Early Book Selling Decisions To Make For Success
With most genealogy and history books, one should not expect to make up all of the expenses of gathering the information and producing a manuscript, as well as the publishing costs, with a small printing. Many times a book has been years in the making and to distribute total preparation and publishing cost out - over even 500 books - would make the books much more expensive then most buyers can afford.
That said, with few exceptions, the purchase price of a book should cover the publishing costs. Two other things that may be included in costs when choosing a retail price are shipping and handling as well as a wholesale discount. However, with the rise of Print on Demand, publishers are seeing more books printed expressly for gifts. With gift books, the author should either tailor the book project to come in within a set budget, or realize that their perfect book may not adhere to any budget. One thing, sometimes overlooked, is that the overall book format(s) may alter both production and shipping costs: If a large part of your sales may be shipped, consider both finished book height and width, as well as page count (depth) and explore packaging and shipping costs. Augmented Reality (such as QR codes) bonus material URL, or additional media can be used to cut the total size/weight without reducing the content.
Setting your retail or purchase price is important and should be done fairly early. When setting your retail price, determine the general cost, estimating on the side of caution if exact total costs are unavailable to you before publishing. A word of caution however, do not set the sales price before you have a good idea of what your costs will be. Many authors set a retail price too early - often, even before choosing someone to produce the book.
If archival quality is important, one should take a moment and define what exactly is important to them and why. After this is complete, they can begin seeking printer/publishers and/or methods for their book production. Always query about definition of archival words and jargon, as they seem to vary widely - never assume.
With GCI new base set-up fee of $25.00, don't forget that one easy way to reduce the cost per book is to order more books. If you publish 25 books, the set-up cost adds $1 per book, if you order 250 books the per book share of the set up fee is only a dime ($.10). While the set up fee is a flat rate, it divides into the quantity for a per-book share. Additionally, as your publishing gets larger, you'll save on printing and binding as quantity discounts are achieved.
Once you have arrived at specific general publishing costs, one should decide if they will include shipping and handling in retail or add it on top. For many years, including shipping and handling for a one price only cost was appealing. In today's society though, everyone is getting used to adding S&H and depending on your S&H fee structure, this may actually encourage larger orders.
To the figure you have thus far, one may want to add an amount for "profit". Additionally, one may choose to offer their book to other bookstores. The publishing world recognizes a universal 40% of retail (sale price) as "wholesale" purchase price. Because of this, once you arrive at a price you are comfortable with, if you want to offer the book for wholesale, add 40% or more to arrive at your retail price.
Pre-publication price/sale: If you don't already know who your target audience is for your book, it's not to early too start finding out. Once you know who your audience (potential buyers) is, contact them before your book is back from the publishers. Extend them the courtesy of a special price (we suggest at least $10 off or 30-40%, if it has been built in) if they send you a paid order by the publication date. We find that giving people around a month works well for postal contacts. Email and phone contacts wouldn't need quite as long. If you decided to go with a wholesale price, you could offer the same price as pre-publication or a higher one.
By extending a pre-publication special, you single out customers and make them feel special in addition to helping out in the wallet! This is especially good for the author who is funding their own publication. Our company even offers 200 free flyers with any printing order of 100 or more, to help with this effort.
With pre-publication sales, consider offering, in addition to the pre-publication payment discount, something special about those paid books. It could be author signed, numbered, include a color photo page, color divider pages, custom frontice piece, or an improved binding for an extra charge. If the publishing project is for softbound books, offer a hardbound collectors edition price in addition to the regular discount softbound edition. If going the hardbound/softbound marketing route, don't forget to market to your libraries, especially if you are able to offer the hardbound edition for not much more than the standard retail for the softbound edition will be. Some authors choose to pre-pub printed books while marketing electronic editions. This generally results in only those paid orders getting printed books. Everyone else would be offered the E-books.
