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Thursday, July 1, 2010

10 Important Facts About Book Selling

Today's blog has to do with some of the dynamics of book-selling and distribution. Let's start with a few statements that I believe to be true, based on my self-pubbing experience so far:

1) Independent bookstores hate Amazon.

2) Traditional publishers like Random House, MacMillan, Simon & Schuster, etc. hate Amazon.

3) Book-selling chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders hate Amazon.

4) Amazon cares more about selling your book at the LOWEST PRICE than they do about MAKING MONEY on it.

5) An author's failure to pay due regard to items 1, 2, 3 and 4 will result in hard feelings and hiccups in distributing your book.

6) It is VERY RARE for an independent bookstore to stock a self-pubbed book. The exception would be books by a local author.

7) It is EVEN MORE RARE for Barnes & Noble or Borders to stock a self-pubbed book.

8) Unless its author has a huge platform, it is very hard for a self-pubbed book to get noticed ANYWHERE in the marketplace.

9) Failure to pay attention to items 6, 7 and 8 will result in the author filling his/her basement to the rafters with unsold inventory.

Depressed Yet?

Don't be.

10) It IS POSSIBLE to market a self-pubbed book. But expect it to take work, time and creativity . . . and lots of each.

If you have a really good book (well-written, artistically designed, professionally laid out), there are markets for it, and readers for it. There are also lots of books, blogs and articles out there telling you how to sell your book. Read those.

But I can't cover all that territory here today. So I'm just going to give you my thoughts about where to focus your efforts once your book is "ready."

In my humble opinion, to be successful, you need to:

-- identify your TARGET MARKET -- the people you think will buy and read your book.

-- figure out where those folks hang out (eg. online, at industry conventions, in libraries, in writing groups, at author blogs).

-- go hang out with them. They need to get to know you before they'll buy your book. (PLEASE NOTE: I don't recommend unannounced visits to their homes.)

-- if possible, identify people whose opinions your Target Market will respect, and get them to review or endorse your book. Prominently display those creds.

-- contribute something of value to your Target Market. (It doesn't have to relate to books at all. Recipes, electronics advice, DIY tips, volunteer services at conventions, you name it . . . all of these can be of value to your potential readers.)

-- have a decent author website to which you can easily refer potential buyers for information.

-- have a one line description of your book at the ready (and inventory in your car).

-- if you have the chance, make book-signing appearances, do blog interviews, schedule a virtual book tour, speak to book clubs who might want to read your book.

-- Be creative. Make eBooks available to armed forces personnel for free. Give a sample copy of your tree-book to a few libraries. Offer discounts to groups who buy directly from you. Get permission to leave one of your books at the dentist's or doctor's office, labeled "Waiting Room Copy." Like I said . . . be creative. Those are just a few of my ideas.

-- Don't be shy. (I sold the woman at the post office a book when she wondered what was in those packages that I kept showing up to mail at her window. When I told her, she asked if she could buy an autographed copy. I had one in my car.)

-- do all of the above . . . and keep working and learning new and more refined ways to meet your market.

Wrap Up

While you are engaged in all of those creative marketing activities, please remember the "10 Facts" I first mentioned today. A good memory will help you avoid stepping on anyone's toes -- including your own.

Your Creative Marketing Suggestions

If you have a creative marketing suggestion of your own, please share it as a comment to this post. We'd all love to hear them!

That's all for now.

Have a great day!



  1. Great blog, John. This whole post is really well done and helpful to anyone in the industry, no matter if you are just starting or a veteran. I will take most of what you said and try to apply it to what i am doing. Thanks for the research and sharing!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, and for the compliment, Gary. All the best in 2012!


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