Would You Like Someone to Sell Your Books for You?

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/782870 by Carla Peroni http://www.sxc.hu/profile/CPERONIA new question is coming up with some regularity.

“Why wouldn’t a confident marketing expert promote my book for a portion of the profit instead of charging me up front?”

Here’s why.

For a very short time, books are going to be a commodity. People might pay extra for something special, but on the whole, they are not a way to make money. It’s not likely any book is going to sell more than 500 copies, except the unforeseeable flukes which become hits. You’ll average no more than $5 profit per copy in most cases.

No rational marketing person is going to take a percentage of the theoretical maximum of $2,500 your book will earn in its entire lifetime. If you were extraordinarily generous and paid 25%, and made every one of your expected maximum 500 sales in the first year, they get $625.

If I had 52 brilliant writers all giving me the same deal, and a remarkable magic happened and all of them sold 500 copies that first year, I’d make about $35,000. That’s just about enough to live on here in northern Wisconsin, but in California or New Jersey, the places I used to live, that’s 3 months’ wages. I’d need 3 of these golden geese each week.

And then, I’d need another 156 of them next year, because, remember, we sold every book we were going to sell in the first year. That’s 760 miracles just to pay the rent for the next 5 years. (Or, for me, here in low budget land, only 260 miracles.)

Authors who want someone else to sell your books for you, perhaps you could do some math and see what, precisely, you’re offering someone. Might be sobering to realize that since you’re likely to make less than if you worked at McDonald’s, they might not be all that eager to take a percentage of nearly nothing?

I’m not trying to be discouraging. I think every one of you should write a book, self-publish it, market it the best you can, and write another one.

Just don’t convince yourself that you’ll be among the less than 1% who make a living at it this year. It takes time, probably years of writing and selling, before you can even make a poor living at writing.

In the meantime, no rational business person is going to take a percentage to make your dream come true. If they did, you should wonder about their business acumen.

I think there’s something about a little red hen here.

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