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E8: Writing a Book - The Learning Curve (36-40)

Amazon, airports, stores and libraries...

· writing a book

Today we'll dig into distribution...how Amazon works, bookstores like the ones at the airports and Barnes & Noble, and libraries.

Lessons Learned 36-40

36. Amazon cares most about Amazon, and I don't blame them: Long story here, so buckle up.
My book was supposed to launch on November 13th...in conjunction with a large event where I was speaking. We had arranged for a book signing at the event as well.
 

Two weeks before launch, my publisher calls. There’s a problem with the printing. The first set of books were delivered to him, and to me. They looked like crap. The transparent cover was cool, but the printing on it was inconsistent. What was worse was the inside cover. The flaps where printed in white on the transparent film which looked amazing on the red cover. But the inside covers where white, too, so you couldn’t read the flaps. There also appeared to be toner issues throughout. He stopped the printing.
 

For the event, I had them print enough books (400) to ensure all attendees got them, and that I could do a book signing. They didn’t look great, but we accomplished the goal.
 

On November 13th, Amazon immediately listed the book as sold out. My publisher was frantically working with the printer to fix the issues, and we knew the book would be ready the first week of December. However, Amazon listed the availability date as FEBRUARY 1ST. Yes, friggin’ February. So, I had done all this work to get people excited, timed podcast interviews around the launch, and Amazon shows February. I was devastated. Amazon couldn’t care less.
 

Amazon wants to underpromise and overdeliver. I get that. Now. But it hurt my initial sales. My promotions had people excited to buy the book, and when the arrived at Amazon, it told them they would have to wait three months for it. Once the book was actually available, all was good, but that was an awful few weeks trying to reset expectations with the market.

37. eReader version - only sell it on Kindle: Ask your publisher or your friends about this one. I’m actually still trying to figure it out. When my book came out, we had the digital version available on the Kindle, the Nook, and every other digital format. My publisher called. He said (and I may be screwing this up) that because the bulk of our sales come on Amazon, we should only offer the digital version on the Kindle. When we do that, Amazon gives us favorable position for everything else. I don’t know anyone who uses a Nook anymore, and the Kindle is so pervasive, I said yes. So, in digital format, the only way to get The Transparency Sale is through Amazon.

38. You’ve got to pay to be in an airport bookstore - like a friggin lot! Hey Todd, do you want to have your books in the airport bookstores? Of course I do! Well then, get your checkbook out, because it’s going to cost you. A LOT! Airport bookstores don’t simply sell books for profit. They don’t simply sell the best-sellers. My conclusion: They make their money as a marketing channel for authors, not as a bookseller. I was told that, for my hard-cover book to be on the front table at the airport bookstores, it would cost me $30k+ for three months. Yes, you read that right. The justification for that amount is that airport books get lots of eyeballs...from people who hire speakers, trainers, consultants, and recommend books to others. There probably would be a return on that investment, but I wasn’t willing to roll those dice. Soft-cover books, or books that are on the shelves in the back are less of an investment, but still substantial.

39. Getting your books into specific Barnes & Nobles: My book is in many Barnes & Nobles across the country as a result of traditional distribution through my publisher, which is great. However, I noticed that the two Barnes near where I live did not stock the book. Here is what you do when that happens. Either:

  • Have someone call the bookstore and ask if they have it, and ask if they can stock it. It’s as simple as that. Nine times out of ten, they’ll order a couple from their own warehouse, and your books will appear on the shelves.
  • Go in yourself. I went into my local bookstore, carrying one of my own to show them. I told the manager that I wrote the book, showed them that book was on the shelves in their Oak Brook and downtown stores, and asked if they would carry it here. I also told them that I would do some promotion around it. They ordered five of them for their shelves. I then went in and signed them, from which they added stickers to those books indicating as such. Super easy in both cases.

40. Getting your book into libraries: Your publisher sells to the libraries...and does so at a discount. This has not been a major area of focus for my publisher, as it’s not a big money maker. As a result, my book is not in libraries today, other than my own. After my book came out, I went into my local library. I spoke to someone who worked in the business section about the fact that I had written the book with the help of the library, and would love to talk about how to (a) get a copy in circulation, and (b) help out with any community outreach regarding the library’s services. The woman brushed me aside. I then handed it to her. She proclaimed, “Wow...this is a REAL book!”. I guess people must hand her crappy ones all the time. She looked it up online, and suddenly got excited. She connected me with the individuals who run the library. I then “gifted” a copy, which they appreciated very much, and is now in circulation.

How about a bonus? I'll call this one...40 1/2. Face your book out: Every time I see my book in a book store, at the library, etc., I face it out flat instead of it only having the binding showing. Yes, I'm probably a nerd for doing that, but if that makes me a nerd, I'm cool with it. Below (and in this edition's header image) is an example of what I mean. Instead of having the book be one of the many above it with only the binding showing, I pull it out and have it showing flat facing out.

Next up in 41-45? Errors and audiobooks.

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