On Demand Work For Me? (Sales Goals)
by Julie Duffy
Print On-Demand publishing offers relief from handling all the orders and sales transactions that you would have to handle if you printed 5000 copies of your book, stored them in your garage and handled all the order fulfillment yourself. Print on-demand companies usually arrange for the book to be listed with bookstores and databases under their name. When someone orders the book, the order goes to the POD company. The company processes the check or credit card, prints the book and fulfills it.
Many marketing books suggest that each ad or promotional piece you do should contain a code somewhere, that allows you to track which campaign your customer responded to. This helps you to track your marketing efforts, select the most effective, and build on it. This only works, however, if you are taking every order for your product. If your POD company is receiving orders it is unlikely that they will collect this kind of information for you. This means that your ability to track the effectiveness of your marketing is limited. You can, of course, still check the dates of a sale and, in some cases, the geographical location. This helps you to see that the talk you gave in Poughkeepsie in January, was probably the reason that 12 people from Upstate New York ordered your book at the start of the year.
One of the most powerful ways to encourage people to buy a product is to offer them a discount and to put a time limit on it. (Save 20%, this weekend only!). Self-publishers often offer discounts at book signings and events, or if someone buys more than one copy. It is important to remember that, with books printed on-demand, the profit margin is usually smaller than with volume-printed books. This means that you have less room for offering discounts. You may be buying author copies at a 20-40% discount off the retail price. If you sell the book at even a 10% discount, you will cut into your earnings significantly.
In addition, any discounts you offer will be valid only for books the reader buys directly from you. Just as you cannot force a bookseller to offer the book at a lower price, you cannot force your POD company to keep track of this months promotional offer on your book and the 10,000 other titles they produce. (With technological advances this may be possible in time, but for now the POD companies are simply not sophisticated enough to do this).
You may add value by inviting people to come to a web-page with more information about the book free to purchasers. You may invite them to request a free booklet or workbook associated with your book.
Do you long to see your book on the shelves in bookstores? Why?
Print on-demand books, by their very nature, are not printed in large quantities, warehoused or displayed in bookstores. They are printed when they are ordered. You are unlikely to ship large quantities of a print on-demand book to bookstores for display. It is important to remember, however, that bookstores are not a promotional vehicle for books, they are simply somewhere people go to buy books. Most readers buy books that they have read something about or have had recommended to them, or that seem to be on a subject they are interested in. It is also important to remember that most books do not stay on bookstore shelves for more than 6-18 months, unless they are consistently good sellers.
It is certainly a nice boost to the ego to see your book on a bookstore shelf, but it does not necessarily boost sales. In addition, bookstores take a 40% discount, cutting into your profits, dramatically.
It may help to think of your book as a mail-order product and market it accordingly. Identify your audience and ways that you can communicate with them. Direct targeted mailings at them. Encourage them to order your book directly from the POD provider (and yes, they can do that by mail, with a check).
Placing a book on a bookstore shelf is a very passive, very ineffective method of marketing your book. With the advent of online stores, readers are increasingly accustomed to ordering a book and waiting a few days for it to arrive. Take advantage of this.
You must be willing to promote your book everywhere you go. Without the power of a publishing house behind you, you are responsible for all the marketing and promotion. If you hope to sell any books you must be willing to tell people about your book. You must also and heres the hard part be willing to tell people how good the book is. If you can use other peoples comments, so much the better, but you will have to swallow your modesty at some point and stand behind your product.
Are you willing to:
If not, do
not expect to sell many self-published books.
Copyright 2001 Julie Duffy
Duffy (www.julieduffy.com) is the former
Director of Author Services at Xlibris. She is a
freelance writer and has been published in newspapers and
magaizines including the Writer's Digest special issue
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