Get Your Book in the Hands of Your Readers


One of my clients recently asked about the return on investment for his book. He’s self-publishing his book to support his coaching and speaking career. His book is in the category of investing. I don’t want to say more than that right now. We’re still in the development phase. Since his book is on an area of investing, his question didn’t surprise me. Though it did strike fear into my heart.

Me, a words person, had to confront something many words people hate to look at: the numbers. But the other part of me, the businessperson and entrepreneur, knew that facing the numbers was and is important.

SO we did. The answer to his question is that he needs to sell about 5,000 books to make back the investment in our work together.

Who cares?

Even if you want to self-publish a book as a marketing support for your business, you need to understand how you can get clients and/or sell lots of books. The focus of the rest of this article is about book sales.

You need to get up in front of a lot of people to sell 5,000 books. My client will sell books, and no doubt get clients, too.

How and where do you do that? Two ways: sell directly to your readers, or sell indirectly via a third party.

Which option lets you keep most of the cover price? You’re right. The first one.

Here’s the math and assumptions explained.

If you get your book printed with Lightning Source (yes, I recommend them, and no, they don’t pay me to.) They are a print-on-demand company, meaning that they are a printer only, not a publisher. When someone requests a book, Lighting Source prints and ships your book at cost, plus shipping, and a small fee. They are owned by Ingram, one of the largest book distributors in the world. Working with LSI means your book will automatically be on Amazon and you can elect for it to be on, and the Espresso Machine (a literal print-on demand machine that prints and binds a book in a few minutes.)

Say your cover price (what readers buy it for) is $15.95, like my book, The Writers Adventure Guide.

Selling on Amazon: the printer gets 32%, Amazon gets their percentage 30%, and the publisher/author, me in this case, gets 36% or $5.40.

When I sell at presentations and workshops, I sell it for $15. After the cost of printing, shipping and handling, I keep 65% or $10.18.

To give you the context, a traditional gives the author 8-10% of the cover price on most, but not all, sales, after you’ve earned back your investment.

Yes, I’m a fan of publishing your book yourself. (Traditional publishing has its place. More on that in another article.) Self-publishing, more aptly called independent publishing, is an appropriate step for many entrepreneurs, speakers, coaches and consultants who want to use their book to increase their visibility to get more clients.

Your social networks online and in-person

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks are great vehicles for letting people know about your expertise and dropping tidbits of wisdom from your book. These networks aren’t for direct sales or even direct marketing. But are for letting people get to know you, your expertise, and how you help them. It’s all about building relationships – networking.

Your in-person groups

Be a speaker in your professional association, or club. Use to find other groups in your area. Check out conferences, conventions, and speaker bureaus.

Used and independent bookstores

Be prepared to make a lot of calls and develop personal relationships with your local independent booksellers.

School and Corporate Sales

IF you’ve written a specialized book for a corporate or educational niche, investigate making bulk sales to these entities. Though you will probably sell your book at a discount off the cover price, you can sell direct to them and still make a large profit.

Gift Market

If your book is right for the gift market, check out Gift Market conferences and distributors. They get a percentage of cover price.

Book Distributors

Typically challenging to get into, though doable, specialized and regional book distributors take a portion of your sales.

When you publish your own book, or have someone help you do that, you are in change of making all the decisions. For entrepreneurs, this is usually exactly what you want.

Your readers will buy your book if it:

  1. Gives them what they want
  2. Is packaged in a way that appeals to them
  3. Is perceived as worth the investment

You can do all of the above with a clear message, an attractive cover, and a strong marketing campaign.

How do I recoup my investment?

My client asked.

The same way you grow your business, I told him. “Network. Network. Network. And sell, sell, sell.”

If you’re curious about what it might be like to publish, market and sell your book, you’re invited to give me a call or drop me an email: beth [AT] bethbarany [dot] com.

c. 2010 Beth Barany

Author of The Writer’s Adventure Guide: 12 Stages to Writing Your Book, and Overcome Writer’s Block, and editor to the recently released anthology, When I Was There: Life at Berkeley 1960-2010. She’s also a contributing author to several anthologies, including Writing Romance (and managing editor) and Creativity Coaching Success Stories. Typically Beth’s clients are aspiring authors who want to build a business around their book. She helps them get their books done and out into the world, so they can generate revenue. Beth works with clients in the US, Canada, and Europe, and gives workshops nationally and internationally. For more information, see her site:, and her blog:

**Previous TNNW articles on the Writer’s Fun Zone.

This article was originally published in The National Networker Newsletter (, and is reprinted with permission. This article may not be reproduced in whole or part without including the name of this author and an acknowledgment of the fact the article was originally published in The National Networker Newsletter ( Any other use of this material is unauthorized and is a violation of law.

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  1. July 19, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Breakfast Blogging, BethBarany and BethBarany, Beth Barany. Beth Barany said: What is the return on investment of your book? […]

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