Friday, 19 August 2011

Advice for Indie Authors: Sell, sell, sell!

Ten days ago the first printed copies of my novel, The Drought, were finally delivered to my doorstep. It was a joyous occasion, despite the best efforts from the London looters to halt their arrival (the books should have been delivered two days earlier but the riots caused their delay - sort it out Cameron!).

I stared at the 65 copies of my book; filled with the words that I had written. Two years of hard work packed neatly into two cardboard boxes. Proudly holding a copy in my hand, one thought immediately popped into my head: How am I going to shift this lot?! After all, 65 copies of the same novel on my bookshelf would not only look a little silly, but perhaps a tad self-indulging too!

I did not want all this hard work to simply be viewed as vanity-publishing. For the first time I realised that if I wanted to do this properly, I would need a business plan. I wanted to evaluate everything that I had done so far, set myself an objective, and then work out what I needed to achieve to this.

Time to look at the facts:

- So far I had spent in excess of £2,000 on publishing and marketing (including the silver self-publishing package with Pen Press, the promo silver pack and Kindle eBook conversion with Author Essentials, and a website with Advanced Web Creations)
- The first 65 copies I sell would offer me 100% profit as these books come as part of the silver package
- I would make an average of £1 - £2 profit for every printed book sold through a retailer
- My profit would increase by nearly 200% on all sales off my own back (I am able to purchase additional copies of my book at any time from Pen Press at £3.25 per book - minimum 25 orders)

Clearly there is a greater benefit selling my book myself because of the larger profit margin. However, as a consumer, I am also aware that I would more than likely buy something from a reputable retailer than I would anywhere else. I also couldn’t use any of my promo marketing material yet, as it all references that you can buy the book and a Kindle version from Amazon, but it is going to take approximately six weeks for my book to be registered and start appearing on sites such as Amazon.

Rather than bogging you down with numbers and a maths lesson, I worked out that in order to break-even and start turning a profit, I would need to sell 665 copies of my book myself. Time to get to work!

I set-up a PayPal account and created a business account to allow people to buy copies of the book through my website. This also allows people to pay by credit card if they don’t have a PayPal account.

My plan for the first six weeks is to try and create a buzz through people that I know - friends, family, work colleagues, clients, friends of friends, acquaintances! Anyone I can possibly make direct or indirect contact with. I put together a list of 250 email addresses I have and sent an email blast out to announce the book has been published and that they can purchase a copy from my website. Furthermore, to incentivise people to buy through my website, I am offering signed copies and a free bookmark.

I have also targeted contacts and friends through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I asked people post links on their status updates or re-tweet information to their followers.
After week one of sales I have shifted 50 copies of the book. Not bad for a first week, but plenty of sales to go!

But already I am starting to forward plan. For every sale I make, I make a note of their their email address because in six weeks when the book will be available via retail outlets online, I will email everyone who has bought a copy of the book to ask them to write a review on Amazon.

And reviews are the next stage of my business plan, but that is for a different blog.

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