Before you commit yourself to the expense of printing and binding a book you should seek to develop advance sales. The common method for generating advance sales is to produce a direct mail presentation piece for the book, and to research and test lists of potential individual customers. Book wholesalers and retailers do not usually respond consistently to direct mail solicitation. You will need to be on the telephone, write personal letters, and perhaps make personal visits to local bookstores, and to wholesalers or the headquarters of larger retail chains if they are within reach. Appointments will not be easy to make at the buying levels of large sales outlets. Be patient, send information, and be reasonably persistent.
The learning process can be aided here if you make the acquaintance of one or more local booksellers or other retailers and sit down with them to discuss the realities of doing business with them. This is not a selling call but rather a plea for information and the benefit of their experience. Ask these questions:
- Where do you buy books?
- What are the viable terms (price, discount, returns policy) and sales aids (co-op advertising, posters, mailing pieces, etc.) that make it possible and desirable for you to promote and sell a book?
- Is there a local independent publishers representative who could be helpful to me?
- Is there competition for the book I plan to write and publish?
Booksellers are always a busy lot so don’t approach them in the midst of a busy day or season. The best introduction is to be a customer…a regular customer if that is possible…but you will find most booksellers glad to be of help if you are careful to be considerate of their time. Plan your visit, ask thoughtful questions, take notes, and listen.
Although it is still in its infancy and an untested medium for sales, don’t overlook the internet. If you are adept you might create your own home page. Certainly you will want to explore the possibility of selling your work through Amazon.Com Inc., one of the many internet bookstores on the World Wide Web. (http://www.amazon.com), Jeffrey Bezos, Proprietor.
If you propose to move beyond the publication of a few titles to a regular publishing program, even though you may not yet be ready to accomplish that expansion, then it will be useful to talk with an independent publishers representative in your region.
Depending on the nature of your books and their sales potential you may find a rep willing to test the market in the territory for you on a fee-plus-commission basis (you pay a guaranteed fee of $100 and up per month against an accounting of actual commissions earned, at 10 to 15% of net billings).
If your books sell through in sufficient quantities your local rep will be able to expand your coverage by enlisting other members of his selling group or representatives in other territories in the effort.
Although this figure varies widely from rep to rep, you can expect that an independent sales representative would need to see an annual commission income from your books of at least $1500 per salesperson. (The equation ? Retail price of the book (s) x 50% x 10% x # of books sold annually = $1500+ per sales rep.) Even if you expect your sales to reach this level you may have difficulty in finding reps willing to take on your book. But our members are usually a helpful lot and, at least will give you a candid evaluation of your project.
Naipr publishes a brochure, “Selling On Commission”, which outlines the way commission selling works. Naipr also issues an annual Membership Directory of our 150+ members. Call or fax us for free copies of these publications.