Category Archives: Books / Writing

Getting stocked in bookshops

I am just about to publish a new book and among the many decisions to be made, I am once again pondering the matter of the trade discount. Anyone who has been through the self-publishing process will be well aware of this dilemma. Do I offer a ‘standard’ trade discount of 45%-55% or shall I just keep the discount to a minimum and hope for the best?

The thing is, if you want to have any chance of getting your book into bookshops such as Waterstones, you really need to be thinking along the lines of a 55% discount. Remember, your book will likely be distributed via a wholesaler/distributor such as Gardners or Bertrams (in the UK at least) and they will take their margin out of this 55%. The distributor’s share will probably be a minimum of 20% which leaves just 35% for the bookshop. If you offer a minimal trade discount of, say, 35%, these calculations will leave just 15% for the retailer, which is not particularly appealing.

Although they may not admit it, any retailer with half a business brain is going to be swayed by the available profit margin on a given book, regardless of how good the actual book is. Bookshops have limited space and if they have the choice between sticking a book on the shelf which will make them £2.80 or one which makes them £1.20, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out which one they will pick. Even if the ‘£1.20 of profit’ book is superb, there are plenty of new books published every month which should make it an easy task to find an equally superb product which will return £2.80 of profit.

Unfortunately, even if you are happy to offer an industry-standard discount of 55%, it won’t work for most self-published authors as the cost of printing small numbers of books will mean that there simply isn’t room for this level of discount. For example, let’s take our £7.99 paperback example. Take the 55% discount off and you are left with a wholesale price of £3.60. Unfortunately, the printing cost, assuming a page count of 300, will be in the region of £3.50 – £4.00. Thus, the lucky author will make somewhere between 10p profit and a 40p loss per book. Terrific!

The alternative option would be to do as a regular publisher would do and pay to have a couple of thousand books printed up, thus reducing the print cost considerably, in the hope that you can then persuade bookshops to stock them. But this pushes the price of publishing a new title up from next to nothing to several thousand pounds. It also means that you could be stuck with box-loads of books if you fail to sell them into retailers.

Of course, offering a generous discount in no way guarantees that any bookshop will take your offering – it’s just one step on the path to being stocked. Bookshops also like the option of being able to return books when they don’t sell. For the self-published author, returns can get very expensive, very quickly. Not only will you pay for the book to be printed but you will also pay for it to be returned. If you ask for returned copies to be returned to you, you will be charged postage and a handling fee. Even if you agree that returns can be destroyed, there might still be an additional cost involved. In a nutshell, returns generally aren’t great for self-published authors.

All in all, I have come to the conclusion that, as a self-published author, it simply isn’t worth pricing books with the sole intention of getting them into bookshops. There is more than enough opportunity to sell online if one is prepared to make the effort. There are plenty of advantages to self-publishing: control, speed of getting a book to market, flexibility and so on. There are also a few downsides and the difficulty in getting your publication into a bookshop is one such negative but I suspect it is a negative that most will be able to live with. At the end of the day, you only really have two other options: cut your own profit drastically (and risk taking a loss on some sales) or spend a few years trying to get a traditional publisher to take on your book and hope that they can get it into the retailers for you. Neither appeals to me.

Latest book now available!

distinctly-average-entrepreneur-642x1024When I started writing ‘Distinctly Average Entrepreneur’ last year, it was my intention to have it written, edited and published by Christmas (last Christmas). That didn’t happen. I set a new target date for Easter but a burst pipe and subsequent trashing of my house meant that I missed that deadline too. But I’m pleased to announce, that just six or so months after my intended publication date, ‘Distinctly Average Entrepreneur’ is now available for purchase…

The book is a kind of humorous business biography and covers numerous entrepreneurial ventures undertaken by me, my mum and one of my best friends. It certainly isn’t a boring business book and I think that anyone interested in business should find something of interest. There are plenty of business failures, as well as quite a few success stories. I’ve also included a few tips and hints which should help any budding entrepreneur along the way.

DAE was an enjoyable book to write as it reminded me of the sheer number of business ideas I have tried over the years. Like most entrepreneurs, it wasn’t just a case of rolling out one idea and making an instant fortune (actually I’m still waiting for the fortune to arrive but if you read the book, you will see that I am less focused on this aspect of business nowadays).

Anyway, you can find out more about ‘Distinctly Average Entrepreneur’ by clicking here. The book is available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. Enjoy!

Time for another book?

It’s been a couple of months now since I published ‘One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure‘ and it continues to sell well, so much so in fact, that I am about to start bashing out another book.

I almost wrote the book I am about to start before I wrote ‘One Day Ahead’ but friends and family convinced me to go with the Tour de France-related story first because they thought it would make a good read. Turns out that they were right but now that it’s done, I’d like to get started on my original idea.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in numerous businesses – some big, some small but all a learning experience. My mum has also been involved in a fair few ventures and so has one of my best mates. It occurred to me some time ago that a light-hearted business biography covering the entrepreneurial escapades of the three of us might make for an interesting read and this is the basic outline I am starting with.

