Where To Sell Your Books

The following is an excerpt from the book, AUTHORity, being published by Morgan James Publishing.

Last month, we talked about building the business behind your book, but what is the best way to get your books out to the marketplace?

Brick and Mortar Bookstores

When you sell a book through a bookstore, one of the biggest advantages is it gives you credibility. When someone goes into Barnes & Noble and sees a book with your name on it, you instantly become a trusted resource. Because the bookstore has you on the shelf, you’re a professional. You become someone who needs to be listened to. People will buy the book and trust what you say because you’re the authority.

To get into bookstores, most of the time, you’ll need the help of a publisher or a distributor. Most bookstores, especially the big

ones, are not going to take a book from a self-published author. If you walk in with your book in hand, you may be able to convince your local Barnes & Noble manager to take a chance on it, but it’s unlikely. Bookstores such as Barnes & Noble have an internal database. If your book is listed in that database, they’ll order it. If it’s not listed in the database, then the manager has the option to order it or not order it. If the book is not in their database, it is not guaranteed for return. It’s a problem if your book can’t be returned because bookstores love that option.

Don’t stress out over bookstore placement. People get caught up when they go into Barnes & Noble and see thousands of books sitting on bookshelves in a giant space. Naturally, one feels like that’s where the bulk of the book sales come from, but that’s not the case. In fact, one publishing company I recently interviewed said Barnes & Noble only represents about 24 percent of their total book sales in the United States.

Another issue in working with bookstores is there’s always the risk of huge returns. Bookstores will usually buy in bulk. A chain bookstore may buy five to ten thousand copies of a book and have them shipped to all of their stores across the nation. If the book doesn’t sell in thirty days, those books get sent back to the distributor, publisher, or to whomever their agreement is with. That outlet then wholesales the books or takes a loss and destroys them.

Think about the inside of a bookstore. You see the thousands and thousands of books, right? Now think about it objectively. You can logically reason that not every one of those books is going to sell. In fact, bookstores have to control their inventory, just like any other business. Unsold books can’t eat up valuable shelf space. So as new books are released, they bring those in and return the old ones; that’s how the market works.

Online Book Sales

In addition to selling your books through bookstores, you can also sell them online. The truth is, most books are sold online. The publisher mentioned earlier also told me that 29 percent of their book sales went through Amazon. That means Amazon is a huge player in the game. They eat up a vast amount of the market, and it’s hard to compete with them. Honestly, they’re the easiest place to go and search for a book. They sell books from published authors as

well as self-published authors, so there are many choices on Amazon. People are comfortable with them as a company because they know what to expect. I know if I order a book, chances are, in just a day or two, I’m going to receive it at my front door. There is no doubt Amazon dominates online sales.

Selling your book from your website is also an option. If you do that, you have to decide if you sell and fulfill the orders yourself or drive your sales to a store site, like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. If you fulfill the orders, you keep all the profit. Selling them through a store means you make less money, but it will be easier on you. When you sell through Amazon, the site takes the order, retrieves the book from their warehouse, packages it, and fulfills the shipment. You don’t have to worry about it. On the other hand, if you sell books through your website and choose to fulfill the orders, you will be responsible for packaging and shipping.

When selling through your website, don’t discount the power of Barnes & Noble. I know I just said Amazon is the top dog when it comes to selling books online, but how much better does it look if you have the Barnes & Noble button on your page? The immediate perception is that you’re not just another self-published author.

Their endorsement gives you credibility, and sometimes that’s more valuable than bookstores is there’s always the risk of huge returns. Bookstores will usually buy in bulk. A chain bookstore may buy five to ten thousand copies of a book and have them shipped to all of their stores across the nation.

If the book doesn’t sell in thirty days, those books get sent money. Something else happens as your sales increase through a Barnes & Noble link. The physical bookstore buyers from Barnes & Noble will watch the online sales. As they see the online sales rise from BarnesAndNoble.com, they may be influenced to place your book in their bookstores.

…as new books are released, they bring those in and return the old ones; that’s how the market works.

Jim Howard

So, even if you’re a traditionally published author but your books are not on the shelves in Barnes & Noble, driving traffic from your site to their site and letting buyers see the online book sales rise, you may be able to convince them to take a chance, put your book on the shelf, and sell the book in the physical store.

