Australian Self-Published Author A treatise on the subject by W. A. Hewson The aim of this presentation is to assist those Aussies wanting to successfully publish and market their first […]
Australian Self-Published Author
A treatise on the subject by W. A. Hewson
The aim of this presentation is to assist those Aussies wanting to successfully publish and market their first self-published book. This essay is a response to the several requests I have received recently for hints on publishing one’s own book. It does not deal so much with the book’s content, or writing the book, but focuses more on sharing helpful hints learnt and pitfalls experienced, as my wife and I undertook this adventure together. This information is only offered as suggestions, exonerating me of any responsibility for any variance that may incur during one’s publishing journey, as each experience is uniquely individual. Hopefully, what follows will help to avoid having to blaze your own trail from scratch. This is a wordy discourse and will require taking the time to quietly and thoughtfully process its gems.
1. Before you start:
It is important to discover and establish a unique niche for your book and its content. It is wise to research the market and see what else is out there similar to your book’s content and find a way of making yours unique in your own right, and possibly more informative and interesting on your chosen subject. In a nutshell, you need to create enough appeal for someone to be interested enough to buy it. It is important from the start to have a genuine passion for and understanding of your book’s topic and a resilient determination for its success, as your journey will be a tough one. This is most important when you come to advertise and market your book, if you are to be successful. My brother shared how his mates, who have self published in the past, now have garages full of books they cannot sell. This is what the following information may help you avoid, as I have had to learn what works and what doesn’t from scratch. After 6 years of hard work and having successfully published and established markets throughout Australia, as well as online to overseas customers, I continue to write my third book. My first is now in its second edition and has been selling well throughout NSW. My second book was published this year during the Covid pandemic. Each book is published with moneys earned from the sales of my previously published books. At this point it is wise to determine why you want to write and publish your book. Is it a hobby , or legacy as mine are, or a money making enterprise ? Either way, you will require much effort and commitment to accomplish your goal.
2. Choosing your Publisher and Publishing style:
It is important to realize that I am only referring to the printed hard copy book and not a digital publication or eBook. Printed books, particularly those with photos, continue to be popular with children and many adults, where they can easily come back to it without needing an electronic device. Many books need the landscape page to make them shine, especially picture books which do not present well in a portrait format or on some popular digital book reading devices. Most publishers prefer portrait format, and some only deal with this easier format, which was not favourable to picture books. I had to search far and wide to find a local publisher who would print the book the way I wanted, as I had a clear vision as to the format which would best suite my book. The cheaper publishers tried to coheres me to change it to suite them, but I am glad I persevered, and pursued my dream rather than theirs. It pays to ask around and look in bookstores at books published within Australia, and then glean details from the imprint page in the front of the book, as well as get an idea of what books like yours retail for.
The reason I have entitled this essay ‘Australian Self-Published’ is to address a problem that occurs frequently when Aussies try to publish through the cheaper options offered by overseas publishing companies, from America and other countries. What they don’t always tell you and you may not realize, having not done your research or read the reviews, is that the books are printed in the overseas country, not ours. This means very expensive freight charges make your cheap book quite expensive to market for a reasonable profit. Some even have a system whereby they print on demand, which seems great, but you may pay for your book to be distributed from their country to yours or wherever it is purchased in the world. Whatever the arrangement, someone pays more than they need to. By the time you add any extra cost to the booksellers 40% margin, the book may become far to expensive, which may make it unsaleable. Australia has some very excellent publishers and book printer companies, which may be dearer, but the final product is premium quality, will work out less in the long run and you will have more control over the process.
To print your book, you must first engage a publisher that publishes self-published works. They will set up and design your work ready for the printer, which requires professional skills. You cannot just go to a book printer with your script and ask them to print it. Much is involved in preparing a professionally bound book for publication, especially if it includes photos and pictures. You can try the do-it-yourself options, but quality and cost, preclude any reasonable or saleable outcome if you plan to print any saleable quantity of your book. I engaged a very helpful book publisher who specializes in self-published works, and is connected to a large printing firm in Sydney, near where I live.
Self publishing becomes more expensive if you do not undertake much of the ground work yourself, such as designing, setting out and formatting your book, which is made possible by using a software program on your computer. Microsoft Publisher worked well for designing and formatting each of my published books, as it gave me excellent flexibility with text and images. Microsoft Word is more cumbersome and limited, but is an alternative, especially if your book does not use many photographic images.
