I'm just about to launch my own book (in December) and I'm looking at selling options. I know you sell your books directly off your website, and I've been wanting to do the same, but I wasn't sure exactly how the process works. I've heard if you sell them yourself, you get to keep 100% of the profits, as opposed to letting people go through Amazon and lose a huge cut.
So I'm guessing you just buy up your own books from Amazon (or where ever yours come from) and then resell your stock through your website? Do I have to have a license or anything to resell them? And do you have any wisdom on how to system the process out? I want to be as wise about it as I can from the start. If you could go back and tell your start-up self anything, what advice would you give?
Thank you for this wonderful question, Annie. I'd give myself one word of advice.
LEARN HOW TO SELL YOUR BOOKS YOURSELF.
This is precisely what I'm doing right now, not relying on Amazon or any other shiny online place that distributes books (yes!) but can change the rules of the game any time they want (no!), so you're really at their mercy. Which is kind of like having a job and believing you have security. You have none. You're disposable material and can be let go of at any time, for no reason. The only way to be secure in your job is selling your product yourself, whatever it is you sell for a living: dead fish, stolen neighbor's cats, flowers that suck the blood out of those who dare to sniff them...you know, lovely things people can't live without.
How to go about? Just like you would go about setting up any other business.
Having an online store (and going places to set up tables and sell your books in person) and tracking every single customer, and following up with every single customer, and asking every single customer to buy more of your books as new ones come out, and so on (also, I buy my book stock directly from CreateSpace, not from Amazon). In other words, growing your tribe and making millions and living happily every after. Yes, you can do this. Why? Because I told you so. Because I'm doing it right now. Although I'm only in the beginning stages, I'm growing fast and I'll show you all my secrets. So stick with me, darlings. Good things to come.
Anyway. Back to selling.
Remember how in the previous post I said, to start changing your thinking toward selling you have to start asking questions? That was Step 1. Here comes Step 2. Ready?
Let your reader talk themselves into the sale.
If you do this right, you won't even have to ask for a sale. Your readers will talk themselves into buying your book, and buying they will. This step has two parts in it. Both will make your mind reel, and maybe even make you upset, or maybe you'll get so excited, you'll jump out of your pants. Either way, here they are.
Part 1. Make your reader feel good.
Part 2. "Agree" with everything your reader says. (Explanation below).
Okay, I can see some of you rolling your eyes. Or maybe grabbing a pitchfork and promising to hang me, or quarter me, or burn me alive at the stake. I get that. I used to feel the same way about this. "What?" I thought. "What nonsense is this? What if the reader is a total jerk and talks about (insert the thing that infuriates you most) non-stop?" So, the rule of selling is, you're here to make money. Once you start your "interview" (sales talk for the actual product presentation that leads to a sale), you tuck away all your ideas and thoughts and beliefs, and YOU SELL.
If in the course of the sale it's clear to you that you don't want to have anything to do with your reader, you graciously bow out with the knowledge that depending on how you handled the "interview," the reader will either praise you or trash you to their 250+ friends (a maximum number of people every person knows and interacts with more or less often).
Before you give me your objections, I want you to hear two things.
One, we're all human and will only survive in this world if we accept our differences and unite as opposed to vehemently declaring to each other who is right and who is wrong and dividing into factions, or torture clubs, or whatever.
And two, I'm teaching you how to sell. Forget that you're a writer for a moment. This is sales thinking. This is how you will either make it or not. You want to make it, right? That's why you're reading this, aren't you? Well then, you'll have to train your mind to do what I told you, because guess what.
I didn't invent it.
These sales techniques existed for centuries, ever since the concept of trade came about and some smart human figured out how to make lots of money by clubbing the other human...okay, okay, KIDDING. But you get the point. And by the way, selling will teach you how to be a better human (not the one who clubs everyone around them and yells, "Buy my books, you mongrels! Or I'll kill you!"). Trust me on this. I'm seeing it on my own example, and I wish I'd switched my thinking sooner.
I hope I have dealt with all your objections at this point. If not, please SCREAM AT ME in the comments. I love it when people scream at me. I swallow them whole (while they're still screaming).
Back to the two parts of Step 2.
