5 Profitable Places To Sell Your Books

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Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 10.31.20 PMBefore you start writing your book, ask yourself these two crucial questions:

1) Who is my audience?

And 2) Where do they hang out?

Knowing your book’s audience is worthless if you don’t know where they hang out. These two crucial marketing criteria should be met before you sit down and start writing any book.

In fact, traditional publishers require a marketing plan and platform be submitted with a book proposal—often even before the book is written.

I personally feel this step is not only crucial to sell your books, but to ensure you’re writing to the right audience to begin with.

Here are 5 profitable places to sell your book:

Bookstores

First of all, I encourage you to think outside the bookstore to maximize your sales potential. That being said, the most obvious place to sell books is a bookstore. However, it is also the hardest place to sell books.

Not only do you have to deal with the competition of hundreds of other titles in your genre—some more prominently displayed than yours—but you have to drive the traffic into that store, then convince people to buy. Add on that the discount bookstores require and it may not be as “profitable” as other venues.

Bookstores are still a profitable place to sell your books, in that many mainstream stores support visiting authors with media appearances and marketing that will go way beyond a standard bookstore book signing. I know several authors who jumpstarted thousands of book sales due to one bookstore appearance.

Depending on how you choose to publish your work, your book may not even be eligible to be stocked on the bookstore shelf. At bare minimum, your book needs to meet three criteria for most mainstream booksellers to order and display:

  1. Price point—Books must reach a specific price point for their genre, type (color/black and white), size and subject. If priced too high, consumers will not purchase and bookstores can’t sell what people refuse to buy.
  2. Discount—In addition to keeping the price low enough to meet consumer guidelines, the book must also be sold from the distributor to the bookstore for a discount. Most brick and mortar retailers require a minimum of a 55% discount. Some demand as much as 60%.
  3. Returnability—Bookstores must be able to return unsold copies to the publisher. If the book is traditionally published, the publisher will resell those “remainders” at a steep discount to be rid of them and free up warehouse space. If the books are self-published they are either destroyed or sent back to the author.

Bookstores are strict in their guidelines and those three criteria are usually non-negotiable. If you want your book available in bookstores, you’ll need to ensure the method you’re using to get published meets these criteria.

2) Online Retailers

Similar to brick and mortar stores, online retailers require a discount to virtually stock your book. I say “virtually” because most online retailers don’t actually stock the books in their own warehouses. Instead they wait for an order to come through, then contact the distributor and request the book be drop-shipped to the consumer.

Some distributors drop-ship in the retailer’s packaging, such as with Amazon, so it looks like you’re getting a book directly from them. If your book sells well, Amazon may order additional copies to stock in one of their warehouses.

Many people are comfortable ordering online and books are an excellent product to sell in this venue.

3) “Non”-Bookstores

There are thousands of different types of retailers besides bookstores who sell books. If your goal is to seek brick and mortar sales, “non”-bookstores can be the most successful way to move books. Here are five major “non”-bookstores many people don’t think about:

  1. Hair salons—I know several authors who do very well selling books in hair salons. Salons are already equipped for retail sales, and the audience is captive for at least 20 minutes. What do you do under the hair dryer or while in the waiting area?
  2. Museums—One of my I am Published!™ graduates created a book about the true scientific life cycle of the butterfly. She had a large museum order 60 copies of her book to sell in their gift shops. Her book continues to sell successfully in this venue, not to mention the other smaller museums where she’s been invited to speak and do book signings. Look for similar specialty retailers where your book would fit well.
  3. Workshops—If your book is non-fiction, it will probably be easy to convert into a workshop format. Workshops demand a higher price than books alone, and if you roll the price of your book into the workshop and offer it “free” to attendees as an incentive to attend, it increases the number of seats you’ll fill.
  4. Back-of-the-Room Sales—If you’re a speaker, you can make a mint off back-of-the-room sales by having a book table set up (usually in the back of the room, hence the term) to sell products after speaking to a group of people at a corporate function or conference. The credibility given to you by having a book for sale at the back table not only garners higher speaking fees, but increases the chances attendees will purchase the book and other products and services from you, the expert.
  5. Specialty Stores—Gift shops, boutiques, galleries… the types of specialty stores are endless. If you have a niche book that would fit well in a gift shop or other specialty store, get to know the owner of the shop and see if they will stock your book on consignment basis. Usually they’re not willing to purchase books outright, but if you sell several on consignment, you have a better chance of getting them to pay in advance for future orders.
4) Libraries

Libraries can be lucrative for authors if you know how to approach them. Call your local library and ask to speak to the branch manager. Let them know you’re a local author and would like to do a reading and signing at the local library for patrons.