Set out the pages the way you would like them to look and ask the publisher what they think. By sending a PDF file of the completed book they gain a good idea of exactly how you want it formatted. It is also important to save the photos to be included at their highest resolution and place them into separate folders marked with each page number, this saves them time and you money. These also will need to be sent to the publisher to be used in the production. If your photos are to come to the very edge of the page, the publisher will need to bleed the edges for the printing process, which is a skill their graphic artists will do. They will prepare the pages for the printer in the format they use and make your book print ready. The publisher may assist in improving your page design and font choices, as well as advise on issues related to publishing. They may add their own artwork and even design your cover, but it adds up, so it is important to get an itemized quote that tells you what you will get for your money. I chose to design my own covers, and they enhanced them for me.
As a self-published author, essentially you are your book’s publisher, employing another book publisher to assist in making your book print ready and printing your book, giving meaning to self-published. It is acceptable practice though to give due credit to the publisher your engage on your imprint page. The publisher will be connected with a book printing company so your quote should be a complete package, including printing and delivery of your books.
You cannot choose to publish a random number of pages, they have to be in sets of 8 in a bound book (e.g. I have published 72 and 80 page books), In addition, because I sell single books online from my website, I was advised to make the A4 Landscape sized book, slightly smaller than A4 so it would easily fit into an A4 stiff mailer when it is mailed using Australia Post, this advice proved invaluable, as I sell many books both here and overseas via my website. I also found the computer Dropbox a very useful means of sending files to the publisher without having to mail USD drives, due to file size limitations with email. This is very useful for both parties when the to-ing and fro-ing becomes frequent during the final proofing stages.
4. Preparing Your Market and Points of Sale:
The best advice I researched for first time self-publishers, who want to be successful, is to establish your own website and start publishing regular blog posts. This will raise interest in the topic of your proposed book, and will help feel out how many out there share your interest. Over time you will build up a following, providing you keep producing regular posts. There are many free and paid websites on offer, but it is best to choose a popular platform which many people use and which also allows you to write your own HTML coding to make editing adjustments.
I started with a free WordPress blog and when my book was being finalized, purchased my own website, format and domain name, for which I pay a yearly fees, and have my weekly blog posts transferred to it. This website will eventually be where you will direct your retail Bookseller clients and where your own Online customers will purchase your book, which we discuss later. Using a Premium or a Business package enables you to set up your own secure online shop through PayPal, or another platform. Developing a rapport with those who Comment and Follow your blog will build up an ongoing relationship as you use your blog to feature aspects of your book and how it is moving through the publishing process. This builds anticipation and points toward future sales. Follow the blogs of those who have similar interests and connect with them. This will also link their followers to you as they search out who you are when you make a Comment on another blogger’s post. The website gives the added advantage of you being able to include pages with information and images, videos etc provoking further interest. WordPress offer online tech support as part of the deal, which is very helpful, and there are many WordPress tutorials and online YouTube videos on how to do it all.
Having people come regularly to your website, with gradual increasing numbers of Followers signing up, is the ideal start to success. When a new subscriber chooses to Follow your blog, they receive an email each time you publish a new post. It is these Followers who later become purchasers of your book and may write a review of it on their blog, as several have done for me. This also attracts more interest from all their blog Followers, which soon may become Followers of your blog as well. You are able to review your stats which show for example from which countries and how many views you had each day, as well as watch the number of your Followers increase.
Establishing this point of sale enables a base to direct your customers to and is useful in conjunction with Facebook, YouTube and other media platforms. Setting up a Facebook business page as well as a YouTube channel and populating them with your own prepared videos and images is an additional means which will work conjointly with your website. Videos explaining your book or being interviewed or that look inside your book are helpful promotional tools you can produce yourself on your mobile phone or using your computer camera and microphone, if you do not own a digital movie camera. The idea is always to generate interest and attract customers, so you need to become creative, and engage someone to produce at least one professional video production to advertise your book, which is what I did. My son made mine using my images and video clips with his professional expertise, but I also make many of my own videos for YouTube, advertising on Facebook and on my website and blog. I have paid to Boost my Facebook posts from my business page for my books, in a couple of advertising campaigns, costing me $30 each time, but it gave me little success in sales using their platform. Booksellers often ask if you have a Facebook page or YouTube channel, so it helps to be proactive. You do need to become somewhat of a graphic artist yourself, as well as inventive, to create interesting ways of advertising your book as a product, and show people why they need it. Creating inquisitiveness is part of the key. Asking Rhetoric Questions is a good means of achieving this goal. You may have a friend or family member who can assist you with design and artwork, otherwise there are many media software packages for video and images in addition to Publisher, which allow you to create your own semi-professional adds.
