Recently I spoke with an author who was preparing to release a new business book. He doesn’t yet have a platform and wanted to know the best ways to make his book profitable. This isn’t uncommon; most new authors lack a platform (AKA: audience), which makes it much harder to follow the traditional book marketing and sales routes because these take time to build.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make your book a giant success.
First, ask yourself this essential question: What is the goal for my book?
If your goal is to generate thousands of traditional sales and end up on bestseller lists, then standard book marketing practices should be followed. But if you have other goals, like making an impact on the world with your book or generating a profit (which, sadly, few books actually do), then I encourage you to start thinking bigger about your overall strategy.
Powerful Ways to Make Your Book Profitable
Selling books one at a time is how most authors tackle the book sales strategy, but there are many ways to sell more books faster, plus ways to leverage your book to generate profits. Following are strategies to consider.
Bulk Book Sales to Corporations and Nonprofits – What organizations could benefit from your book? For example, if you’ve authored a book about getting through breast cancer, consider who might want to distribute your book. Is there a nonprofit that could make your book available to its members or at a fundraising event? Are there private doctors or surgeons who could give copies to their patients? Would a drug company sponsor copies to be distributed through hospitals?
For another example, let’s say you’ve authored a book on how to organize your home. You could potentially sell copies to real estate brokerages, furniture stores, hardware stores, decorating companies, paint stores, and so many more.
Bulk Book Sales to Retailers – Bookstores are one of the hardest places to sell books because there is simply too much competition. But gift shops, grocery stores, auto shops, day spas, gyms, vitamin stores, convenience stores, restaurants and so many other non-book retailers can present all kinds of opportunities for book sales. For example, a book on local hiking trails could be sold in sporting goods stores, bike shops, health food stores or even local gas stations.
Also think about chain stores like airport gift shops or pet food stores. If you’ve authored a book on caring for kittens, perhaps a small or large chain of pet stores or even veterinarian officers could carry them. Or, a memoir about military service could be sold through museums, historical societies or even hobby shops.
Co-Branding – If you’ve self-published, you can reach out to companies and non-profits and offer co-branding opportunities. You could allow a sponsoring company to add their logo to your cover and contribute a foreword or a chapter that you add to a special edition of the book. Companies could give these books away at trade shows, company meetings or to prospective clients.
If you’re a real estate agent who’s written a home buying guide, you could reach out to other agents in your industry and offer to produce a special edition where you list the agent as your co-author and allow him/her to add some additional commentary to the book (if they even want to). Or you could take that same book to local mortgage banks and allow them to co-brand and give copies away to their customers.
Licensing – Digital editions of your book could be made available for companies to distribute. For example, a memoir about your weight loss journey could be licensed by a fitness company, where they give away free downloads of your ebook as a way to entice people to join their mailing list. Or, a book about traveling through Europe could be licensed by travel agencies to give away to clients. Licensing deals are fantastic because there is virtually no overhead or out-of-pocket cost on your part, which means these are nearly pure profit!
Schools – Every type of school, from preschools, grade schools, high schools, colleges, private schools, music schools, dance and theater schools, daycare centers, and everything in between, present an opportunity for book sales. A book on how to combat bullying could be purchased by school districts and used as part of school curriculum. Or, an even bigger way to make that scenario work: find a company to sponsor the purchase of hundreds of even thousands of copies of the bullying book that are then donated and distributed through schools, with the company branding included.
Colleges could use a book about gun violence or marketing or history or <insert topic here> for curriculum, which can lead to repeat sales each semester. Also consider selling into the home schooling community, charter schools, Waldorf schools, religious schools, and so on. The opportunities are endless!
Speaking – If professional speaking interests you, this is an activity that can help you sell books. Many authors choose to sell books at the back of the room following a speaking engagement, which can earn dozens of book sales at each event. But an even bigger way to generate profits is to inquire with event hosts about pre-purchasing large quantities of your book to give to attendees. Oftentimes companies have a special budget for educational materials and can purchase books in bulk, in addition to paying a speaker fee.
Try this: Brainstorm a list of potential audiences, companies and nonprofits that could benefit from your book. Think of some creative ways you can generate bigger sales with these contacts and then look for ways to pitch them your ideas.
Leveraging Your Book to Grow Your Business
In addition to generating bigger sales for your book, another way to generate profits is by leveraging your book to grow your author business. Following are options to consider.
New Clients – If you’re a coach, consultant or other service provider, send copies of your book to prospective clients—especially those who are hard to reach. For example, if you are interested in offering your services to a large technology company, but you’ve had a hard time reaching key executives to even deliver your pitch, try mailing a copy of your book along with a hand-written letter about how you can help the company, its employees or its customers.
Several years ago, I worked with a financial consultant who published a book. He never had any interest in standard book marketing practices, and therefore didn’t sell many books. However, he made a point of giving a copy of his book to each and every prospective client and as a result, his business grew dramatically. Sometimes it’s not about actual book sales, but about the profit generated as a result of the book—and how you leverage your book to achieve your personal goals.
For additional ideas, see this article on How to Grow Your Business with a Book.
Professional Speaking – If speaking is a goal for you, your book can help you land paid speaking gigs. Keynote speakers can earn $5k to $10k and up for a single engagement, plus travel expenses. Your book gives you instant authority and credibility, making you more enticing as a potential speaker at events around the world. For additional information, see How to Break in to Professional Speaking.
Corporate Sponsorship – One of the biggest revenue generators comes from corporate sponsorship opportunities. Just as celebrities are paid to endorse products, companies and services, so are authors—as well as anyone with a significant platform (YouTube stars, podcasters with big audiences, top bloggers, etc.). Corporate sponsorship opportunities can provide great incentive for building your platform since the larger your audience, the more money you can command.
Sponsorships can come from all kinds of promotional activities: conducting webinars, blogging, social media sharing, recording videos, licensing your content, speaking at events, participating in company-sponsored contests, placing ads on your website, acting as a spokesperson, conducting media tours and much more.
For additional information, see the following articles:
Ways Corporate Sponsors Want to Work with Authors
What Corporate Sponsors Want from Authors
Checklist of Items to Include in Your Corporate Sponsorship Pitch
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