Friday, August 22, 2008

I want to sell my self-published book. Where do I start?

This is something we are asked about all the time so here are a few thoughts on the matter.

Self Publishing

If you are thinking of writing a book or already have and are looking to get it published, here are a few tips to consider from the bookseller side.

1. Pricing: When you are deciding the selling price of your book, keep in mind that bookstores buy their books at a discount off the list price so they can make a profit. The bookstore is giving you their staff, their location and their expertise to sell your book; this is how they get paid for that. General trade terms are 40% off the list price and the books are returnable after 3 months for credit or there is a higher discount. Make sure you come up with a price that covers your print costs and leaves room for you and the store to make bit of money as well. It takes a lot of $19.99 items to pay the rent and shelf space is valuable.

2. ISBN Number: Your book should have an ISBN number. You can get an ISBN # from Library and Archives Canada . Whoever obtains the ISBN for a new book actually becomes the publisher of record. It also plays an important part to booksellers, as it is the number we use for ordering, cataloguing and restocking. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and it is a number unique to your book.

3.Barcodes: Although it is not absolutely essential to have a barcode on any retail product or publication, it is often required by re-sellers and distributors. They use the barcode to efficiently keep active inventories and sales records. It will make your book easier to sell and that's what you want.

4. Marketing: Just because your books are now on the shelf in a bookstore it doesn't mean they are going to sell. You still need to come up with a plan. As the publisher it is your job to promote your list of titles. Books do not sell just by being on the bookstore shelf. Press releases and phone calls to your local media should be the very least you do as part of your marketing. Keep in mind that most smaller bookstores do a lot of "Handselling" to their customers. Consider a reading copy for the store as an investment in promotion - if a particular employee likes your book they can make a big difference in how may copies are sold.

5. Design and Editing: With the vast numbers of books published every year, packaging is key. Design elements include the typeface, jacket and layout. Putting the title on the spine is essential for placement on store shelves. Your book needs to look just as good as the ones from traditional publishing houses if you want it to sell. A professional editor is worth every penny they charge. You need someone who is not afraid to tell you the truth if something needs to be changed.

6. Book Signings and Events: Bookstores do not buy all of the stock for book signings they hold. Publishers send a large amount of stock to the store ahead of the author arriving. The bookstore sells the stock at the event and decides how many copies to keep for store stock. The bookstore then sends back the extra copies as soon as the event is over for credit from the publisher. If you are the publisher you need to arrive with boxes of your book (or send them ahead), the bookstore sells them decides how many to keep and pays or for that many.

7. Sales Numbers: Be realistic. Not everyone is going to buy your book. That's okay. Understand that the Canadian market is so small that only 5000 copies is considered a bestseller - think Margaret Atwood. If you sell a hundred copies to people who are not family or friends you should consider yourself quite successful.

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