5. The Long Editing and Proofing Process before Printing
If you have followed my suggestions thus far and have the layout and script of your text finalized, it is wise to have it professionally edited to check for both spelling and grammatical errors. This is called proof reading your text and may entail several trips to Office Works to reprint revisions. If you have a family member or know of a friend or teacher who can do this for you, then commission a couple of people other than yourself to read and add their corrections and later make your own corrections to the text, as sometimes theirs may not be appropriate. You and someone else will need to read your book several times to ensure no error has been missed and that everything, including photos are positioned exactly where they should be. It is good to determine the minimum reading age of your book by testing your text with younger readers. It is important to write simply to the reading audience you want to reach, this is most important for children’s books and will form part of you ISBN registration. You will need to design front and back covers (which your publisher can help you design) and decide if you are printing on the inside cover, which is not recommended and costs much more. You need to decide from which page you will begin your page numbering from, and if you will include pages for Contents, Acknowledgments, References, Citations etc as additional pages. The following is how most books are set out. Your publisher will assist you in this also:
- Front Cover: Book Title and Author’s name; Remember the ‘The cover sells the book !’ in many cases, and should draw attention to it. Therefore, a bright coloured interesting cover attracts attention when displayed well.
- Title Page: Book Title and Author’s name plus any dedications.
- The Imprint Page: Lists legal requirements, such as Copyright information, author, publisher, printer and year, ISBN number and categories the book is listed under. Any contact information you may want to add. You may also include Acknowledgements on this page to save space elsewhere, if there are not many.
- The Preface (optional):
- The Introduction: Give a brief introduction to your content as to the nature of the book and your intended aim for the reader.
- Table of Contents page: This is useful to the reader and can also be illustrated to be attractive and not just a page of lists.
- The Body of the Book: Numbering of the pages can start here. All of your book content will be here. Remember to include the Front of Book pages in the total page count for your book (i.e. include Title, Imprint, Introduction, Contents, About the Author pages etc) so that your total reflects the quote of pages for your book. It must be the agreed number, no less and no more.
- Back of Book: Any Addendum, Reference and About the Author pages or adds for previous books published: Other Books By Same Author page (also add these pages to the total page number)
- The Back Cover: Often has a short blurb about the book, and is what people often initially look at when wanting to know what it is about. Some also put About the Author here to save space. If you have an expert or celebrity read the book and give a comment, you may include it here for selling effect.
- You must include your ISBN bar code on the back cover, which you will have previously purchased (see reference to this in Point 7 below). IMPORTANT: You will need to send a copy of your ISBN barcode to the publisher to be included before you finalize your cover design. You will be required to purchase both ISBN and barcode before you go to print from Thorpe-Bowker Identifier Services, as they are the only Australian agent for purchasing ISBNs). ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is globally unique for a book in one published format. You will need to purchase a separate ISBN for each format the book is published in (e.g. ebook, printed soft cover, printed hard cover versions each require separate ISBNs). It is good to purchase this before completion. If you are going to publish also in another format, such as an eBook or in several formats (such as hard and soft cover editions) you will be required to buy and register separate ISBNs for each book format, as this is legally required. Your ISBN is the way the Bookseller and Library identify and discover your book on their computer system and is a unique global identifier of your book and it’s format.
Much checking and rechecking, reading and re reading is involved in the final process until you are sure you have rooted out any errors. Punctuation is sometimes a problem if you use Left and Right Justification of your text and then convert it back to Left Justification, the punctuation may end up in unusual places throughout the text, so it is wise to only use Left, as this is less likely to present problems should the publisher change the way the lines print on the page. However, checking for miss-placed commas and full stops is essential. MS Publisher will give a margin around the page, and it is wise to keep text within these margins. The most common point or text size is 12 – 14 point. I prefer 14 for children and older folk, 12 is popular in novels and large books, below 12 can be difficult for some to read.
