable titles.
  • Returnable means you may return unsold copies for credit within a specified period (usually one year from date of invoice) provided books are in saleable condition (undamaged and with store markings or stickers removed) and have been purchased at the source from which you claim credit (invoice numbers may be requested).

Cash for returns usually requires prior written agreement.


Many publishers are now using telemarketing techniques to reach regular customers more frequently and to penetrate a network of smaller bookstores and specialty accounts that they think their sales reps do not reach. Booksellers sometimes find these telemarketing calls a nuisance (in which case they should simply ask that their name be removed from the call-list), but often they are timely and helpful. Travelling sales reps do not welcome the competition from the publisher’s telemarketing staff, especially if it preempts a forthcoming sales visit, but are philosophical if credit is shared and the telemarketing effort does not persistently interfere with field efforts. Book buyers placing orders by phone in response to telemarketing or simply making use of an 800 number should always request that their rep receive credit for the order.


Several wholesalers are now offering booksellers advantageous terms and service on selected lines that the bookseller agrees to buy exclusively, frontlist and backlist, through the wholesaler as “vendor-of-record.” Independent reps are not often or adequately compensated for sales services in these VOR programs and cannot usually afford to provide personal representation to booksellers on lines purchased through VOR programs. Booksellers, wholesalers, publishers and reps are all committed to working towards the most efficient and profitable methods of book distribution. Naipr believes that important elements of efficiency and profitability for their bookseller customers and their publisher clients are dependent more than ever on the professional services of sales representatives in the field.

well-lighted place for . . . buying

A clean, well-lighted place for books can only be surpassed, in the eyes of the sales rep, by a clean, well-lighted place in the bookstore for transacting business. Among the amenities: comfortable chairs, desk or counter space for showing samples and writing orders, an accessible view of the computer screen, some floor space to accommodate sales bags. A space assigned and arranged for buying suggests a well-prepared and thoughtful buyer and helps to speed the process for both buyer and rep. Recommended for mutual peace of mind and shared enjoyment of the pleasant exchange that a sales visit should be.