Publishing a Book – Part Four

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When your book has been written, edited, typeset, proofread (sweated over, prayed over, cried over….) it will be ready to send to the printer. Now all you need to worry about is selling it. This is, I think, the main (and massive) disadvantage to self-publishing. So, how to overcome the problem?

Son-the-marketing-expert had lots of advice (really, lots – many, many hours worth – I have summarised.) He strongly suggested that before I even thought about selling, I should listen to some focus groups. He told me to think about my target audience and ask groups of people some questions. This was not within my comfort zone, so I thought I would just email questionnaires to some friends. This apparently is ineffective, as when a focus group discusses, they remind each other of things, so the results are better. I was told that after listening (trying to not influence the discussion) I should decide where and how I would advertise and sell my book. Here are some of the questions:

Were they influenced by price? – So, would a very cheap or very expensive book make them more or less likely to buy?
Most people said they were unaffected by price, as long as it was within the ‘normal’ price for a paperback book. If it was cheaper, some people said they would be suspicious of the quality unless it was marked “special offer”.

Where do they buy books? Would they consider buying a book from somewhere different (for example, a charity shop or coffee shop or community hall.)?
Older people and avid readers tended to prefer shops to Amazon. If there was a display of books somewhere unusual, they would look at them and possibly buy one.

Before buying a book, do they read some of it first? If so, where would they do that? (Would they remove a book from a shelf to read it, or more likely to pick it up from a display on a table top?)
Definitely table top.

When did they last buy a new author, and why? (Was it recommended by a friend, seen in a review?)
Reviews in newspapers or on radio scored highly here.

Would they look at a book that came with a ‘special deal’? For example, ‘buy the book, get a bar of chocolate for free’. {I told my son this was silly, no one would buy a book just because it had a bar of chocolate attached! He told me ask anyway, so I did. One of my friends told me that in China, a new author did exactly that – if you bought the book, you got a free mobile phone! The author made a massive loss, but her book rose to the top of the best sellers list. Her subsequent books made a profit and she is now a well known author. Interesting…}
Everyone I asked agreed this was silly!

What types of cover attract your attention?
Some looked at books with scenes from the television. Many liked people or ‘cosy scenes’ on the front.

 

xxx

I dutifully asked the questions and thought about the answers. This guided the types of places I decided to advertise and display my book.

If you persuade local bookshops to stock your book, they will want to receive a certain amount per book (between 35% and 50% mark up, depending on the shop. So, £2 or £3 per book.) You also have to deliver the books to the shop and collect them if they don’t sell, as shops tend to be willing to take them on a ‘sale or return’ basis. If it’s a bookshop in your town, that’s easy.

If you decide to sell through a big London shop (say Foyles or WH Smith) then you will need to factor in travel/delivery costs. Large bookshops (like Foyles) will sell self-published books. Each shop has different criteria, and you may need to use a wholesaler, which is expensive. For Foyles, you have to write a submission, much like when trying to find an agent, and they decide whether your book is suitable for their shop. You need to decide if it’s worth the time/money. You can find all the details online (sometimes it is hard to find – try clicking on the ‘contact us’ button, it’s often there.) I will explain about wholesalers in my future blogs, as there’s a lot to say.

Amazon also charges to sell. If you use Amazon, you can either use ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in which case, they will store (for a price) and send out (for a price) your book. Or, you can post the book yourself. For my size of book, an envelope cost 35p, UK postage was £3:35 and US postage cost £7:80. If you aren’t a US resident and you want to sell on amazon.com (to US customers) you have to register for US tax. You need to think about if you are away/ill – will someone else send out your books for you, or will your customers have to wait a few weeks?

As can be seen, even selling the book is expensive and relatively time consuming. The basic cost of your book depends on how many you print (which should depend on how many you think you will sell.) As a rough guide, if you print 500 copies, your costs are likely to be as follows:

Indemnity Insurance : £175
Formatting : £302
ISBN (for ten titles): £149
Editing : £750
Printing : £1,051
Barcode: £35
Cover Format: £35
Cover photo : £50
Proofreader : £300

If you add the amount a small shop requires for selling the book, this comes to roughly £7:99 per book. This is the price of the average novel. So, if you want to make any profit at all, your book will cost more than the average book on the shelf. You need to listen carefully to your focus groups. If people in your target audience (and this will depend on the type of book you have written) are affected by price, then consider carefully how many books you will print.

If, realistically, you are only going to sell to your close friends and favourite aunty, then probably price matters less but you will need fewer books.

If you are trying to launch a new career, you hope your book will become popular, that your friends will recommend it to their friends, will buy a second copy for their mother’s Christmas present, then I would recommend keeping the price of the book down. Try to cover your costs, but don’t expect to make a profit. Not even a penny. None. If you give books to your nearest and dearest, they are not ‘free’ books, they are a gift, which has cost you £6 (not that this should deter you, but you should be aware.)

If people help you, if they recommend your book, if they buy a copy as a gift for someone you don’t know, if your market place grows, then you can do a second print of your book. Then, all your fixed costs (editing, formatting, etc) will already be covered, then you will make a profit. You might turn out to be the next JK Rowling – making 50p per book on a couple of million books, is not to be sniffed at. But probably you shouldn’t plan for that. Probably you shouldn’t start looking at new cars just yet….

I will let you know how my own writing career develops in my regular blogs. Next week I’ll let you know how I get on in the ‘big’ shops (going to Waterstones tomorrow – very scary!)

You can follow my blog at anneethompson.com

– why not sign up to follow it?

xxxx

Thank you for reading.

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson will be available to buy very soon…….(Which is both exciting and terrifying.)

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