If you are using photo images in the book, you will need to see a test print, though these may not represent the final print as all printing devices vary in colour, tone and lighting. It is preferred that the image be several megabytes in size, and be brightened slightly more than what they appear on the computer screen. Bear in mind the Computer screen is not a good way of determining how your photo will print, the colours tend to print darker with most printers, so you may need to make some changes with your publisher to ensure your images look good in print. If the image is fairly dark and you lighten it up with your photo software you may need to remove the greening effect from it using a advanced colour tool. If your image is too small in size or too dark it may have too much noise and look grainy when printed so you will need to choose a better quality image or remove the noise with the appropriate tool. Blurred images are not recommended. Make sure that your images belong to you and that you did not steal them from the internet or someone else’s blog, as this forms part of your legal copyright statement on your imprint page, where you state that you own and copyright the contents of your book.
Should you need to borrow images from another source than you, you must acquire written permission (email is accepted as legal) and also acknowledge the source person or company in acknowledgements and with image description. If you use a quote or excerpt from another source, it is courtesy to mention the name of the source person and where it was quoted from. If you use many references use Superscript citations numbers with the reference acknowledgement being found in the Bibliography or Acknowledgements pages at the Back of Book.
In the final stages before printing the publisher will confirm you are ready to print and may have you sign a document to approve printing, which may take a couple of weeks. In this time you need to prepare for sales. Have your spreadsheets ready. By now you will already have images of your book cover and pages from the PDF files the Publisher has sent you, which can be used to start advertising, both on your website and Facebook. You may choose to wait till it is published and make a page turn video or make images of page excerpts to introduce your book.
During this time you will need to make a large space for a pallet of books in a dry secure place. The space to allow will depend on how many books you are printing. Any number 1000 or more will need to be stacked carefully, so you do not injure yourself reaching above your heart and head. You may store them in an unused room or garage. It is wise to cover your books, which will usually come in cardboard boxes of a size that can be carried. Books are heavy and a trolley may need to be purchased when you are moving more than one box at a time. I cover my books in storage with a waterproof cover or tarpaulin to keep dust and eyes off them.
After you have received your book shipment from the printer it is your legal responsibility as an author published in Australia, to post free of charge one copy of each book published to both the National Library of Australia in Parkes ACT as well as your State Library (depending on where you live), this is called your Legal Deposit and is the statutory obligation of all publishers to submit it to both Libraries within 2 months of publication. Because you will have purchased the ISBN and self-published your book, legally you and not the said ‘publisher’ are the legal publisher required to send these books. Read the information on the Legal Deposit page in the above link. The library in due course may send an email acknowledging the receipt, and asking you to add more information into their data base.
You next need to populate your Online Bookstore and Bookseller pages and get them active.Use links to the page when advertising and on your business card. Make a QR code which directs directly to the page, this is helpful for many who use their phones for everything. If you would like an example of an online bookstore which I set up myself click here.
6. Becoming a Bookseller (promoting, advertising and selling your new book):
People sometimes ask ‘Why don’t you just market your book through one of the large book distributors or large nationwide booksellers?’ The answer is you do not get a good return for your book, and there are problems having all your books tied up in their shops on consignment, You would need to print many more copies of your book, and if it does not sell you will be paying them to store it for you, or end up with a garage full of books. There are also responsibilities in the contracts these companies have which limit and obligate you in ways which may not find to be in your best interest
The main tool for motivating the sales of your book is you and your passion for the book and its content. Retail Booksellers tell me they love the passion I have for my books, and my vision for what I want them to achieve. This is the point where the self-published author has to shine, and what cuts them out from the large well organized book distribution companies that supply and dominate most book sellers. You the author have the opportunity to personally introduce your book, and sell it. Booksellers want to do business with organised clients who know how the system works, and speak the terminology. I have had several Bookstore managers share how impressed they were when they saw how well organised I was and how well I was set up. They shared how many self published authors just come in with a pile of books and plonk them on the counter and say “sell my book”. They have no idea or motivation to do the proper ground work required to assist the Bookstores, nor do they have the passion to market their book successfully. The outcome one Bookstore manager told me was: ‘I just put them in a corner somewhere and after a couple of months tell him to come and pick them up.’