It’s even better if you have some sort of presentation you can plan and offer to present for free. Many libraries will welcome you to sell your books at the library if you present at no charge and offer to donate a copy of your book to the library.

5) Bulk Orders

Bulk orders are not necessarily retail, though they can be. Corporations, book clubs, magazines and similar outlets order books in bulk quantity for their employees or members. Target membership-based organizations and offer them a special discounted rate if they order a certain quantity (ie: 100 books).

Bulk orders can be extremely lucrative and bring in a very nice income. Combine speaking or a workshop along with the bulk order and you have yourself a nice profit margin.

As you begin brainstorming and paying attention to the types of retail establishments in your hometown, you’ll find there are thousands of places to sell your book, each with hundreds of potential buyers.

Make a list of places to target, then call to set up an appointment with the manager or owner of each place. Try to hit them all within the same timeframe.

If you have a sample of your book, take it with you. Otherwise just introduce yourself and give them a head’s up that you have a new book coming soon and leave them with some promotional material describing the book. Ask if you can follow up with them after the book comes out.

Especially if you are a local author, most of these retailers are more than happy to schedule book signings, stock your book, or order advance copies.

Have you had success with an out-of-the-box retailer? Share in the comments below…

Kristen Eckstein
Kristen Eckstein is a highly sought-after publishing authority, multi best-selling author and award winning international speaker who has started over 50 publishing companies and published over 170 books and e-books. In Fall 2013 she challenged herself to write and published a new Kindle book every week for 18 weeks straight.
Kristen Eckstein
Kristen Eckstein
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Comments

  1. Wonderful info and advice, especially for new authors. After writing, editing, cover design, formatting, etc., you feel you are done, but you have just begun. With a new release now on Amazon, and wondering what is next, it is great to read these solid tips. Thanks.

  2. Thanks, just self publish my book on amazon and looking to speak somewhere to promote it, great advice, and will try them out soon.

  3. Hi Kristen,

    This is a great list of places, and very important ones at that! I think it’s smart for authors to have this list on hand, from the beginning, to even months after the book is out. Libraries are a great one that I feel is easily forgotten!

    I did notice that you mention traditional publishers want book proposals before the book is written – from the agents I have worked with, this is only true with nonfiction titles. A market and proposal are HUGE in nonfiction titles, but fiction plays in another ball game.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. My favorite one in the list is Amazon. You can never go wrong with Kindle ebooks as long as you follow their guidelines..

  5. Great article and super suggestions.

    When I self-published my novel, “The Devlin Deception,” in September 2012, I had gotten an okay from one local business to use their name in the book, and when I published it, they began to carry it. Since we’re in a beach community in SW Florida, during season it was easy to send people I knew and/or met to that business to buy it. It was a bait and tackle shop in an easily visible location with a memorable (and slightly off-color) name: “Master.” They’ve sold 55 copies there, and I’ve added six other local stores: an art gallery, a jewelry store, a dog groomer, a motel (local, not a chain), a gift and card shop and a restaurant (whose name I changed for the book, but which locals easily recognize). Since I can’t directly sell the books on the beach (county ordinances), I just send folks to one of those locations. And now that we’re not in season, I can see what other interests the locals have and send them as a possible new customer to the appropriate store (e.g., if they have a dog, I’ll suggest the dog groomer).
    On consignment, I give the store a 20% discount, and if they pay in advance, with full returnability in saleable condition, so no risk, 40%. I keep a backup stock at home and reload the stores as needed.

    I’ve found that if the owner has read my book, they sell more books than to only the people I refer to them.

    I’d thought of hair salons, but haven’t tried them yet. Thanks for the reminder. And I’m just in the process of looking at speaking at local organizations.

  6. andreas andreou says:

    Very useful and impressive article.I think that the price and the correct promosion of the book with the place which we put the book in the bookshop
    is the most important factors for sales.
    Thanks Andreas.

  7. These are all really great ideas — I’ve never thought of a salon before. And I love the idea of donating copies to local libraries!

    Another suggestion: authors in the Midwest may want to check out Coffee and Books, which is a program between Dunn Bros. Coffee and Hillcrest Media, a publishing house out of Minneapolis. The program provides physical retail displays in Dunn Bros. all over the area, so patrons can browse books as they wait in line and purchase them at checkout — and it’s open to both traditional and self-published authors. Books do have to qualify, and I believe there is a fee to participate.

    For full disclosure, I do contract work with Hillcrest Media every so often — but I think Coffee and Books is a really cool program, especially for indie authors, so I wanted to mention it here. (Their website is http://coffeeandbooks.com and I wrote about the launch party on my blog, if anyone is interested.)

    Thanks for the great ideas!