This past weekend, I attended an event that benefited both local readers and their surrounding libraries. I took with me a catalog from the Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), in which only one of my books was listed, basically because seven of us went together to buy the ad. I can’t see spending that much on an ad by myself.
But the catalog got me to thinking: I should create a sell sheet of all my publications so I can distribute them around to area libraries and businesses. The idea isn’t new, but this weekend, I got to see how it would be beneficial.
Here’s what I have in mind:
- Create and produce an eye-catching brochure.
I want a professional-looking brochure that includes all my covers and write-ups about each novel, plus the ISBNs. I’ll include my bio and author pic. I’m thinking of a tri-fold with blank space open for the mailing information.
- Make sure all my titles are listed with IngramSpark.
Or some other distributor—but the operative word is distributor. One of the things people forget is that Amazon is a retailer. Their distribution is basically to their own cyber-retail outlets. Retailers and librarians don’t buy from other retailers.
Ingram is a distributor. Retailers and librarians can look up the ISBNs (which had better not be supplied by CreateSpace or any other Amazon printer) on the Ingram site and order books from them at a discounted price.
Thanks to author Angela Breidenbach’s patient explanations, I have a better understanding of how to work Ingram.
First, forget about making a lot of money on it, unless you’re a huge name. Since I’m not well known, I have to offer a steep discount—55%—plus the return option if my books don’t sell.
Next, I crank the price up two to three dollars over my Amazon retail price. I don’t dare go up too high, but 55% off of $14.99 leaves me only $6.75, out of which Ingram gets paid a percentage, which means I don’t get much. Not that I would anyway, but setting the price at $16.99 helps. When I get more comfortable with this, I may dare to go higher. I mean, if those buying the books from Ingram get 55% off of a risk-free purchase, they shouldn’t complain too much.
Finally, I make sure all the prices (including international prices) end with the .99. Not sure why it matters internationally, but Angie assured me it does. As for the good ol’ U.S. of A., $X.99 is where the sales tax used to change. So, if you sold a book at $15.00, the sales tax (in Texas, it would be $0.94) would be higher than at $14.99. A slight difference, but a perceived advantage. These days, the charge is a flat rate, but the perception of savings remains.
- Send/deliver the brochures to libraries and retail stores.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work a couple of library events where local librarians with expense accounts purchase books directly from the authors. Believe me, it’s a wonderful experience. But there are so many more libraries around—not to mention retailers!
For a price, Ingram will put your release in their catalog and get it before the eyes of those who buy for their stores and libraries. If you can do that, you should. I’m not at a point where I can yet; hence my idea of designing a brochure.
For libraries, my idea would work great. I don’t know that publication date matters to them quite as much as it does to retailers. But with so many new releases each day, I don’t expect to compete for retail space in bookstores. Even my newest is part of a series where the original pub date of the first was 2011. Of course, I repubbed it in 2016, but we’re halfway through 2018 already, and that book is old.
This is the time to think outside of the box and pitch the book to different kinds of retailers. Since I’m in Texas, a state of admittedly huge egos, then I can pitch to stores that specialize in Texas gifts and keepsakes. I write a lot of western fiction, so western stores would work. I write Christian fiction, so Christian retailers and church libraries would work. In other words, I have alternatives to bookstores, and I bet you do too.
I’m not saying I expect 100% success, that retailers will jump to their keyboards immediately upon receiving the brochure and buy my books, but I think it’s worth a shot. I will say this: the return on investment is likely to stink. This is about visibility, not profit. The cost of the brochure plus postage might not be covered by sales when the buyer gets a 55% discount and free returns. But I could be wrong. If Ingram gets enough orders for my books to cover even my costs, not just their own, this may be the most profitable enterprise I’ve ever entered with this business. We’ll see.