You’ll Never Get Rich Selling Books—But You Can Do This Instead
It’s possible to make a lot of money from selling a book, but only if you approach it the right way.
This is the wrong way: “How do I sell a lot of books?”
This is the right way: “How do I use my book as a marketing tool to make money?”
Aren’t those two things the same? Isn’t selling books the same as using a book to make money?
Absolutely not. In fact, focusing on book sales is usually the worst way to make money from a book.
The best way to make money from a book is NOT selling copies.
The best way is to use your book as a marketing tool that helps you promote something else that makes you money.
1. It’s Hard to Sell Book Copies
A fact of life: it’s nearly impossible to sell a significant number of copies of a book.
Last year, there were about 300,000 new books published in America. BookScan, the company that measures all book sales, says that only about 200 books per year sell 100,000 copies or more. The number of books that sold 1 million copies last year is even fewer, probably close to ten (and almost all of those were novels).
And virtually no book sells better than that. The list of books that have sold 10 million copies in history is so small there’s a Wikipedia page about them. What’s even worse is that you can’t charge enough for books to generate good revenue. The highest you can charge is about $25, give or take. Even the greatest book ever written, if priced higher than that, won’t get picked up. People have a low limit on their perceived value of books.
There is only one group of people who must focus on how many copies they sell: professional writers (novelists, fiction writers, etc). They need to worry about selling copies of books because book sales are their main source for making money! They don’t have anything else to sell but a copy of the book.
But this is not true for most authors.
2. If Your Book Is a Marketing Tool for Something Else, It’s Easy to Make Money
Once you stop thinking about book sales and start thinking about a book as a way to sell something else, everything changes. This is how we advise our clients to look at books:
A book is a multi-purpose marketing tool with unique and special abilities to create attention you can turn into sales.
For entrepreneurs, professionals, and other business people—those who own companies, are experts in their field, and have some other activity they get paid for like speaking, consulting, or coaching—the book itself creates attention. That attention is the means to selling other, larger opportunities that can be VERY profitable.
Great example: Our first client was a woman named Melissa Gonzalez. She did a book with us called The Pop Up Paradigm. She estimates she’s made nearly 1 million dollars from the book.
Do you want to hear what’s even crazier? She did it selling LESS than 1,000 copies.
How? By writing it primarily to raise her visibility and generate authority for her and her business, and it worked exactly the way she intended.
Melissa is one of the world’s premier experts in a very niche space (pop-up retail). Not many people care about books on retail, so focusing on selling copies was a losing strategy from the start. There just wasn’t a large audience.
Instead, she focused on reaching the decision makers in the retail space—the types of people who would hire her as a consultant. She did this by focusing her book on how the new techniques she pioneered in pop-up retail could help stagnating retail businesses. She shared her knowledge and expertise; and because her book was the first one that deeply explored this topic, she became the recognized expert in this niche field.
Her book tripled the inbound leads for her consulting business, and she signed a multi-million-dollar contract with one of the largest mall companies in America to create and implement their pop-up strategy. All because of her book.
It was a marketing tool intended to get attention for her from a very specific set of people, and it worked.
That’s the point: when you see a book as a marketing tool for promoting something else, then the possibilities for making money are much greater.
There are so many examples of this. Another is John Ruhlin.
John owns The Ruhlin Group, a gift strategy and logistics company. He was well known as a corporate gift-giving expert, but it wasn’t until he teamed up with Scribe to write Giftology that he really saw the financial impact of a book on his career.
Within one year he tripled his speaking fee and signed on 15 new speaking gigs at the higher fee ($20k). He also signed dozens of new clients, both directly from the book and through clients he met during his speaking engagements.
The fact is, if you are a professional with a presence in your field, it’s almost impossible for a book to not raise your visibility, increase your authority, lead to media appearances and new clients, and enable you to get paid speaking gigs.
It’s easy to see a book as an investment and make money from it, as long as you don’t focus on selling copies.
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