“Should I pay for another print run of my book?” I get asked this question so often by self-published authors who are confused by cleverly-written marketing blurb that I just had to write a blog on this topic.
So here’s the scenario. You’ve already handed over your hard-earned cash to a self-publishing or print-on-demand company and your book has barely been on sale for a a week.
Then, wham! You’re sent a tantalising ‘special offer’ suggesting that they print you an extra 3,000 copies for the greatly reduced price of $6,000. They’ve ‘discounted’ this price down from an astronomical sum like $15,000 to make it sound super-enticing.
Your ‘personal invitation’ describes the plight of disappointed readers hunting high and low for your book in high street shops, but having to go away empty-handed. They cleverly argue that an extra print run will ensure a copy of your book in every bookstore in the United States or Australia or New Zealand or Japan – or wherever it is that might take your fancy. And they point out that this ‘discount’ will improve your profit margins as the price of bulk printing is much lower. They might even call it something fancy like ‘offset printing’ or ‘an offset print run’. Very thoughtful and altruistic of them, I must say, to put so much time and effort into thinking about your profit margins rather than theirs! Especially when the price of all this is the equivalent of a week in a 5* hotel.
Ok, listen up: let’s get serious for a moment. You will thank me profusely for what I am about to say. Because I am about to save you money, time, and possibly your sanity. I strongly recommend that you do NOT get out your credit card or pay another dime until you have sold at least 1000 copies of your book.
i) Only 1 in 7 books is bought in book shops. Contrary to what these ‘smart Alec’ copywriters may be arguing, most people go online if they want to buy a book. You need to establish your market online FIRST, before you plunge in with the offline market. Why saturate a market with books that are likely to gather dust on the shelves or end up in remainder bins? Or worse still, pulped and lining the surface of roads like the M6?
ii) Passionate and enthusiastic buyers aren’t that bothered about the price of a book. If people don’t buy, it’ll be because your book cover’s not attractive enough. It’ll be because your blurb’s not compelling enough. Or maybe your topic doesn’t interest them. Seriously. Think about your own behaviour when you spot a book you feel excited about and passionately want. Are you going to change your mind just because it’s $5 more than you want it to be? I don’t think so. Readers are much more influenced by emotional factors like perceived value – and ‘value’ isn’t always quantified in dollars and cents. It’s how important something feels in a particular moment.
iii) You need a proper marketing plan to tackle any market, let alone the USA, Australia, New Zealand or any other territory. If you don’t have one, then you’re not really serious about the success of your book. If you don’t already have proper mechanisms in place for driving customers to your website to buy your books, what makes you think they are going to hunt them out in over-filled bookshops?
iv) You need to do some market research before launching of any product – and yes, unromantic as it might seem, a book qualifies as a ‘product’. Surely you’d want to see a proven demand before blasting the market with thousands of shiny new paperbacks.
The only exception to this is if you’re already 110% certain that you have a strong marketing and publicity strategy in place and that every one of your books is going to be sold. Unless you’re already an experienced self-publisher with many book sales under your belt, it’s unlikely you can be this certain. If you are that zippy-zappy confident, you’ve probably drunk one too many energy drinks this morning!
Don’t get me wrong. I want you to have confidence in your book and I want you to have faith that your books will sell. But that confidence and faith needs to be backed up with market research and a powerful marketing plan. Leaping in without this is just madness!