This is a very specific question, but one that has many lessons in the answer…
I got a question about how to sell books online.
And even if you don’t sell books, it’s worth reading, because the lessons go far beyond a bunch of pages bound up with a cover.
Remember, every Monday I open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions. To have your question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue, click here.
And now for today’s question…
As I have studied extensively Theology, Psychology and related subjects, I even have preached to thousands of people, written nine books on those and related subjects, especially about Integrity and its workings.
When I was 33 I had made one million which I spent of course — my ONE question — WHICH IS THE BEST WAY via the Internet to sell my books to millions??? That’s what I want to know.
Books are a terrible business…
The economics of making books work as a business or even a product are pretty terrible. Nearly every dollar of the sale price goes into printing, distribution, and so on.
I imagine our friendly inquisitor is asking about books as a business, because you’d HAVE TO sell to millions to make the economics work. Those authors who truly do end up rich from writing books are rare.
You have to have a million little things go your way. And then you might build a serious-sized book business that is able to support you and your staff required to get them out into the world.
We have to start here, because any other starting point would be irresponsible.
But let’s say you have books, or you want to write books, and you want to make a good living from it.
Change your economics and it all becomes easier…
What if you didn’t have to make a profit selling books? What if that weren’t a requirement for your books to be successful? What if you could get away with selling a book at breakeven or even a loss, and still come out ahead?
That’s the power of changing your economics. That’s the power of reworking it so books can be an important PART of your business, but not the business as a whole.
Books make great business cards. They also make great loss-leaders. They also make great welcome mat offers.
But in every single case, the goal is to make money off of something else. What else does someone buy AFTER they buy your book? What else do they want or need?
If you’re a speaker, maybe your book could be built for the dual purposes of delivering value and getting speaking gigs. If you have other training programs or products, maybe the book could be a stepping stone to those. Or if you have an entire funnel of complementary products to the book, you can practically give away the book (e.g. a free+shipping offer along the lines of how I offer The Copywriter’s Guide to Getting Paid) and come out ahead.
Alternately, your book could be a lead generation device for your services, meant to appeal to your ideal clients. And by using it in that way — perhaps even giving it away — you get more high-paying consulting gigs.
The big idea of it all is that it’s much easier to be successful if you don’t need to make money from the books.
Once your economics are right, you can pour money into advertising…
Let’s say you come up with a free offer for your book. But you also know that the average $5 or $7 spent on shipping for your book turns into an additional $48 in revenue based on the additional products and services you sell. (Yeah that number is made up. It’s good, but not off the charts. Which means it’s achievable, especially with some testing and optimization.)
Now we’re cooking.
Now instead of thinking about how you can sell a book that costs you $6 for $15 and still make a profit, now you can think about how to sell that book for something like $25 in advertising expense, even though you’re only getting $5 for the book. Because you get $48 average revenue for every book sold, that means you’re spending $25 and still coming out ahead.
If you think you can sell a book with a couple bucks in advertising, good luck.
But if you think you can spend $25 on advertising to sell a book, now your view is much more realistic.
But again, it’s all about the economics. And understanding that you don’t sell the book to make a profit. You sell the book to get a first-time customer, who will then buy more from you, and that’s where you’ll make the profit.
There is one exception.
If you must ONLY make money from books, learn to use Amazon advertising…
I’m pretty sure this will only work if you self-publish, because the economics are in your favor, and because that’s how you get to the tools. And there are certain genres where it won’t work due to ad restrictions.
But if you can, selling your book through Amazon’s advertising platform can lead to good ROI on books. I know. I’ve done it.
Here’s the thing. Amazon is, I think, the world’s second-biggest search engine. Except they only deliver product listings. And so having a book as a product on Amazon, you’re putting yourself in front of people with book-buying intent.
I’ll say that again. When people are searching for a book on Amazon, they have book-buying intent. They are ready to buy. That makes the sale incredibly easy. Even if you have something that’s not what they’re searching for, but is appealing to the same buyer.
Let’s again use my Copywriter’s Guide book as reference. I know there are keywords people search for on Amazon when they are looking for books to buy about copywriting, and building a copywriting career and business.
I can pay Amazon to have my book show up prominently in the search listings, when people type these things into the Amazon search bar.
Not only that, when people are browsing book pages, looking for books to buy, Amazon recommends a bunch of different books. Some of those are dynamic and generated based on likelihood of sale. Others are paid listings. You can pay to put your book on the page of complimentary and competitive books. And since the people on those pages have the intent to buy books, this can be a great way to sell.
If you are really serious about making money as a self-published author (and you write in genres not restricted by Amazon), this is a really smart thing to get good at.
The downside of Amazon advertising is you don’t get the customer data, and you can’t necessarily follow up with customers in the same way you could if you sold direct. However you can put offers in the books (even free offers) that will drive buyers to your site. You also get the massive upside of their audience. And if your book starts to really sell, your paid advertising will convert into free featuring of your books, too.
If you don’t like this, get a publisher…
It’s their job to sell your books. And if your books are good, they’ll figure out how. And if your books aren’t good, they’ll tell you.
But if you want to learn how to sell a ton of books online, heed the above advice and you’ll come out just fine.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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