Part 1. No matter what your reader says, your job is to make them feel good. If they feel good around you, they will relax, let go of their fear, open up and be receptive to a sale. I'll be diving deeper into this in my Super Duper Book Selling Guide, but if you're impatient, read Zig Zigler's Secrets of Closing the Sale to have your brains blown (WARNING: it might be difficult for you to read; it was for me; one, because I abhor the very idea of religion, and the author was a Christian and sometimes used Bible as an example; and two, because he stereotyped and objectified women, beginning with his wife, so some parts made me cringe, but his sales techniques are golden and his humor made me laugh out loud—plus, I used my own advice and tried to agree, to feel what it's like to be in his shoes and SELL TO HIM—if he were still alive and talking to me directly).
Part 2. No matter what your reader says, "agree" (I'll explain below) with everything to find out the real objections to the sale. Meaning, you might have a very strong opinion against something (see mine above), but this is not about you, remember? This is about your customer and their fear of you. All it is, is fear. By disagreeing you'll shut down the sale. By "agreeing," you'll be able to ask questions (remember Step 1) and find out the real reason your reader might object to buying your books. So here is what I mean by "agree." I'll give you a technique on how to do this when you completely disagree. You repeat back the question or the statement. So, say the reader says, "You're a sack of shit and your books are cow dung mixed with donkey piss and wrapped in your stinking brains!" (Wow, I'm quite impressed with this tirade I produced). Instead of starting a flame war (the kind you often see on Twitter), repeat back the statement with a question, "I'm a sack of shit?" or with a statement "Totally! I'm such a sack of shit!" "YES!!!" the reader will cry, but the more you "agree," the less vehement the remarks will be, until finally (happened to me before) the yeller apologizes (this can take many forms), buys your books and becomes a loyal fan. This doesn't happen all the time, of course, and there is no guarantee (online world is fickle), but no matter what they tell you, they'll remember that you made them feel good, and they'll feel bad about acting like an ass, and they'll come back. I have proven this over and over in the last 5 years, so if you want more specific examples, email me, and I'll tell you stories.
NOTE: Do not confuse an argumentative prospective reader with a troll. Online trolls can seriously damage your wellbeing by throwing at you a stream of abuse. They're not interested in reading or buying your work. They're using you as a target and an outlet for their repressed fears—hence, aggression. You're a convenient stranger to hurl invectives at, and in some instances to mount online campaigns to destroy you and your work (which has nothing to do with your personally and all to do with them). There are book reviewers like that out there. They're very sad hamsters I like eating for breakfast. My policy with these kinds of folks is answering once if they distort some fact by correcting it, then blocking them if they continue misbehaving (later I skin them, slowly, in my basement, to get my revenge).
Seriously. Try agreeing with your readers at least for one day and watch what happens. That reader is a human crying out to be heard. Hear that human out, and you'll get a way into their pockets, and when you ask for their gold, they'll give it to you, no questions asked. (See how sly I am? I'll take your gold before you know it, and then some). Also, thank them for sharing their opinion. Also, tell them you love them. Works like a charm.
Plus, let me address my statement from the previous post about it not mattering much if your book is good or bad for selling, because what you're selling is a feeling. To clarify that statement, here it is again, in other words.
You don't sell what your book is (awesome piece of literature, hopefully).
You sell what your book does (makes your reader feel).
End of story.
So when you talk to your reader, you make them feel good about themselves, and then you basically offer them a complete euphoria (like I offer my readers delicious nightmares, for example). They'll buy in the blink of an eye and ask for more.
"But how do I go about asking for the actual sale??" I hear you think.
Ah! We'll get to that in the next post, Step 3. You don't really ask for it, you assume it and act accordingly. I know, I know. Patience, my lovely hamster. We'll get there. Here is a cabbage leaf for you. Hey, don't bite me. Hey, that hurts! Ah! Let go of my finger, you little fur-ball! Let go! Let go, you nasty sack of tiny bones! No, not my stomach! Don't rip my stomach open! DO NOT EAT MY INTESTI—
P.S.: Hello. This is Ksenia's ghost speaking to you from Hell. To actually answer Annie's original question, here are a few things the living Ksenia forgot to tell you. She simply prints all her books...pardon me, she used to print them—she's dead now—via CreateSpace, then she kissed and signed and wrapped and shipped them from her home like she would if she were selling freshly boiled human heads (it's what she told me to do in Hell). Yes, she kept all the profits (minus the cost of printing and shipping the books, and her time). And no, she didn't have to ask anyone's permission to do that (or license or whatever). She was the Empress of her own Empire. Until the hamster ate her. Such a sad end. But don't fret. Tomorrow she'll rise to live again and COME FOR YOU. Be very scared.