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  • Writer's pictureSheri McGuinn

How many books should I order?

Unsold books are money lost.
Unsold Books = $$$ Lost

How many books should you order?

You don’t want to end up with boxes of books you’ll never sell. Aside from the cost, it’s depressing to see them. So be realistic. Most books sell less than five hundred copies over their lifetime. You won’t need anywhere near that many! Many or most people will end up buying your book online, where you’re not the one collecting and reporting sales tax. You’ll just get royalty checks. However, there are times you may want to do direct sales.

Questions to ask:

  • How many people have requested signed copies from you? Make sure you charge enough to cover postage and your time.

  • How many book signings have you set up and how many people can you expect to show up? If it’s a venue where they regularly host signings, ask for a typical number of sales, not attendees.

  • Ask who’s doing the advertising. If you are a skilled self-promoter, you’ll sell more books than the person who leaves it up to the venue.

  • How much money can you afford to tie up in copies, for how long?

One of the many nice things about true POD operations is that you should pay the same price per book no matter how many you order. (Shipping cost per book will go down with larger orders because that’s how shipping works, but the printing cost should stay the same.) If the company you’re using gives you great discounts on large quantities, it's a predatory company. Get out if you can as soon as you can.

It’s better to have people see your book as a sought-after item than see boxes of leftover books. If you run out of copies, have cards with the link to purchase on them and take names and addresses if they want to get signed copies directly from you. (This also builds a contact list.)

So, order just a few books more than you know you can sell.

The one exception to this is if you’re going with traditional printing, where they have to do runs of 500 or 1000 books. If you’ve set up your marketing ahead of time and know you’ll sell that many books – great! You’ll pay less per book than those of us using POD. But most books don’t sell that many copies, so POD is a great option for most of us. If you end up with a best seller, if you are the publisher and you haven’t signed a predatory agreement, you can do a traditional print run and give the buyers a discount.

So back to doing your research. Keep all rights to your book – your copyright, your ISBN, you as publisher – so whatever company you use, they are simply the printer and distributor.

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