Bulk Book Sales

Moving books through bulk sales is another opportunity. The great thing about bulk sales is you can move hundreds or thousands

of books at one time because companies, organizations, and corporations may want to buy your books to give employees, seminar attendees, or customers. You can make a chunk of money fast because when that company orders the books, they’ll pay for them up front. You can use their payment to cover print and shipping costs, and you get to keep all the profit.

Bulk sales get the book into a lot of hands at one time. You’re selling books to a company, but—just think—whomever that company gives your book to will now have your information. You’ve touched all the recipients. You’ve gotten their attention without even trying, and you’ve actually been paid to do so.

Going through bulk sales outlets is a great way to move a lot of books fast, make some money, and get a lot of people interested in your message. The downside is, even though you can move a lot of books, most bulk sales are not going to be reported towards any list. Most bulk retailers don’t have the option to report to recording companies, such as Nielsen Book Scan, which means the New York Times is not going to know you sold ten thousand books to one company. Your publisher can’t report the books sales either. The sales figures won’t be counted or tracked. But, hey, you’re making money and reaching new readers, so it may not matter to you.

Speaking Engagements

You can also sell books in the back of the room if you have speaking engagements. If you’re on stage speaking at a seminar or an event, having books in the back of the room can accomplish a few things. It can be an easy sale for you because it’s non-threatening to attendees, and there’s no commitment. People can buy a book and feel comfortable with it, but it gives the buyer a taste of who you are. It may even convince him to come back and buy from you again. It’s another way to gain credibility and solidify a position of the authority.

As a paid speaker, you can make more money per speaking engagement because you’re also an author. If you’re a best-selling author, your fees will rise automatically, and you can upsell your book to the event promoter. Let’s say you can get your books printed for three dollars each, and they each sell retail for twenty dollars.

You could offer them to the promoter for a 50 percent discount off of retail and still make a seven-dollar profit per book. If there are 250 people at that event, you just made an extra $1,750. The promoter will be happy because she has your books to give the attendees as an added value. And, to top it all off, 250 people just received your book, and that gives you a solid chance to convert some of them to clients.

If you’re not a speaker and you’re not planning to speak from the stage, you can always offer your book to a seminar promoter. If you know there’s an event covering topics similar to your area of expertise, offer your book as product for the promoter to sell or use as a bonus to give to attendees. There’s no reason you can’t go to the promoter and say, “I have a great book I’ve written on the topic, and I’d like to offer it to you to use as a value-add, or you can sell it in the back of the room.” Whether someone buys your book or whether it’s given to him, the value is not in the book; it’s in the reader.

Giving the book away can be as effective as selling it. Carry your books with you anytime you go to an event and use them as your business card. If you’re talking with someone you meet, give her a book. Your book is one of your best networking tools. It’s not going to be forgotten. It’s great information, and, if done properly, it’s going to drive people back to your website or other products.

You can also use your book as a customer relations tool. Sending a book to the people on your list as a thank you could have a big impact. There are customers on your e-mail list you’re sending marketing information to who are not responding to your offers.

That’s typical. But what if you send a book to your list? How many people do you think you could “wake up”? Lists get stale; they are full of people who have learned to ignore your e-mails. But, all of a sudden, they get a book from you in the mail. It talks about all the ways you can help them, and it gives them ideas. Then it gives them a way to get back in touch with you. It can fuel the fire. It can turn a dead prospect at the bottom of your list into one of your best clients.

A book can be a great value-add too. If you have other products and services, offer your book as a bonus. It will definitely be an added value because of all the great information it offers. I ordered a product online a while back, and inside the box, the merchant included a book with a simple thank you note. The product I bought was what I expected, but the book and note solidified me as a repeat client.

If you don’t have other products, then offer your book to someone who does. If you know other people who share similar areas of expertise, tell them you have a book you’d like to give to them as an added value. They can give it to their clients anytime someone buys a product or service from them. It will add value for their clients, but you’re also getting your book in front of people you don’t already have contact with.

Selling books is awesome, and every author should hope to sell as many as she can. However, always remember the value is not in the book; the value is in the reader. Giving the book away can be as effective as selling the book. Having the proper thought process is extremely important to achieving success. It’s time to start thinking like a successful author as you move forward with producing your book.

Jim Howard

With over 30 years in commercial print, branding and publishing, Jim Howard has dedicated much of his life to helping entrepreneurs, CEOs and business owners move ahead in their business. Follow him at, facebook.com/jimhowardauthorcoach.

Get Our Updates

Get free updates to everything that's happening with Marketing University. Fill in the form below.