Many are floored when I suggest giving it away for free, or at least doing a three to five day free promotion.
One of the first things I ask a prospective client, whether I am being hired to ghost a book or to coach someone through the process, is “What do you want this book to do for you?”
If the answer is “I want to be an author and quit my job and live off my royalties” we have a little Come to Jesus meeting.
For most of the people who follow this blog, the goal is to increase business. The book can be a business manifesto, laying out your philosophies and claiming your turf. It is most often used for lead generation, credibility/authority building, and/or as a way to step up to the next rung of industry leaders. Seldom do business people expect to make a large dollar return on book sales alone. People with a large platform, i.e., tens of thousands of followers, or a large network of friends with large platforms willing to promote the book can expect to see sales in the tens of thousands and to actually make real money on royalties. But the average business book, even from a traditional publishing house, sells fewer than 10,000 copies in its lifetime. Most, especially self-published books, sell fewer than 1,000 copies.
Side Note: The best time to decide what to charge for your book is before you write it. If you’ve already written your book and you’re thinking you’ve screwed up, relax. It’s just that if you know what you’re going to do with the book going in, you can purposely structure it to drive traffic to your site or to affiliate links or to whatever action you want people to take. You can always go back in and add things or take things out. Knowing ahead of time just makes things a bit easier.
So the goal is not to earn royalties from the book, though that can be a nice secondary income stream.
The true goal is to gain clients. And to do that, you need people to actually read your book. At least most of the way through.
What would happen if you gave away your book for free?
Free has to be the lowest barrier to entry out there. But if people get a book for free, will they actually read it? The big gurus always say if people don’t pay for something, they won’t appreciate it and take action.
One word: LIBRARIES.
So yes, if your book has the information people need, free or paid, they will read your book.
Here’s another interesting factoid: Whether people got the book for free or paid for it, the average American doesn’t read past page 18 in a book. That statistic floors me. I’m a compulsive reader. I think in my 50+ years of reading I have abandoned fewer than a dozen books. (Moby Dick is one that stands out. I still aced the paper and the test. White whale. Crazy captain. What’s so hard?) I recently slogged through 300 pages of a truly bad adventure novel. It never got better, but I stuck with it. So I am not your average reader. I’m unusual. It turns out that most people either can’t focus on an entire book or they have the good sense to abandon a bad book early on.
This means your book needs to have quality content that helps your target market (i.e., your reader) and keeps them engaged.
Free or paid, a book is a great start to your marketing funnel. It’s an introduction to you and your services. In fact, it’s basically a long form infomercial.
- Creates familiarity (people feel like they know you)
- Demonstrates your expertise
- Helps your ideal client self-select
If you’re writing a “little” book as a delivery system for various affiliate programs, then free is the way to go. The game is to get that book into as many hands as possible. You can make it free on your site, but what if your site doesn’t have much traffic? Then you need to find free books sites and/or mailing lists of people who like to get books for free. (Yes, there are free and paid lists that you can send your book out to.)
You can’t put a book on Amazon’s Kindle as free forever (you can do a short, free promotion every 90 days, subject to certain terms and conditions). A loophole in the system is to take advantage of Amazon’s price match policy. Put your book on a site that does let you give away your book. Then you can helpfully notify Amazon that the book is on such and such a site for free, and Amazon will match that price. It’s a loophole right now; you never know if or when Amazon will close it.
Free with Shipping and Handling
The offer you see from a lot of the bigger gurus is a hard copy of their book “free” – you just pay a shipping and handling charge of anywhere from $6 to $10. Yes, of course that “shipping and handling fee” covers printing costs. Sometimes they even make a dollar or two per copy. This is a great way to give people something tangible of value without spending a lot of money. Free with shipping is best used on promotional books that drive you to a semi-high ticket item. Russell Brunson uses this strategy to market his ClickFunnels** software. He gives a lot (a TON!) of great marketing information, but all of that information points you to the idea that you need to buy his $97 (and up) a month software system in order to implement these marketing techniques. (And yes, his software does make the whole process easier.)
Pricing for eBooks and Hard Copy Books
The two most common paths to selling eBooks is to either sell directly from your site or to put your book up on Amazon’s Kindle (or other online marketplace). Kindle pushes eBook publishers to their pricing “sweet spot” which is between $2.99 and $9.99 by paying a 70% royalty per sale. If your eBook is priced lower than $2.99 or over $9.99, your royalty drops to 30% of the sales price. So, which would you rather do? Charge $9.99 and get paid $6.99 or charge $10 and get paid $3.00? Exactly.
Hard copy books involve printing costs, obviously. Shipping and handling is added on after the sale is made and don’t affect your royalty. Until this year, most self-published authors went through a print-on-demand publisher which then distributed to Amazon. Amazon owns CreateSpace, a print-on-demand publisher and there was a fairly seamless interface between the two. However, Amazon is transitioning into directly printing hard copy books. The future of CreateSpace does not look good; it will most likely be phased out over the next couple of years.
The Amazon royalty structure right now matches the CreateSpace structure. You can run pricing scenarios on CreateSpace to figure out what your royalty per printed book will be. A typical business book of 200 pages, 6 x 9 trim size and a black and white interior (color cover), priced at $14.99 would earn a royalty of $5.74. Upping the price to $19.99 nets you $8.74 per copy. Dropping the price to $9.99 brings you $2.74.
All of this brings you back to my original question: What do you want your book to do for you? If you want to just get your book into the hands of as many people as possible, put it up on your site for free if you have steady traffic or put it up on Kindle for $0.99. If you want your book to build your authority and raise your profile, you will want to have hard copies of the book priced at close to book store values, anywhere from $9.99 for a slim volume to $19.99 for a 200+ page book. You can also order books at cost if you want to use them as giveaways or to sell from the back of the room at events.
Give some thought to what you want your book to do for you and your business. And, if you can’t make up your mind, remember this: You are allowed to write more than one book. In fact, once you get the book-writing bug, you may just be unstoppable.
Not ready to write your business manifesto, but you definitely want to get a book into your future clients’ hands? Check out this free video on how to use “little” books to generate big profits.
** Yep, that’s an affiliate link. It leads you to a 14 day free trial of Russell’s Clickfunnels software. And, if you decide to buy, I get paid a referral fee. I have no idea how much, but it’s a good demonstration of an affiliate link!