Over the years, I’ve had the same conversation with multiple clients, so I think it might be valuable to have this conversation with you. When it comes to selling your book, everyone assumes that the ideal place to start selling them is through bookstores. After all, that’s why they exist, right? While it’s true that a lot of books are sold through traditional bookstores, more books get sold through other “author-directed” sources than even bookstores … and usually at better profit margins for the authors. Let me suggest that there are really four main ways you can sell your book.
- Sales through traditional bookstores and the distributors that service those stores. Sales through these sources are commonly referred to as “trade sales.” In addition, there are other retail outlets (sometimes referred to as “big box” stores) such as Sam’s, Walmart, Target, etc. that also sell a lot of books. These outlets are also considered “trade sales.” Unlike the other three kinds of sales channels below, your publisher will likely need to manage this sales channel for you.
- Sales through events where you speak, exhibit, do a workshop, or present. If done properly, event sales will be your most profitable source of book sales. After all, people who have just heard you speak or met you should be the most connected with you and therefore the most motivated to spend money reading more from you.
- Sales through the internet. With social networks, blogs, e-blasts, etc., there are so many powerful and inexpensive ways to let millions of people know about you and what you have to offer. A well-executed internet strategy can effectively drive business to your website where your book can be purchased.
- Sales through “specialty sales outlets.” These can be retail outlets such as selling a golf book at a golf course pro shop, a cookbook at a farmer’s market. They can be bulk sales to a school—such as getting an economics professor or school of business to order your book on the art of selling as a required reading resource—or they can be sales to a medical association who wants to use your book on customer service as a premium or gift they provide to all their members when they renew or sign up to attend a conference.
While your publisher needs to take responsibility to making sure your book is available in the trade, the fact is, trade sales are the least profitable sales for you. Let’s say your book sells for $15 and you receive a 15% royalty on sales from your publisher. After discounts are taken, you will likely earn about a dollar a book. I know some authors who earn as little as a nickel on books sold in the trade. However, every sale made at an event where you speak is typically a cash sale, and even if you discount the price a bit, you are still keeping all the income from the sales.
With internet sales, you can sell your book for full retail or perhaps discount it a bit, but you keep the full value of the order. You will have some modest expenses involved in fulfilling the order, but even so, if you sell your book for $15 and spend $3 in packing and shipping expenses, that’s still a $12 per order sale for you.
Even with specialty sales, where you will typically have to offer a discount off the retail price anywhere from 25%-65%, depending on the minimum order quantity, you still come out ahead better than waiting on a royalty payment from your publisher. Of course, I’m not knocking publishers … I own a publishing company. But I want to encourage you to see that the three “author-directed” sales channels are actually more beneficial sources of sales for you to explore and develop. And the more sales you make through these three author-directed sales channels, the more interest your publisher will likely be able to get from the bookstore buyers for stocking your book there.
If you want help in developing a workable sales and marketing strategy for your message, call us. We specialize in creating customized strategic marketing plans that show you how to leverage the power of all four sales channels.