The power of bulk sales (Building a Book IV)

The power of bulk sales (Building a Book IV)

A few years ago, I self-published What To Do When It’s Your Turn. We now have more than 150,000 copies in print. That’s amazing for a book that lists for $32, is in color and is hardly a traditional business book. It’s not sold in stores, and is rarely found on Amazon.

How did it become a bestseller?

The biggest amplifier of the success of the book is the way I chose to price and ship it. More than a third of the book’s sales have been to people who bought ten or more copies at a time. Each of these people bought a few, then a few more, then a bunch.

Arithmetic is on the side of the publisher who can embrace the power of bulk sales. When a reader finds that a book resonates, she can invest in buying more copies and give them away. And books that are given away are books that get read.

It’s worth pausing for a second to consider the significant shift that this represents. Traditional publishers have always been wary of bulk sales. It’s so difficult to figure out that an entire company (our friends at 8CR) is devoted to making it easier. The traditional model is that a bookstore might sell 50 copies of your book. Or that a particularly successful PR match might lead to a TV show or radio appearance that sells 1,000. But the thinking is that the middlemen are stores and media outlets.

But what if instead, the middlemen are your readers and fans?

Traditional bestseller lists work hard to avoid bulk sales. They don’t count as ‘real’ apparently.

But the author’s goals are different. The author merely wants to spread the word. Lists are for groceries.

Cat Hoke’s new book, A Second Chance, is about forgiveness. It’s not just a memoir, but a call to action for each of us, a chance to change the way we engage… not just with criminal justice, but with each other.

As the voluntary publishers of her book, we’re counting on bulk sales from individuals and organizations to replace the book media that used to exist but is now missing for most authors. By encouraging people to buy five or ten or fifty books for their organizations, we accomplish three things:

1. Most important, we give the reader’s organization a new vocabulary. When a team reads a book at the same time, they change in sync. They develop new words, new approaches and new cohesion. I’ve seen this happen firsthand with The Dip and Purple Cow.

2. The Proustian magic of the book format carries far more weight than an email or a video can. Handing someone a book is a respectful act, the way to open a door of possibility.

3. Priming Amazon’s pump with a significant number of bulk pre-orders ensures that we won’t run out of stock on pub date at the end of February.

Here’s a preview galley of the first thirty pages of the book.

We’ve donated 20,000 copies of the hardcover to Defy so that every copy sold generates nothing but contribution to their important work. My hope is that Defy’s supporters, plus readers of this blog will step up and invest in ten or twenty books for their friends and family. Thanks to Pamela Slim and Marketing Over Coffee for getting us started. I know that it’s a stretch, particularly for a book you haven’t read yet, but I’m hoping the galley will help you see the power of what Cat and her team are building.

You can check out the book (in hardcover and Kindle, and soon audio) here. Thank you.