You need to dress neatly and always smile, remember and write down the manager’s name and any staff you speak with, remembering and correctly addressing a person using their name is like gold when you speak it, it is sweet music to their ears, and immediately endears you. I highly recommend you read the best-selling author Stephen R Covey’s The 7 habits of Highly Effective People and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, they will give you excellent tips on what works in forming friendships and successful business acumen. You may find these suggestions helpful, as I have found them to be in practice, as you begin establishing new clients to sell your published book:
- Initially, planning a book launch can be a way to kick start your book sales. Invite people of influence in the community, media people from local newspaper, radio and TV to promote your book. However, it would do you well to have already established a store or two beforehand as a local sales point beforehand, to gain immediate sales. Many books can be sold at book launches, especially if you sign them, as people love personally signed books. Plan it with help from friends and family and budget to have complementary finger food and drinks. Play a prepared video and share your journey in the book process and passion for the topic of your book and ask people to speak who have read your book and can make a positively endorse it.
- When making contact with a new wholesale client (bookstore, gift shop etc), speak with the manager, don’t leave a message with staff, they seldom get back to you. Ask for his name and use it frequently, as it is music to their ears, and respects them as a person. Give a short introduction of who you are and about your book. If you are unable to speak to manager get their email. Direct them to your specific link to your Bookseller page on your website.
- Start with Good Morning or Good Afternoon, I am …then your name. If they do not offer their name say ‘and I am speaking with…’ as you need to know their name early in the piece, and you don’t want to make the mistake of forgetting it, or getting embarrassed later when they use your name and you do not return theirs, many astute people use this as a point of assessing a person’s character.
- Try to express an interest in them and their store, and town and start chatting about relevant issues you both share in common, such as the weather, the effect that whatever is in the news is having on you both. Connect personally so they start sharing about themselves. This way they will never forget you, and view you as a friendly person they will want to engage with another time. If possible make them laugh, as this is one of the best connectors. Remember and jot down any particular personal information they share, that you can refer to on your return visit, and show empathy and interest in them as a person.
- Try to visit your prospective client’s shop in person, if possible, so they can meet and see you, and you can personally show them the book. I found doing a holiday road trip through country towns a good way to visit and establish new clientele. Booksellers prefer to see you in person and it helps them assess you and the value of your book, which they will expect you to show reason why they should stock it, which will require them seeing and feeling your passion for it. Otherwise, they may delete your email if you have not previously taken the trouble to make personal contact with them, out of respect for them as a person. Arrange a time suitable and be well dressed, I find a men’s shoulder bag the professional way to walk into the shop with the book modestly concealed. Make sure you remove your sunglasses, they need to see your eyes and smiling face. Remark on any good features you notice in their shop, show interest and share appreciative comments. Leave them with your business card and a copy of your book if they want to peruse it later, don’t be pushy, they hate that and get enough from the larger distributors. If nothing transpires offer to phone back the following week or month. It is only when they say ‘I am not interested, or we do not stock self-published authors’ and the NO word is used that you thank them for their time and immediately try a different store in the town. Sometimes they will say ‘ I am overstocked, or not taking any new stock at present’. that is not a no but a come and see me at a later date. Don’t phone back too soon, as they are usually very busy, and give them grace of a week after sending an email. Always phone or visit the manger before sending an email introducing you and your book, or you may never hear from them again.
- If they are local, or less than two hours drive away, you can offer to do a book signing morning in their shop to promote your book. They may already have a Saturday morning where they invite authors to come, ask and offer. Signing adds value to the book, and also allows you to connect with the reader and share with them. It often means more than one book being sold with each customer. This can especially be a big hit in country towns, as I have found, where are shops and the radio station get involved to make it a major event for the town.
- Many book sellers in franchise chains only take books On Consignment, which means they draw up an agreement you both sign as to terms for your book to be on sale in their shop for a trial period of time (usually 3 to 6 months) at an agreed rate. They will review the sales when you next call and ask for a Tax Invoice and pay you for the books sold and decide if they will continue to sell your book, or tell you to come and get the unsold ones, not wanting to continue business with you. This is a messy business, requiring well kept current running records. It means that you may have hundreds of books out in bookshops which have not been paid for and, in some cases may not sell, depending on how and where they display them.
