Leave No Stone Unturned – Sell Thru All Channels

I have talked about the competitiveness of the book industry. Last year there were over 275,000 new books published. At the same time, there are fewer bookstores. If you don’t understand why, go watch the popular video You’ve Got Mail to see a very realistic scenario. So, what to do?

It is imperative to sell your books in as many channels as possible. OK, that’s Marketing Speak—translation—sell your books to as many places as you can in as many forms as you can. Let’s take a look at these:

  • Traditional distributors & Giant Chains
  • Bookstores
  • Libraries
  • Nontraditional outlets
  • Direct sales of printed books
  • Direct sales & distributor sales of Ebooks
  • Direct sales & distributor sales of Audio books

Traditional Distributors & Giant Chains

These include selling with the help of a wholesaler such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and smaller independent distributors, as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc. These are the height of competitive channels; however, they are necessary. They are also not very lucrative, since you have to give 55 to 65% discounts to these entities. With the cost of production, that doesn’t leave much for the publisher. Still, you need to use them because of their established inroads into the bookselling community.


They are harder to reach because there are fewer of them—both major chains and independents—and because they are overwhelmed by the book offers they receive. Still, they must be approached.


This market has shrunk somewhat due to shrinking book buying budgets. They also prefer getting books from well established library distributors that add in little benefits such as paper pockets for date-due-by cards and such. If you believe your book will have an appeal to this market, I would highly encourage you to include the Library of Congress registration data on the copyright page.

Nontraditional outlets

This can be a lucrative market if done right. One of the chief benefits is no returns. Retailers other than bookstores just aren’t used to doing that. If your book, nonfiction or fiction has a specialty theme in it, this is a viable market for you. For example: you’ve written a guidebook to bike trails in your community. Bicycle shops are far more likely to sell your book steadily because that’s where your market segment can be found. It can work for fiction as well. If you’ve written a good action novel about bike racing or touring, bicycle shops are a great place to sell it. This is one example, so use your imagination to consider other places. Let’s say you’ve written a series of mysteries built around quilting (sound familiar?) Quilting stores and even craft supply stores would be natural venues for your books.

Direct sales of printed books

This worked well for me during the 1990’s when I had my own publishing company. In addition to fulfilling orders for my own products, I added about 200 products from other publishers in a direct mail catalog. I had 8,000 customers and did a third again more business from the basement of our home than I did from our bookstore downtown. Today, we have the internet in addition to the postal system, which is a whole new world.

Direct sales & distributor sales of Ebooks

A pdf version of your book and cover isn’t that hard to produce and sell over the internet as an ebook. It should sell for about 50% of what your printed version’s retail price is; however, it’s all pure bottom line territory. If you want to make multiple format versions for Kindle, etc., you can buy the software to do that or you can use a distributor such as Smashwords.com who will put your book into multiple versions and sell it through many channels for only 15% of the retail price. To me, that is a good deal and well worth considering.

Direct sales & distributor sales of Audio books

Finally, there are audio books. These can be as technically difficult to produce and certainly more expensive than printed versions. This is why audio books generally more expensive than printed versions. Traditionally one would use skilled readers (usually out of work actors) in an expensive recording studio. Then there are the expenses of pressing CDs and designing their labels and container covers, which are every bit as expensive as book covers and even more so if multiple pages are required. But I have found a wonderfully cost effectively way to do this—Hudson Audio Publishing. They do have an acceptance committee, so if your book doesn’t cut it, you won’t be able to go thru them; however, their up front production costs are minimal and are paid primarily from royalties. You can record your own right at your PC or Mac or you can use free lance voice over experts they can recommend. They charge 30% (for a $10 book, you keep $7) of the retail price to sell your book through established audio book markets as downloads. This is the audio version of an ebook. They pay royalties every 90 days. You can find them at http://www.hudsonaudiopublishing.com/.

Bottom Line

You cannot afford to not consider all of the above in today’s competitive market place. The more venues you use, the more formats you use, the more credible you become. You’ve got to be a player if you expect to quit your day job (oh no, not yet!). Now go out there and make your presence felt.


This is a cross-posting from Bob Spear’s Book Trends Blog.