Saturday, August 15, 2009

How Many Books to Order Up

You’ve decided to write and publish your book, you’ve even managed to find a publishing method that works for you—great, you’ve made it this far. But your publisher won’t be the only one responsible for selling your books; much of this will fall on you. If you are traditionally published, your publisher will give you some copies, but expect you to purchase additional ones at your own expense. P.O.D. publishers often state they will be promoting and selling your books for you; this is just never totally true. You should expect to have several books on hand at all times. Remember, regardless of common belief, books really do sell “just one-at-a-time.”

So how many books will you need on hand?

Ask yourself these questions:

Will I be attending fairs where I will be selling my books directly to the public?

Will I be responsible for selling and “shipping” my own books?

Will “I” be the one selling and delivering my books directly to book stores?

How many copies will I be giving as gifts or using as review copies?

How many books will my friends and family be purchasing?

If you are a self-publisher and printing your own books, be careful of how many copies you initially order. Book printers offer great deals on large quantities of books. For instance, you may pay $8 per copy if you order only 100 (hard to make a profit). But if you order 500, the price may be cut in half. Then if you double the order number again, the copy price could be drastically less per copy, making it very tempting to order more than you will need. A new author may order 2,000 books to save money but end up with a closet full of books collecting dust (I can show you mine from my very first book order—dusty!).

The average self-published author sells less than 200 copies of their book. Better to make a little less profit than be stuck with excess copies for your grandkids (you just won’t have that many grandkids).

Find out how much your book will cost to print and ship using the calculator at

Authors, give us your input to share with newbie’s by using the comment section below.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Always order less books than you think you'll sell! For every author who does hand-sell 1000, there's probably 100,000 others with 900 occupying their dining room table.

My rule of thumb is order half of what you think you'll sell, especially with quantities over 500. And with the economy in its current condition, reduce that number even further.

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

Sheila Deeth said...

I guess my rule of thumb would be to start with the minimum order to get the "first" deal offered by the publisher (tends to be 25 with Lulu). Then add on whatever pre-sales you can get from your friends and family, so you really have all those books to sell to strangers. Then hope and pray.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

I agree. Order the bare minimum whether self publishing or otherwise. You can always order more. Begin with family and friends then branch out to local bookstores, cafes, readings and festivals.

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Morgan Mandel said...

It depends on what you can afford.
I plan on keeping 100 copies of every book I've had published on hand, just so I have them in case they somehow become unavailable. I also bring my backlist with me to signings.

I ordered 300 of Killer Career, which seems a safe enough amount for the beginning, especially since I needed many just for sending out for reviews and those I wouldn't charge money to, such as my brothers, my father-in-law, best friend, etc.

I've got some flea markets and craft fairs coming up, plus visits to small stores in Wisconsin on vacation.

I'll see how the sales go and decide on my next order.

Morgan Mandel

koe said...

Great advice everyone. Thank you so much.

Vikram Narayan said...

Thanks for the useful information.
Just to add to this ... Sometime ago, I ran into a self-published author who was attempting to sell me her self-published book and this made me feel uncomfortable.
An easier approach for her would have been to give me an extract of her book as a free, give-away with ordering information inside the book. I'm not sure how much this would cost, but it would have made me feel grateful for the giveaway, I would have thanked her and possibly even made a purchase. So one approach for a self-published author might be to budget for a brief extract or sample (possibly the front cover, back cover and a few pages from inside the book + ordering information) and give it away at parties, events, etc.
On the web this is a lot easier with online book-marketing tools, widgets etc.

Hope this helps.

Vikram Narayan
Free, Online Book-Marketing Technology for Authors

book publishing said...

Really good advice, particularly for the newbie writer who is finding their feet in the industry.