So, what’s it like to have a traditional publisher, A-game connections, and money to launch a book? Let me tell you, the numbers look a lot different from the typical indie author trying to break 500 copies or even 1,000 copies.
My business mentor, Dave Lakhani, is the author of numerous books and has made the real best seller lists, not just broken an Amazon category or two. Dave gave me the stats on the last book he published through Wiley (no slouch in the publishing field). Wiley takes care of the distribution and does all the presales of his books. That means that they make sure there are copies of Dave’s book, two deep, in every Barnes and Noble in the US. They are responsible for supporting ongoing sales. So as copies of Dave’s book sell in individual stores, B&N reorders and Wiley fulfills. They make the book available on Amazon in both print and Kindle, as well as on other online sites like Barnes and Noble.
Wiley also takes you (your book, really) to Book Expo (you have to go, just to see!) and best of all, they negotiate foreign rights. Dave estimates he makes almost as much off foreign rights as he does US sales of his book. Wiley has the connections, they negotiate the deals, and then follow up to make sure the author is getting paid. Pretty sweet.
About Those Airport Book Stores
With enough cachet (and cash) you can get your book into airport bookstores. You have to pony up some serious bucks. It’s expensive. Depending on the airport and chain, it runs about $800 per store per month. If you want your book facing out on the shelf, it’s more. If your book is featured in the window, it’s even more. To have placement in the major airports, figure on $8,000 to $10,000 per month in costs. Dave deployed his latest book for six weeks in six airports. As Dave says, you’ve got to be sure you’ve got the “pull through” to make it cost effective. If you figure the price of your hardcover is $16 – $18, the publisher has given you a $35,000 to $50,000 advance and then you add $14,000 into airport bookstore fees, you need to sell 10,000 to 15,000 books just for the publisher to break even and for you to start making some money.
Dave sells a lot of books. Not counting Wiley presales, he sold 30,000 books during his last launch week, including bulk sales. Of all the books sold that week, 70% of sales came from emails he and his JV partners sent out. Read that again. SEVENTY PERCENT of his sales came from emails they sent. Another 10% came from social media. The balance came from PR, radio, TV, print and podcast interviews.
His ongoing sales bear out the value of a healthy, responsive email list. Fifty percent of his ongoing sales come from email; Facebook and Facebook ads account for 30%. Most of the sales that come from Barnes and Noble are a result of his online efforts.
This is called having a platform. He can mobilize tens of thousands of fans to buy his books the week they come out. He does most of his book marketing work online.
Go With What You’ve Got
Let’s take a look at another launch. A doctor who regularly guests on Dr. Oz, Oprah, and the morning talk shows launched a book. He didn’t have a huge email list (he’s working on it). The advice he got was to go with a PR blitz. He had access to the big name shows, he was already known and he had a smallish list. So it made sense to go with the marketing weapons in his arsenal. PR made up 70% of his initial launch sales and built his initial list. Today, 60% of his sales come from his list, 10% from blogging, and 30% from PR.
He uses different quizzes on his site to collect names and email addresses for his list. He uses media appearances to drive people to the quizzes. He makes sure he has some reason for a person to want to go to his site. Let me note that a lot of online quizzes that are used for list building are crap. He uses well-designed quizzes that utilize detailed analysis to give legitimate results. Between media appearances and online ads, his efforts add about 5,000 to 6,000 names to his mailing list per week. He uses media to drive people to the quiz, the quiz to drive people to the book.
These are both people with traditional publishers with distribution, marketing plans, and big bucks to do the marketing the right way. You can easily drop $30,000 to $50,000 or more (actually much more) to distribute and market your books. For most of us, that’s just not happening.
What if You Don’t Have Big Money to Launch a Book?
Most indie authors just don’t have the resources to get wide bookstore distribution (or any distribution, for that matter). You might not have a traditional publisher, but you can hire (separately) a PR company, a distribution company, and editors of all variety. You can pay the bookstores, hope friends will do send outs for your book that help inspire people to go buy the book.
What you can do is build your list. You can expand your social media networks. You can start building relationships with podcasters, bloggers, and at least, local media. You can join forums and groups and start creating your web of connections. When it’s time to launch your book, you may not be able to do everything on a large scale, but you can at least do the right things.