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Paul Anthony Shortt

With the release of my fifth novel, Red Skies, this week, sales are very much on my mind. Some will tell you the hardest part of writing is getting that first draft done. Others will insist that editing is far harder. Today I throw a third contender into the ring: Getting books sold.

Now, I’ve previously talked about promotion, but this is something a little different. This is making sure there are actual outlets that offer your books for sale. It’s not something you often consider, as you’re toiling away on your manuscript or waiting to hear back from an agent, but it’s very important to learn all you can about the sales side of writing. It’s not as clear-cut as you might imagine.

Granted, the work is a lot harder if you’re self-publishing, but I’ve worked on both sides of the fence, and I can assure you, it’s no less a headache when you’re working with a publisher.

The first and most obvious place to get your books sold is the traditional bricks and mortar bookshop. In Ireland, most booksellers order their stock through Easons Wholesale division or Argosy. They may also use UK-based distributors such as Bertrams or Gardners. If you’re with an Irish or UK publisher, you probably won’t have any trouble making sure your book is stocked. However, these days geography is no restriction on publishing deals. If you’re with an American publisher, you should find out exactly which wholesaler and distributors your publisher uses. While larger publishers have the resources to push your books onto shelves, smaller ones may be limited in how much they can do, and in some cases, all of the responsibility of getting those books out there may fall on your shoulders. This means emails and phone calls to booksellers, trying to convince them to stock you. Most independent Irish bookshops are happy to try out a couple of copies of a new author’s book if they can get the stock in.

One thing to be aware of is that many smaller publishers use print-on-demand services instead of doing print runs, and this can cause problems. Print-on-demand books can sometimes show up on a distributor’s catalogue as being unavailable, and if that’s the case, the shop can’t order them. You should be able to sort this out with a little patience and a lot of perseverance, but odds are good it’ll be some time after your release date before the shop can place an order.

Don’t forget that many larger booksellers also offer online ordering to retail customers. Dubray Books, Eason, and even overseas stores such as Barnes and Noble, all allow customers to place orders online. So make sure you’re listed there, too.

Of course, Amazon remains the great equaliser. Every publisher worth its salt gets its titles onto Amazon, allowing at least one guaranteed option for telling people where to get your book. Granted, you should be aware of the possibility of trade disputes, as happened with Hachette last year. It’s worth setting up your Amazon Author Central account as soon as possible, as this grants you some control over how your books are displayed and lets you enter any editorial reviews you may receive.

If you’re self-publishing, then Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace are going to be the foundation of your sales. The process is quite easy once you get the hang of it, and both formats (KDP for Kindle, Createspace for print), offer a range of pricing options. Createspace even has an option to make your books available wholesale to booksellers, at a slight reduction in royalty payments.

While you can make a good income with these few options, it always pays to diversify. So whether you’re traditionally published or indie, check that your books can be sold on Kobo and the Nook. Don’t discount iTunes, either. iBooks Author is a tool that allows you to publish directly to iTunes, and is definitely worth exploring.

Finally, even though we have such a wide range of bookselling services, don’t forget that direct sales can also be an option. Whether direct from your publisher, ordering discounted stock to sell at events or to friends and family, or taking sales from your own website, you can certainly add some extra income with that personal touch.

Wishing you all the best of luck with your own sales. See you next time.

(c) Paul Anthony Shortt

About the author

Paul Anthony Shortt believes in magic and monsters; in ghosts and fairies, the creatures that lurk under the bed and inside the closet. The things that live in the dark, and the heroes who stand against them. Above all, he believes that stories have the power to change the world, and the most important stories are the ones which show that monsters can be beaten.
Paul’s work includes the Memory Wars Trilogy and the Lady Raven Series. His short fiction has appeared in the Amazon #1 bestselling anthology, Sojourn Volume 2.



Twitter: @PAShortt

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