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Once you have your book in the shops through one means or another, you sit back and wait for the orders and/or cheques to roll in. They won't of course. Even if you have a wholesaler or distributor selling your book, there is nobody better able to market and promote it like yourself.

This section consists of my top tips for maximising the sales, revenue and profit from your book.

Minimum order quantity

Many bookshops automate the replenishment of titles. This means that every time a copy is sold the computer orders another - often through the TeleOrdering system. Then you get orders for one copy at a time, which is the most expensive way of supplying - from a postage point of view. If you introduce a minimum order quantity this has several effects. First of all it reduces the unit cost of postage, second it replaces each one copy with two more and in theory this means that the number on the shelf of the bookshop will increase over time, not decrease.

Email shots, Mail shots and Fax blasts

I have not convinced myself that these pay for themselves but they do generate orders in varying quantities. Most bookshop websites list addresses and even phone and fax numbers. It is fairly straightforward to set up a single page email or fax on your computer and send it out. Email tends to be free and seems to generate more response as it goes direct to the manager or someone sensible.

Email top tips

  • Put all the address in the 'bcc' field (Blind Carbon Copy) or else each bookshop you send the email to will see that it has gone to all bookshops.
  • Keep it short and to the point
  • Think about what you want the bookshop manager to do after reading your note:
    • Provide information on how to order - phone, fax, TeleOrder, Wholesaler name
    • Provide enough bibliographic data for them to be able to identify the book (ISBN, Title etc)
    • Use a special offer - extra % off seems to do the trick
    • Limit the offer to a certain time - e.g. for the next month/week etc
  • Ask someone else to read it before you hit send and look for obvious errors
  • Spell check it and make sure it reads professionally and not like spam.

Email seems to be a good way to talk direct to individual bookshop managers - they can't refuse to read an email, you know it goes to them and not the part time Saturday staff and it enables you to send individual notes to shops that are particularly important to you. Of course, those that do not have email will mean you have to revert to cold calling, which most people don't like to do.

You'll find when you do cold call that many people will be a bit off with you and unhelpful. However don't be put off; ask who the correct contact is, if you don't think you have the right one, and try again. There are really nice people in the book selling business and once you have built up a relationship you will find it gets easier.

Mail shot top tips

  • Create a single A4 page flyer on your computer.
  • Keep it short and to the point
  • Make the offer or call to action obvious
  • Don't use too many words - it will read easier with some space
  • Include pictures - at least a cover of your book
  • Think about what you want the bookshop manager to do after reading your note:
    • Provide information on how to order - phone, fax, TeleOrder, Wholesaler name
    • Provide enough bibliographic data for them to be able to identify the book (ISBN, Title etc)
    • Use a special offer - extra % off seems to do the trick
    • Limit the offer to a certain time - e.g. for the next month/week etc
    • Enable the page to be faxed back to you with a tick and some minimal info to enable them to place an order; Shop name, contact name, phone number, quantity required.
  • Ask someone else to read it before you hit send and look for obvious errors
  • Spell check it and make sure it reads professionally
  • Try and address the mailer to a generic but accurate contact in the shop - e.g. Humour Buyer.
  • The Publishers Association sells label lists of bookshops based on different criteria
  • Alternatively look up bookshops on the web based yellow pages and create your own list - this is the free option but takes much more time.
  • The danger of mail shots is that they will just go in the bin and potentially not reach the right person.

Fax blast top tips

  • Create a single A4 page flyer on your computer.
  • Keep it short and to the point
  • Make the offer or call to action obvious
  • Don't use too many words - it will read easier with some space
  • Include pictures - at least a cover of your book
  • Think about what you want the bookshop manager to do after reading your note:
    • Provide information on how to order - phone, fax, TeleOrder, Wholesaler name
    • Provide enough bibliographic data for them to be able to identify the book (ISBN, Title etc)
    • Use a special offer - extra % off seems to do the trick
    • Limit the offer to a certain time - e.g. for the next month/week etc
    • Enable the page to be faxed back to you with a tick and some minimal info to enable them to place an order; Shop name, contact name, phone number, quantity required.
  • Ask someone else to read it before you hit send and look for obvious errors
  • Spell check it and make sure it reads professionally
  • Try and address the fax to a generic but accurate contact in the shop - e.g. Humour Buyer.
  • You can fax each page yourself - this is time consuming and heartless work. But cheap.
  • There are bulk fax companies on the web that allow you to upload your file and they will fax them out for you for a fee.
  • The danger of faxes is that they will just go in the bin and potentially not reach the right person.

