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More on the economics of the self-published book

June 13, 2012
by seth godin

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For books under $20 (which means just about all ebooks), all that matters is volume. Not margin, but volume.

A book in the hand of a reader is far more likely to lead to another book sold. Bestsellers become bestsellers largely because lots of other people are already reading them. I know that sounds silly and self-referential, but it reflects the social nature of books. We like to read what others are reading.

So, if you sacrifice half your volume so you can make twice as much on every copy sold, you’ve done nothing smart.

Second, for more and more authors, the book is a calling card. It leads to a movie deal or a speaking gig, or another book contract, or consulting, or respect, or a better class of cocktail party. Which means that the true margin on each book is more of these external benefits, not the dollar or three made on each copy.

Yes, you can make a living writing books. But you either need to write a lot of them (Asimov wrote 400) or sell a bunch of each title. Even better–make a margin on each book that has nothing to do with the selling price. The price of the book and the profit margin made on each book are secondary to this goal of making a dent in the conversation among your chosen audience.

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