In this post, editor, writer, and publishing consultant Ally E. Peltier discusses the three major paths to getting your book into your readers’ hands. In her last installment she explained how to properly choose and assemble content for a successful, cohesive book.
Understanding Your Main Sales Venue Options
Where and how will readers buy your book? There are three main venues: “brick-and-mortar” bookstores, the Internet, and “back-of-room” sales.
The big bookstore chains typically won’t stock self-published books nationally unless they’ve already proven themselves in the marketplace, and independent bookstores are very cautious about giving shelf space and inventory cash to self-published titles. But don’t let this depress you: Selfpublishingresources.com claims that 52% of all books sold are purchased outside of these “brick-and-mortar” bookstores; online sales continue to grow while brick-and-mortar stores, including chain stores, continue to close.
It’s true that bestseller lists are generated from established retailers only. But which do you care more about: bestseller status or making money? More importantly, are your readers shopping in bookstores? B2B publishers are most likely creating books that target other businesses, not individual consumers.
If you still feel brick-and-mortar stores belong in your marketing plan, focus on your region (unless your brand is well known; then you’re in a different league than most self-publishers). Start by contacting the chain’s regional manager, who will direct you through their regional stocking procedures. Also target local independent bookstores with information on ordering (for example, if you’re using a distributor like Ingram or Greenleaf) and what terms you’re offering.
TIP: Bookstores really like the benefits the big publishers give, which some self-publishers are reluctant to offer. To see your book on a physical store shelf, you must allow for returns and offer a wholesale discount of at least 40%.
Although chain stores don’t usually stock self-published books nationally, their online counterparts have no such compunctions. You can work directly with e-tailers such as BN.com, Amazon.com, and others to make your book available online. Each will have its own rules and requirements (remember those wholesale discounts I mentioned?) so read the fine print carefully.
And don’t forget digital editions. The last few years have seen exponential growth (from around $7M in 2002 to $313M in 2009) in e-book sales due to the explosion of e-readers like the Kindle and iPad. Downloaded audio books have also seen an increase over physical purchases.
Due to the low overhead costs, digital editions have the potential to bring in far greater profits than print books for the self-publisher. Going digital reduces or eliminates costs for production, storage, distribution, and shipping. If you’re already printing books, why not also sell a digital version? Or consider going digital entirely.
Online book sales continue to trend upward*, but selling your book online offers several other unique advantages. Bookstores may only carry one copy of your title, which makes it hard to find, whereas online readers can search using keywords. The power of instant gratification can’t be underestimated when paired with an effective social media campaign: if someone likes your Tweet or Facebook post, they can purchase or download your book with one click. You can e-mail announcements about your new book to your established audience and provide a link so they can purchase immediately from your website. You can place ads on key retail websites or blogs that reach your ideal reader, simultaneously promoting your periodical and book, both purchasable online.
Beats trying to get them out of the house and to a bookstore any day.
For the average self-publisher, trying to get attention for a book online, whether print or digital, is like jumping up and down in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. But by combining the power of your existing brand with several affordable (even free) online marketing techniques, online selling can be much more profitable.
“Back-of-room” refers to the practice of selling books when you’re giving a presentation, sometimes literally off a table in the back of the room. It can also more broadly mean all books sold at events at which your authors or publication has a presence. Selling directly to convention or workshop attendees who already appreciate the value of your message and the information you offer can mean higher sell-through rates. Additional benefits to back-of-room selling include:
- control over how much or whether to discount prices
- opportunities for packaging with other vendor’s products
- higher profit margins because there’s no middleman
TIP: Because of the limitations of selling books one audience at a time, however large, back-of-room sales should always be augmented by other sales venues. Online sales make an excellent addition to a marketing plan for back-of-room selling.
In the next installment, we’ll look at your options for producing a book in print or digitally.
Ally’s company, Ambitious Enterprises, can support your publishing projects from soup to nuts. She also ghostauthors nonfiction books and speaks on publishing- and writing-related topics for conferences, organizations, and more. Contact her today for a free consultation.