Book Fair

The London Book Fair is an excellent place to go to meet other small publishers, large ones, the distributors and wholesalers and other people from the trade. If you buy your tickets on their web site you save a few pounds and I'd recommend a visit if possible.

All the other bookshops

There are lots of bookshop chains in the UK as well as the smaller individual outlets. Many of the individual outlets seem to buy from Bertrams or Whitakers but I have found that they will buy direct and also haggle less. They will go for 30% and 30 days, I always offer Sales or Return as I have had very few returns so far.

Make a list of the shops you want to go after - both online and offline. You need to be quite organised as before long you will forget who belongs to which shops, what you said, when you spoke and so on. Keep a log by shop of what you did, when, who you spoke to and what the action was. Here are the main ones:

Shipping overseas

As well as the need to set up cost effective shipping within the UK, if you manage to sell your title to speciality bookshops in the US or other countries then you are going to need to find a way to get your books there without costing £100 a case that the Post Office will charge you. There are several shipping companies around who specialise in books. They tend to deal in whole cases and combine several customers into pallet loads that they ship around the world on containers. They then handle import/export for you and get the package to your customer at the other end.

For example, using specialist shippers, the US can cost around £25-£30 for a case that would cost about £100 using Parcelforce. It takes about 3-4 weeks to get from door to door though these folks will often collect from you. If they won't then you need to add the cost of carriage within the UK from you to the shipper you use.

Some shippers I have used:

Other Useful Links

Case Study

I spent a lot of time with email shots, faxes and mail shots. They have all been around a special offer - I usually give them 1 book free for every ten ordered. This is the same as an extra 10% discount but on quantities of 10 I save that much in postage so it really is cost effective. One or two shops have returned a few copies that they received using the offer so I keep a note and simply accept the return but do not refund them for the free copy.

Email seems to be the best approach. Try not to make them look like spam - follow the instructions above and you will receive responses. I tend to give them the opportunity to 'opt out' and then I do not mail them again. Once a shop has responded by email I try and send them individual emails next time that refer to our previous dealings. That way the email is more personal and more likely to get a positive response.

Faxes have been expensive but have generated some response. My fear is that most of them do not reach the person I'd like them to and simply end up in the bin.

I have not tried mail shots as I think they are too much admin and unlikely to work.

Smaller bookshops seem more friendly and willing to discuss terms with you, though sometimes they will say they only buy from Gardners, in which case you need to make sure your book is in stock at their supplier. Follow up conversations like that with a mailer or fax that highlights your fab book and says it's in stock at Gardners or wherever.

The US market is quite nasty for us Brits and very different. The main problem is that bookshops are allowed to order as many books as they like from you, then change their minds, rip the covers off, return the covers and get a full refund. This is called the Returns process. In the UK, the Returns process is much more honourable. The bookshop writes to you and requests that you accept a return, if you agree they send them carefully back to you to resell. The whole thing is much more civilised.

So there are only two minor ways that I've found to get into the US market:

  1. Amazon.com Advantage (and a friend)

    To join the US Amazon programme you need a US address and a US bank account. Or a friend who has these things and lives in the US. I have joined up with a lady who runs and online Brit shop and she very kindly handles the Amazon orders in return for free advertising on my site. I sell the books to her and she sells them to Amazon. It doesn't make either of us much money but it improves the presence and credibility of the book in the US.

  2. Specialist bookshops

    Using the web I have made contact with many small Brit shops in the US. Due the costs of postage I have to send them whole cases of 64 books (your quantity will depend on the shape and size of your book). Those who are happy with this do quite well. In the US these guys are used to getting 50% off so you can see that with the printing and postage costs there is not much in it but since I print 5000 copies at a time it's still worth £100 a case profit to me in most cases.

I have started to use the Global Book Network people as they only charge £25 including collection from my home - right to the door of the customer in the US. I found them at the London Book Fair - which is why I recommend visiting it.

Finally, I'd say that the most success comes from the most hard work. Think around all the outlets for your book, make the calls, do the deals, make the sales. You will find that the more you put in, the more you get out and it can be very rewarding.

Good luck!

 
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