Whether a book is bought by an established publisher or self-published, the sales promotion chore falls on the shoulders of the author. As a matter of fact, any book proposal sent to a publisher without a comprehensive promotion campaign attached is likely to be rejected out of hand.
If you have written your book solely as a business promotional tool, then books store and online sales may not matter much. My primary goal in writing and self-publishing “How to Master the Media” was business promotion and to have a take-away for participants in my media training workshops. But as long as I was going through the effort of researching, writing and designing the book’s layout, it was just a few more steps to insure that the book could be sold to the public at large.
I’m glad I made the effort because from time to time I get an e-mail from Amazon.com ordering another consignment of seven-to-ten books. And from time to time I find a deposit from Amazon in my checking account for sales of the Kindle version of my book. Now I’m working on an iPad manuscript which will be greatly enhanced with numerous live links to relevant web sites so the book can take advantage of the iPad’s browsing capabilities.
I also sell some copies directly from my own web site, www.masterthemedia.com. Like John Tantillo, Ph.D., author of the self-published “People Buy Brands, Not Companies,” I don’t have a separate web site for the book. He gives the perfect rationale for that: “I wanted the book to drive sales to my brand rather than to sell books. Don’t get me wrong, I want to sell books, but I’d much rather get a consulting assignment or land a speaking engagement where I can sell even more books. What this means is that I have incorporated the book on my web page, www.marketingdoctor.tv, and have a link to Amazon where visitors can buy the book.”
Dr. Tantillo went with Amazon.com’s Create Space to publish his book. Create Space may be all the printing and sales service you require. You can submit your manuscript, get a free ISBN (International Standard Book Number), create a Kindle version of the book and begin selling through Amazon and your own e-store. Using Create Space’s Expanded Distribution Channel, the book will be offered to libraries, schools and brick-and-mortar bookstores. Be aware, however, that if you plan to give out hundreds, or even dozens, of copies of your book for sales promotion purposes, you’ll likely pay more per copy than you will if you go with a printer, as I did.
William Saleebey, Ph.D., is author of three self-published books, the latest being “Connecting: Beyond the Name Tag.” His book is about power networking; creating strategies and tactics for developing business referrals through networking. Appropriately enough, he is using networking to sell books. “I have done three signings since the release of the book in December,” he writes. “I continually announce and promote events, media interviews and speaking engagements through social media channels of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.” Dr. Saleebey also created a web page for the book, which connects to a PayPal page where the book can be purchased, and he promotes the book on his blog.
If you think your book might serve as a text -- whether it has been published or self-published -- contact schools directly. I recommend going directly to the teacher of a relevant course, not to a department head. (Finding that teacher at the college level: most of them post their course catalogs online.) “How to Make the Most of Every Media Appearance,” the McGraw-Hill version of my book, had no textbook sales that I know of but “How to Master the Media,” my self-published version was ordered by the Columbia University bookstore in connection with a course and is currently used as a text in a public relations course at George Washington University. I directly pitched the book to the GW teacher and he assigned it to his students.
Here are some additional ways to generate book sales:
Write a blog about your area of expertise and plug the book on each blog entry. I do that with my media tips and critiques website.
Give speeches and include the cost of a book in your fee for each attendee. If your book is designed to drive business to your company, you are getting paid to promote your business.
Give speeches for free on the condition that you can sell the book at the end of the address. (The late Paul Harvey, radio personality and author of a steady stream of bestsellers, honed this to an art form. Four nights a week he would give a speech -- albeit for for a hefty fee. At the end of the speech, he would retire to the back of the auditorium and autograph and sell copies of his latest book. That little sideline was sufficiently profitable for him to finance the Lear Jet which flew him from city to city for those speaking/book selling ventures.)
Reach out to the local media. If you have an area of expertise, chances are there’s a radio show or a newspaper that will have an interest in that expertise. Volunteer your expertise and, when you’re being interviewed, refer to your book. (Even if you sell no books, the media exposure -- and the citation that you’ve written a book -- can help drive business your way.)
Set up book signings. Booksellers who might ordinarily resist stocking your book, will carry copies if you offer to come in, speak briefly and do a signing. You will need to publicize the signings, but you can do that virally through e-mails and social networking sites.
Do you need a book publicist? A budget for a publicist is almost a requirement to get a book published these days. Publishing houses have outsourced public relations efforts to authors. A self-published book can benefit from a publicist’s efforts, too, but be aware it can cost you between $1,500 and $2,500 a month. Now what should the publicist publicize? If you’re with a publishing house, they are going to insist that the publicist concentrate on book sales. But if your primary purpose in writing the book was business promotion, then book sales are beside the point and you might want to hire a publicist to promote your business. The publicist can use the book as a credential to promote your more lucrative real business. Any book sales you make are coincidental to your real goal: getting new clients or customers.
The two business book writers I’ve cited here, Dr. Saleebey and Dr. Tantillo wrote books less as a direct revenue stream than as a promotional tool, as I, myself did. If you’re like us, assess the costs this way: A $1,500-a-month publicist using a $4.00 book as a tool generates a couple of $5,000 client fees or consulting assignments. That’s a wise investment. A $1,500-a-month publicist generates $1,500 worth of book sales. That’s a wasted effort. As in any business venture, you measure success by what brings in the greatest return on investment.