- Many regional town bookstores only sell self-published works if the author lives in their local area or has a local connection with their book. Books about their area and its history are usually welcomed. It is therefore important to try different local avenues including gift shops and visitor centres and tell them upfront if you are a local author and how your book is relevant and a good their shop is a good fit for their store, it is up to you to convince them it is.
- Giving free copies of your book to local libraries and offering to give Book Talks can stimulate interest can be helpful, but is limited in producing sales. Giving talks at seminars and organisations, where you are able to sell your books, can be fruitful. I have done this in several places and it has given many sales and contacts for future sales. School fetes and weekend markets are another outlet.
- Media platforms present your greatest advertising opportunities. Radio stations, television and newspapers and send copies to them to get their interest to maybe recommend it to their audiences, this could be a big hit, but make sure you have already established local booksellers who stock your book so you can direct them for sales, as many prefer to look at it in a shop rather than buy online. I have a page listing the bookshops and centres which sell my books on my website which I direct people to, should they not want to buy online.
- Many Bookstores are starting to use digital book catalogues and newsletters, as well as Facebook pages to advertise books, where they may allow you to put an article or add for your book on. Have material prepared, that advertise your book. Make available images of your book and promo videos to the bookstore to use in their digital media advertising and online website. I have regional bookstores who sell many of my books this way, because I have a very well presented promo video and accompanying material which they can use, which showcases the positive ways my books can help and interest them and their families. They are very thankful for this provision.
- If you’re able to start selling or consigning in one branch of a book franchise, you may eventually have an entry permit to try the others, which will usually bring new clients, but usually only after the original client makes a sale or two as the first thing they will do is look at recent sales at the original bookstore before taking your book onboard.
7. Keeping Track of Your Clients and Servicing Them:
Before the book is printed, it is wise to create some Excel spreadsheet pages to manage your new business, here are some suggested pages to help manage your product:
- List of all Expenditures and Income for your book for each Fiscal (Taxation) year (i.e. Date : Item : Amount $. This along with all receipts needs to be kept together for your taxation claim. The first year you will most likely run at a loss, which will discount your tax bill. Remember to include all expenditures connected with the publishing, proofing etc of the book, this includes the website, domain, software packages needed, car travel kms, postage charges, computer requirements as well as purchase of your ISBN and barcode.
- List an Active Client Record with columns for name of date of first contact; date of last time contacted; contact person (manager); name and address of business,; phone contact; ISBN; email address. It is good to include a column to say if they are a Buyer or Consigner, as this impacts how you do business with them.
- List a Prospective Client Record similar to the above. These are future or recent contacts which have not committed as new clientele that you are following up with prospect of them buying or consigning your book.
- List of Tax Invoices and Consignment details for each new sale or Consignment period. You will need to purchase a Tax Invoice Booklet with carbon duplicate pages and issue these with each sale and list the Tax Invoice number in a column next to the order. You will need a column also for the client’s own Order Number which many businesses require on the Tax Invoice for easy identification. It is important that you quote an order number on your Tax Invoice when you send it for payment or they may not pay you.
I hope the above is helpful for starters, something similar to the above will be required once your book is published and you are becoming your own sales person, in order to accurately track your sales and orders and keep a records for Taxation purposes.
When your book is printed set up a special pages on your website for your future Bookseller clients to access, in order to find out about your book and learn your terms and conditions for sale. Include a picture of the book cover and its ISBN, as well as personal contact details. Include the link to this page in all emails to retail clients and on your business card. It is good to only give access to this page to retail booksellers, and not to your other online customers or bloggers, as you will be publishing wholesale prices. In addition set up your own Online Bookstore and populate it with colourful page examples and information from your book finalizing with a Secure Online Checkout (WordPress provide this for their Premium and Business plans). Should you choose to use this option, you will sell at the RRP price, where it is wise to include the cost of packing and posting in the one price. You should find that you will make just as much profit from your RRP Online as from your wholesale Bookseller price. Include any pages with additional information which explain what your book is about. You will also be asked to give your RRP when registering your ISBN.
