Are you an assistant-to-authors or a do-it-yourself author? Do you include selling books to business organizations in your marketing program? You should.

By getting outside of the bookstore channel, you will have the potential of selling not just one book at a time but 1000s of books at a time. You’ll want to take advantage of these powerful strategies if you are…

Why Authors Get Frustrated with Book Sales: The Bookstore Trap – Boxes of Books with Nowhere to Go

If the author is like most, the process of writing and getting the book published was a painful experience, whether it was self-published, the author was able to get a traditional publisher or opted for a print-on-demand publisher. It took far longer and far more effort than was ever imagined it would.

Next the author may have experienced the “post-partum blues,” the separation anxiety that comes with the book finally being “delivered,” a vague empty feeling.

After the author got his or her life back to some semblance of normalcy, the day came when they fully confronted a realization. The books aren’t selling in any significant numbers. The author has boxes of books sitting in the garage or basement, the office, a warehouse somewhere. Sure, a few books have been sold at events, or a dozen here and there at book signings and such. But at that pace, the author in the storage business more than she is in the practice-building business!

The author begins musing, “What is the point of creating a book to help people and to promote yourself if nobody ever sees it? What’s the point of taking time away from my clients or other work to do book signings, only to sell a mere dozen or so books per event?”

Since the books aren’t going to sell themselves, the author may have made some efforts to figure out the book marketing and distribution business to try to break into bookstores, only to find it all archaic, complex and frustrating. She may even have gotten into a bookstore or two. But the books didn’t move, because nobody knows the books are there.

“I don’t have time for this!” the author probably exclaimed at some point. “This is not how I want to spend my life!”

But the reality is, if book sales are to be, it’s up to the author.

Welcome to the Bookstore Trap.

You’re not alone. The vast majority of authors have a disappointing publishing experience. At The Book Standard Summit 2005, Nielsen Bookscan reported that 93% of the books sold at retail in 2004 sold less than 1000 copies!

Self-publishers don’t do as well. Overall, the average self-published book sells around 250 copies! (Granted, it allowed them to get their book published when it probably wouldn’t have been published otherwise. )

The problem is that most authors and independent publishers focus almost exclusively on trying to get their books into bookstores. Even if you’re initially successful in passing muster, if your marketing efforts don’t drive people to the bookstore to buy your book in significant numbers within the first 30 days or so, the books are going to be returned. Bookstores return some 60% of all books they order!!!

But There is Good News

Here’s the fact that I’m asking you to focus on to break out of the less-than-1000-copies bookstore sales trap: According to a Feb 2005 report from the Association of American Publishers, of the $23.7 billion of books sold in 2004, only 45% were sold through bookstores, the most competitive and challenging-to-penetrate channel for selling books. That means that non-bookstore outlets account for more book sales than bookstores!!!

So, if you learn how NOT to be dependent on bookstores for sales, you’re tapping into the majority of the book market (55%)!!!

So, What’s the Answer?

One of the most powerful strategies for tapping into the non-bookstore market is selling large quantities of books to organizations for use as incentives, the billion-dollar book portion of the $46 billion business gifts and incentives market.

The what? The incentives marketplace is that part of non-bookstore sales comprised of organizations – corporations, associations, charities, etc. – that buy books to use as a incentive (gift ) for customers and prospects or as an incentive to employees or channel partners. (Some people use the term “premiums” to differentiate the merchandise portion of incentives. That is, to distinguish merchandise from cash, travel, etc.) When these organizations buy a book, they order it by the 1000’s, the 10’s of thousands, even the 100’s of thousands.

A study conducted by the Incentive Marketing Association ( among a broad spectrum of companies revealed that 82% of them used merchandise or travel as incentives. Even more significant, they reported an 80% success rate in achieving their goals.

Are Your Clients’ Books or Your Book a Candidate for Incentive Sales?

If your non-fiction book provides quality how-to information, if it inspires or entertains, if it’s well designed and put-together, it’s a candidate. Any corporation, association or other non-profit which has target audiences that match those of your book, and whose management feels your book reflects positively on its brand values, are potential candidates.

How Big are Incentive Deals, Really?

Are all the deals that big?


The Average Size of Deals

According to, most of the sales of books as incentives start at a quantity of 5,000 books and goes up from there. That’s at least 5,000 people benefiting from having your expertise in their hands and each of them telling probably 5+ other people about it.

And if you personally made a net profit – after production and shipping costs, which the buyer covers – of $2 a book, that’s $10,000

$2 a book = $20,000

$4 a book = $40,000

And what if they wanted 30,000 copies of your book or more? Such deals are happening all year long.

So, Giving Things to Customers is Pretty Much How Organizations Use Incentives?

There’s a real “whew” list of ways. In a 2003 study by Louisiana State University and Glenrich Business Studies, 2000 randomly selected promotional product distributors ranked usage of promotional products in different types of programs as follows:


So, How Big are the Benefits to the Author of Selling to This Market?

You be the judge:

So with Many Benefits to Authors, and It Being Such a Big Market, Why Isn’t the Market Better Known to Authors and Independent Publishers?

Why Do Organizations Like Using Books as Incentives?

Lots of good reasons:

Are Incentives Sales Beneficial Regardless of How You Managed to Get Published?

Yes, with qualifications:

At that above bulk price of $7, you’d make an average of 10% of the $7.00 or $.70 per book. You’d make $3500 on the sale of the 5000 books. The publisher would keep the bulk of the profit.

Still, $3500 from that one deal is a whole lot more than the average author makes from his or her entire sales of a book. Plus you get the exposure.

If you used a digital, print-on-demand publisher (meaning it’s under their ISBN number), it all depends on the discount and royalty arrangement that’s in your publishing agreement. You’re at a significant disadvantage because you’re locked into the publisher’s relatively high, one-off digital printing structure and a relatively small royalty or commission.

Typically, you can’t offer as attractive a bulk discount price to the buyer because most POD publishing agreements don’t anticipate bulk sales and don’t offer deep discounts for high quantity printing. But again, you’re making more money than you were, and you’re getting exposure.

Note: check with your POD publisher. Some will broker quantity printing to an offset printer for you. But find out what they charge for same and if they’ll make an exception to your royalty arrangement.

If You Employed an Outside Publisher Will He Go along with This Program?

Most publishers are absolutely giddy at the news of a quantity sale of books. In fact, want to know a secret? Independent publishers of non-fiction books are often interested in our book sales program for themselves! (You could even plant the seed.)

After all, on one knows better than they do that the average book sells only 200 – 300 copies or so. They want to recover their investment in your book and make some money.

If you publisher balks at you’re doing this program for some strange reason, have him read this page or our FAQs. See what you can negotiate. If s/he still balks for some strange reason, look for a new publisher next time around.

What Are Your Options for Marketing to the Books-as-Incentives Marketplace?

One thing is for sure. Just one incentive program sale can pay the author big financial dividends and catapult his or her career like few other avenues can.