To be honest, I have no idea how this idea will develop; I’m not sure if the book will become a ‘how to’ type product or just a humorous read or maybe something completely different. The thing with writing something like this is that you don’t actually know what you’ve got until you’ve finished. Just like in business, writing a book means taking a risk and gambling something. The risk may or may not pay off in as much as the book may or may not sell. The one advantage though of writing a book over, say, setting up a new shop, is that writing costs next to nothing financially. The only real cost is time. So, as I have done many times before, I will be gambling my time to produce something which may or may not be worthwhile. In this respect, writing a book is no different to setting up a new website, creating an info-product or buying something to sell on eBay. It’s all a game of risk and reward. I’ll risk my time and hopefully a few sales will be my reward (oh, and some nice comments from happy readers too!)

Watch this space for more updates. In my head I would like to have this latest book ready for publication by Christmas but I think this may be a tad optimistic. Early next year is probably more likely…

New book: ‘One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure’

It has been a while since I put pen to paper to write anything longer than the odd article or quick email newsletter – the last eBook I published was the second part of my ‘Making it Happen’ story in 2006. Even calling this eBook a ‘book’ is a stretch since it ran to just a hundred or so pages. Earlier this year I decided it was time to start bashing the typewriter keys once more and after several months of writing, editing, proof-reading, re-writing and obsessing over commas, semi-colons, paragraphs and chapters, I have now published my latest book…

One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure

‘One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure’ covers a three week period of my life, which, in many ways, I would be happy to forget! In short, a very good friend of mine decided in 2012 that he would like to cycle the entire Tour de France route (some 3,500km) and he would like to do it while the actual Tour de France race was in progress. The plan being to ride one day ahead of the professionals. I got roped in to provide support and to drive one of two team motorhomes.

I had been persuaded to provide support for similar events previously but never for a three week period. I knew on day one that it was going to be a tough gig and I also knew that I (and my fellow supporters) were in for three weeks of hard graft, while the cyclists had a lovely time meandering around the French countryside.

‘One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure’ tells the story of our trip from my point of view – not much cycling and a fair bit of grumpy old man style moaning. I hope it’s a light-hearted and easy-going read which won’t be taken too seriously and might save a few people from falling into a similar situation!

Available now in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

How to publish an eBook without writing a word

There are many, many advantages to selling eBooks online, not least the fact that once the eBook is written, the sales and delivery process can be automated so that as the seller, there is literally nothing for you to do when you make a sale.  To illustrate this point, I have sold over 15,000 copies of the above eBooks since I first wrote them but other than carrying out an update every few months, these products now don’t involve me in any work whatsoever.

Of course, one of the main disadvantages of selling your own eBook is the fact that you have to write it in the first place!  The vast majority of people are probably not natural writers and even those that do have the ability often find it very difficult to sit down and bash out an entire eBook that is of a good enough quality to sell.  I have written several eBooks myself but I do find it hard work.  In fact, I have probably started and abandoned far more eBooks than I have actually completed – I get bored very easily.

It isn’t just eBooks that people struggle to write – the same goes for ‘normal’ paper books.  I have some experience of the process that a new book goes through before it reaches the bookshops and regardless of the quality of the author’s draft, it will usually be reviewed by an editor who will often re-write large parts of the book.  In fact, sometimes the entire book will be written by a third party rather than the person that actually has their name on the cover as the author.  This is regularly the case with biographies – after all, just because someone is famous or has a story to tell, it doesn’t mean they can write a book.

You may already see where I am going with this and many of you will have already worked out that these third parties that write books for the author are often referred to as ghostwriters.  But did you know that ghostwriting is becoming more and more popular in the eBook industry?

Many info-product creators are now opening their eyes to the opportunities offered by ghostwriters and are realising that it is perfectly possible to get someone else to research and write an eBook for them for just a few hundred dollars.  Not only does this save an incredible amount of time but it also means that you don’t have to write a single word if you don’t want to. 

Look at it like this, let’s say you hire someone to research and write your eBook at a cost of $500.  In addition, you get someone to write the sales copy for your web page at a cost of $200.  You now have a complete new product for just $700.  A new product that you can sell over and over again and retain all of the profits for yourself.  Using ghostwriters it is perfectly possible to build up a large portfolio of products in a relatively short time period – certainly much faster than if you were to write the eBooks yourself.  You can even have eBooks written about subjects that you know very little about since you can pay the ghostwriter to do the research for you.

Because of the incredibly high profit margins available with eBooks, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that big-name Internet marketing gurus are starting to use ghostwriters to help build up their product portfolios.  And given the ease at which you can hire a ghostwriter, there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider this option too.

One of the most popular ways of hiring a ghostwriter is via the eLance website.  At the time of writing, a search for ‘ghostwriter’ brought up 198 different individuals/businesses that would be happy to consider quoting to write your next eBook.  If you are interested in learning more about having a ghostwriter turn your idea into an eBook, do have a browse through the eLance site.