Don't overlook selling your books to bookstores - especially if you've built in a wholesale price. Most bookstores (both chain and independent) have a local interest section. Contact all bookstores (don't overlook the "biggies" like Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, etc.) by phone to set up an appointment. Arrive on time, with either an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) as an example, or the actual book in hand. Please note that most book stores will expect at least a 40% discount from retail and may require return privileges.
shipping and handling:
Go to Order Fulfillment Services
As mentioned above, shipping and handling can be added to the retail price for a all inclusive cost or "one price only cost". It can also be applied as an added fee, if mailing (which gives handling FREE to those not shipped). Regardless, it is in the seller's best interest to choose a method of shipping and arrive at a cost for both shipping and handling before marketing.
Shipping and handling costs include:
When setting these costs, take into consideration possible inflation for further supplies as well as effort taken to store those books that may not sell this year. Your actual shipping cost/method needs to be examined closely too - when does your chosen carrier (USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.) anticipate a price increase?
If shipping and receiving by more than one carrier, consider using a single program for tracking. We discovered http://www.usetrackthis.com/ in 2011: Just cut and paste your tracking numbers, select the shipping service and how you want to be notified. Seems simple and you can't beat the cost (free).
Overseas orders? Most overseas book buyers realize there may be additional expense in ordering. Because of this, usually this is not addressed specifically. However, if you wish, it is always nice, when possible, to add a line to the extent of "orders outside of the USA, contact for additional charges".
United States Postal Service/Post Office (USPS): The easiest type of shipping to set a cost on is the Post Office because they have general postage tables for the United States that are not always dependent on the amount of distance a package travels (like UPS, FedEx, etc.). All USPS postage (and other information) can be found online at their website. Because it is so easy to generalize, we have devoted more space to USPS then the others. USPS provides, free of charge, some packaging materials for Priority class through their website and your local post office may be able to supply you as well.
It may seem like USPS is forever changing their rates. However, they are bound by US law not to increase more than consumer inflation (average across increases) - without special permission. This generally means that rather than getting infrequent large prices increases, there seems to be annual moderate ones instead. Other carriers are not bound by this law. This makes choosing USPS a more stable long range sales cost/fee option.
There are several different classes of mail for the USPS:
media mail (parcel/package service) is generally the least expensive (overall) of the USPS classes for heavy book packages. Book packages under 13 ounces may actually be more economical to send first class. The maximum domestic weight for USPS is 70 pounds, however for larger packages (multiple books) you should check to see if retail ground (parcel/standard post) is less expensive - unless you have guaranteed a particular class for shipping. Bulk quantities and bar-coded discounts are available if you have the capacity/need for either one. * This mail may be opened for inspection. While tracking is included, insurance is still an additional paid service, but is available.
retail ground (previously parcel or standard post) may provide some savings over priority. Because of price, this may not be available to all zip codes if Priority is the same (faster delivery and $50 insurance). Expected delivery time is increased over first class/priority. Tracking is provided free of charge but optional insurance increases charges.
first class parcel (domestically currently only under 13 ounces/retail) includes tracking, delivers faster than standard or media mail - and sometimes less expensive. Additionally, it is easy to add insurance (extra expense, but sometimes worth it) and other features such as signature notification.
priority mail (domestically any weight to 70#) may be more expensive for heavier mailings, but usually arrives within two to three days. Additionally, tracking and $50.00 insurance are included. It is easy to add other features such as additional insurance and signature notification (extra expense but sometimes worth it). For small books, flat rate priority bubble envelopes (self sealing) are available free of charge. Regional priority shipping is now available, sometimes resulting in a 50% savings over flat rate. USPS provides limited free packaging options, upon request.
priority express mail (widely considered "overnight") most expensive, but 1-3 day delivery with money back guarantee of postage fees. Additionally, it is easy to add insurance ($100.00 included). Signature requirement is free option. Tracking is provided free of charge and flat rate packaging is available. USPS provides limited free packaging options, upon request.
If you choose to send your books via
USPS Priority or
Express Priority (mailings
under 13 ounces can sometimes be sent
first class less expensively), you can order boxes/envelopes free of charge directly from the US postal service online at
http://www.usps.com. If the book is of
the right size, the post office also offers a flat rate Priority envelope
(tyvek, cardboard or bubble padded) and boxes ("shirt box"
and several "shoebox" sizes) that may save on postage (and fulfillment time) as well. Regardless
of savings, flat rate envelopes/boxes make figuring your postage very easy
domestically. "If it fits, it ships" - there is realistically no way to exceed the
box weight cap
(70 pounds domestic/20 pounds International) for traditional single book shipments.
