Somewhere in a sleepy Kentucky town the presses have stopped… A truck with an impatient driver who smells of Brut and Cheetos is on his way home. And, in a quiet storage space in Chicago, two pallets full of books wait to find their readers.
Standing by are color map inserts, mailers, postage, and a custom-made hard-side case. Conference appearances have been scheduled, panel and autograph times have been assigned. Release party invites are out and volunteers wait with t-shirts and book-themed beer to help deliver rewards to Kickstarter backers.
Reviewers are standing by. Fans are emailing with hopes of an early peek. I’ve practiced my readings. I’ve perfected my pitch. I have four months to sell 750 hardcover copies.
Okay. Great… So, who am I, and why would anyone care?
I’m a guy with a day job who writes in his spare time. There are a million of us. I have done what most have not, which is managed to sell books— and I do not mean to a publisher. I am a self-published author who has sold 1,500 copies of a 600 page epic fantasy novel to complete strangers. And I am here to tell you now I’m going to do the same for book two.
I am the Hand-Sale Assassin.
I’ll be telling you about print-on-demand verses small print runs. I’ll be telling you how I picked what venues to make appearances at and the features of a location that allow for the most sales. I’ll be telling you my pricing, advertising, and inventory models. Some of it, I’ve gotten wrong. I’m hoping you can correct me from time to time in exchange for my secrets.
Sound like a good deal? Okay. So let’s get started with a topic I will return to throughout my stint here at Inveterate Media Junkies… HARDCOVER IS KING.
I mean this in so many ways, but primarily in pricing and presentation. If you are a self-pub, you are a publisher first– which means you need to be able to sell GOOD product PROFITABLY. I made no money on my first book. My total in receipts was more than my first salary out of college, but not enough to cover my costs. I sold paperback editions with a margin of $1.70. Could I charge more than $14 for a 600 page book? Perhaps. But would you pay $22 for a paperback?
Right. No one else would either.
My first year after publication saw only those 250 sales every author gets– friends, family, neighbors, coworkers. None of them read it. A hardcover retails for $30-40. I’m a self-pub so I am pricing accordingly– $30 USD. No sales tax. In a print-on-demand model, I am left with $7.24. At margins like that, I only need to sell a few thousand. (More about print-on-demand another time.)
So, those are the numbers. Not sexy, but again this is a business first. What I really wanted to talk about was the second of my two premises: What is a GOOD book? What can sell? I judge it this way: quality, quality, QUALITY. The adage is, write the story that you want to read. For a self-pub there’s one more “rule” to follow: Write to fit the medium you can sell. Have you ever purchased a 110 page self-pub paperback from an author you did not know personally?
Neither have I.
I made the decision to set everything else aside and write not only the story I love, but to present it in the way I prefer– a HARDCOVER edition . I tested this recently via the social laboratory known as Kickstarter. For the first seven days of my project, the only reward I offered was the hardcover… For Book Two. I funded with hardcover only. Why? People who buy hardcover books read them. Fans buy them. And they are just about the sexiest thing on this planet short of polka-dots.
So, those 750 copies I have to sell are not flimsy Kinko’s-made paperbacks. These are 2.5 lb 600 page monsters with a matte cover and juicy tale that demands the reader’s attention.
And you’ll be reading about all my successes, failures– and the fun and chaos in between– right here on IMJ.
Wish me luck!