Questions From My Mom – Episode 4

All right, so we previously covered the lies that are Bestseller lists, broken down the differences in paydays, and compared traditional publishers to self-publishing.

Today, we’re going to discuss a few things regarding a certain blue store, which my mom works at. In this sense, we’re talking about physical books, not digital.

Mom: Why haven’t you tried to get your book into Walmart?
Me: Aside from the fact that my book isn’t quite ready yet, it’s because it’s a lengthy, pain in the ass process, and it was an expensive one.

If you go to Walmart’s corporate website and apply to be a supplier, you get this little popup asking for information.


No surprises there, right? You fill out the information like you’ve done a million times before on other websites, until you get one asking for your D-U-N-S number. This is when you stop and ask yourself the same question my mom asked me:

Mom: What the heck is a D-U-N-S number?
Me: It stands for Data Universal Numbering System, which is a nine-digit ID number unique to a business. 

It works sort of like a social security number when applying for a loan, by which I mean it allows other businesses and banks to do a credit check on your company. This number is used by companies in various countries around the world, including the US, Australia, and the European Union.

If you’ve never applied for a loan or credit card before, I’ll explain the process.

The obvious part is you have to go visit a bank. This also applies to certain credit cards that aren’t offered by stores (eg, Walmart’s Visa Card, Target’s Red Card), where you sign up at the register. Now, if you’re applying for a loan, you’ll need to talk to a lender to fill out the information. That’s the part that you see. What you don’t see is the credit check that’s being run.

Your credit score, which is a three-digit number that is basically the deciding factor in everything of your life (ugh!), is based on five things: payment history, debt history, account(s) history, type of account(s), and (for some stupid reason) the number of inquiries on your credit. There are three different credit bureaus in the US, and each of them will give you a different score based on what they track and how they track it.

A high credit score (700 and above) is great, because you get approved faster, lower interest charges, and a bigger loan/credit amount. If you have a low credit score (below 600), you’ll most likely need a co-signer for what you’re applying for.

Note: Credit checks are also done when you’re trying to get an apartment, cell phone, or, sometimes, when you apply for a job.

Now then. Back to DUNS numbers.

Like with a credit score, DUNS numbers track a company’s score and helps build the company’s credibility.

Dun and Bradstreet, a keeper of commercial data and analytics, is the company Walmart uses to screen potential suppliers/business partners. They now offer a free basic DUNS number (I just found that out writing this post). When I checked them out a couple months back, they charged $300.


As an indie author, if you apply for a DUNS, you’ll go through the basic information details as usual. If you’re using a pen name, I suggest using that as your business name (it asks for personal info later). You’ll want to sign up a sole-proprietor. Since D&B doesn’t have an option for this, so just choose Other. I would recommend setting the Principal Name (in other words: your name) title as Owner because the other options (eg, CEO) are just going to complicate things (unless, of course, you actually want to fill out business strategy info and a whole bunch of legal documents).


After you submit the application, you’ll have to wait 30 days to receive your number (unless you want to pay to expedite the process).

And that brings us back to Walmart’s application.

They used to ask if you wanted to be a local supplier or a corporate supplier. The local supplier option would have you go to the store manager in your neighborhood Walmart or Sam’s Club and ask them about carrying your book. Of course, they’d ask you who your distributor is, what sort of marketing plan you have in place… yadda yadda yadda. The basic business management stuff.

Now that they’ve updated to the 21st Century, they only offer one option: Supplier. And, like I said, you need that DUNS number to get any further (Luckily, I was able to cheat my way past this). Once you get past that, you’ll sign up for a Retail Link account (oy!), then read and accept the two PDFs. Then you get an email with info on your Retail Link account, where you will promptly be asked to change your password.

Eventually, you’ll wind up on a Dashboard where you can do… absolutely nothing.


After this point, I have no idea. I kept getting errors.


Rather insane, don’t you think?

There’s a whole other issue with selling to Walmart (and other retailers). That is: You have to sell your book at a rather steep discount.

Mom: Why do you have to discount it?
Me: The basic business strategy: You have to spend money to make money, but you don’t want to spend more money than you can make. 

See, these big retail stores are in it to make money for themselves, which means you are expected to discount your book 55% or more. That means, if you’re selling your paperback for $10 (to simplify things), you’d have to sell it to Walmart, Target, Costco, ect for $4.50. At the same time, you have to buy your own book from CreateSpace, Lulu, or whichever print on demand service you’ve selected. If your book costs you $3.50, that’s a $1 profit… provided you don’t have to pay shipping, which is most likely more than a dollar.

And this doesn’t even include the whole ‘Distributor’ mess, which may or may not be required with Walmart’s new setup.

In other words, getting your book in a brick-and-mortar retail store is a time-consuming pain in the ass process that results in nothing but bragging rights.

However, you might get away with having them host a book signing, which is something I’ll be covering next month.

With Love and Light,




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s