International flat rate envelopes do have a 4 pound limit. There are stipulations you'll need to adhere to that are listed on
their website including: must use the provided free shipping materials for priority/express class only. While the
materials are free, there is sometimes a tiny ($1 or so) "handling charge" per
order, so order as much as you feel you'll need per order.
USPS Online click and ship for priority express or priority -
https://www.usps.com/ship - can save your business from 5 cents per
package on up - the post office will even pick up at your door. If dealing with
USPS on a "personal" level, MyUSPS.com is the
preferred online interface. Another great thing about working online is that you have tracking numbers that can be emailed directly to the
customer - at no extra charge. When "tax time" looms, you can
pull up your shipping (payment) history online too! USPS allows payment via
PayPal as well. If using USPS online with flat
rate, you won't have to buy boxes or a scale! After packaging in flat rate
materials, when asked for a weight, but just click the "flat rate" option and you don't
need any scale.
* As with any class of mail,
mail has some rules you may not be aware of. One of which is
that no billing, invoice, or advertisement may be placed in the mailing - such as
packing slip, additional book order forms or "other titles available" material.
Back to *
USPS Online click and ship for priority express or priority - https://www.usps.com/ship - can save your business from 5 cents per package on up - the post office will even pick up at your door. If dealing with USPS on a "personal" level, MyUSPS.com is the preferred online interface. Another great thing about working online is that you have tracking numbers that can be emailed directly to the customer - at no extra charge. When "tax time" looms, you can pull up your shipping (payment) history online too! USPS allows payment via PayPal as well.
If using USPS online with flat rate, you won't have to buy boxes or a scale! After packaging in flat rate materials, when asked for a weight, but just click the "flat rate" option and you don't need any scale.
* As with any class of mail, media mail has some rules you may not be aware of. One of which is that no billing, invoice, or advertisement may be placed in the mailing - such as packing slip, additional book order forms or "other titles available" material. Back to *
Both UPS and FedEx have apps (computer programs) that can allow you to easily figure shipping and assist you in shipping. However, their shipping prices are based geographically and may include varying surcharges (fuel, etc.) - sometimes not included in the presented figures. Many people who prefer to ship this method figure the package weight to the farthest US point and use that as cost.
Third party stores and
There are many places (Kinko's, hardware store, etc.) where you can take the books and shipping addresses and they'll ship them for you. Some of these places charge a reasonable fee for this service (in addition to actual "postage"), and some are fairly expensive. If you choose to go this route, it is suggested that you get a guarantee of fees for a fixed time period so your S&H fees are not always changing.
Many authors choose their book shipping method and secure the materials necessary as they receive their published books - sometimes even before. Once the books arrive, they repackage them from their bulk containers into the single book mailing boxes (or envelopes), complete with the return address marked and any insert information. Then, when they have an order, all they have to do is address the package and mail it. If they have a multiple order, boxes can be strapped together with tape, placed in a larger tyvek envelope or they can still be shipped individually. This is of use when trying to "freeze" S&H costs over time while figuring sales price.
For the author who has more than one book in print, if they wish to repackage their books into ready to mail, individual packages, the outside of each box should be marked with the title. This should be done the same way (red marker, white label, etc.) and placed in the same approximate place on the package (bottom/center, left on one end, below the return address, etc.) for easy reference. Please note that some carriers have restrictions on additional print. Currently, most are OK with markings as long as they are not distracting from the delivery information. USPS also recommends nothing be printed below the delivery address on the addressed side of the package.
For more suggestions, order our book:
WRITING Family History Or Genealogy For Pleasure and Profit Complete Edition, by Gregath Company, Inc., *updated* 2011. ISBN: 0-944619-00-2, 8½x11", softbound book, 126 pages, suggestions & examples of all facets of your project for the typist and/or computer user. Also available on disk. | Click here for more information.| G550-$20.00
Page Last Updated: December 16, 2016
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