It is important that you check what other books of similar size retail for in shops and make a wise judgement. You need to take 40% of the price and this will become your new wholesale price. Your profit margin will depend on how many books you paid to print (the more the cheaper each book is to print and the more profit in the long run), how well your book sells, how much it cost you to get to this stage (as you can calculate how many books you need to sell before you start making a profit by adding all your costs and expenses to date). So when you determine your RRP and deduce your Wholesale price, which the Bookseller will want to know both, you want to be sure your prices are realistic, and that you will make a profit, be it small or large. If like me, your book is a hobby and legacy to the youth of the day and making a great profit is not your prime purpose, and much of your profits go back into publishing additional books and editions, you have more flexibility and can bargain to ensure that your book reaches more people. Thankfully my first book sold out in its first edition and it financed an improved and larger second edition which has become a bestselling children’s book in many bookstores , gift shops and visitor centres throughout NSW, and some interstate stores. The second edition paid for my second book, and now my writing my third.
The advantage of having a successful first book opens the door for a second book and will often be easily included on the shelf in your already established clients and Booksellers, without much additional sales work. It will require additional work for advertising including videos and images.
I have found issuing the Bookseller a sticker with QR code, which many of us have become familiar with during Covid. The QR code can be captured on the prospective buyer’s mobile phone while in the bookstore and take them directly to your YouTube Promo video which highlights and advertises your book. This has been a successful innovation. I also have business cards with small images of my books and a QR code for those I meet to use to access my website bookstore, and introduces then to my video and pictures of the books pages and why they should buy it.
This raises the need to print a number of quality business cards, either on your home printer using Avery Business Card Sheets or having them printed professionally at a printer (though this will cost much more). I print enough for several months using my own computer with the free Avery software which is downloadable. I also use their stickers for mailing and placing my banking details into each page of my tax invoice book.
I find direct deposit the most preferred and convenient method of payment into a specific business account for my books. I use business accepted 30 day payment scheme for buyers (those who purchase outright), and follow them up if they have not paid a week before the 30 days, often to find they have lost the Tax Invoice I shipped with the books. I have since learnt to scan an image of each Tax Invoice and save it in a folder with the business name, so it can be sent electronically if they lose it and need to resend it, which happens frequently. Some businesses accounts departments will only accept electronic Tax Invoices, and demand their Order Number is shown on the invoice or they will not pay you.
I deliver my books to booksellers via Australia Post, who have been generally reliable to date, if I am unable to deliver them personally. When you start sending several packages a week speak to your local Post Office about getting a MyPost business band (QR code) to get reductions and savings in your postage charges and packaging materials. It is also cheaper to buy stiff mailer book mailers in bulk of a pack of 10. Australia Post now have a deal for this purpose where you get pre stamped mailer with tracking, so you can send it any time but at a cheaper rate. I follow the tracking and ensure it is delivered and use this date as the 30 day start date from which payment is required.
They also will provide free a book of special stick on address labels for your parcels and mailers, which you can ask for at the counter. These are very convenient, as you can have them filled out at home and ready to place on any packaging type you may choose to purchase, and saves you having to waste time trying to do it with their pens which don’t always work in a small space on a desk often shared. This was very useful during Covid.
It is good to keep a record of when you will next make contact to ask how the book is selling, and just to be sociable and keep you in their minds. Often booksellers do not make contact when a book is sold out of stock, so a phone call every three months will help them check. Stores which sell well usually contact you for new stock without fail. This is important with books on Consignment, as they often are not followed up by shop staff and will make it your responsibility to follow up your book’s progress in their shop.
Finally, you will need to review your progress after a few months and determine what works and what is not working well, and make appropriate changes. The Booksellers themselves will often give clues why your book is not selling. It is important that it is placed in the appropriate section in the shop where people will find it if they are searching for a book of the same content and subject. If it has an attractive cover it is important to suggest it be placed in a book stand for a month to see if it sells. The rest is up to you, success comes with a continued persistence, to never give up, and never ceasing to return to prospective clients until they actually say the NO word, while they do not tell you I am not interested in your book, or not now, or try me again at a later date etc write a new date in your diary to return giving enough time. I have seen breakthroughs here, where very persistent people have finally trialed my book, only to be pleasantly surprised. Remember the success and failure of your book starts and finishes with you, your passion and commitment. Once your market is well established in your state, you can start to concentrating interstate, as your established clients will start contacting you when they sell out of your book, if it is doing well, since their computer system tells them how many books remain in their store, and when it is time to reorder.
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W. A. Hewson
Adv. Dip. Counselling and Family Therapy.