Building your book distribution network will require some effort on your part. If you plan your end game in advance, you will be ahead of most people and have the advantage. Your short-term end game, of course, is to sell books, and some people think that is their only goal. But there are larger goals afoot here.
One larger goal is to control the distribution of your books. You put a lot of your heart and soul (not to mention time and energy) into writing your books and you want as many people as possible to buy them. Why leave the control of that sales process to the random whims of someone else’s company when you can retain that control for yourself?
However, we are still focusing too tightly on the sales process. Let’s take a big step back, and ask the bigger questions: Why are you writing books? For whom are you writing books? How do your books fit into the bigger picture of your overall business goals?
As an example, let’s say you are a speaker and write books for the following three purposes:
- Establish yourself as an expert in your field.
- Generate leads.
- Sell your books as another stream of income.
What is the best way to design your book distribution network for this scenario? The first questions to ask are who needs to receive these books and how do they normally buy books? In this scenario, you have three groups of readers.
Group 1: Leads
The primary group consists of those people who are most likely to hire you as a speaker. You will probably contact these people directly, most likely by sending them a media package that includes a video demonstrating your speaking ability, topics you can speak about, etc. You would include a print copy of your book in this media package so you would order books at cost that are sent directly to you, which creates a tightly controlled distribution network.
For this group of readers, you are simultaneously establishing your credentials as an expert in your field, and you are also directly generating leads for your speaking business.
Your distribution network for this first group is a private network. The database of members, emails, phone numbers, addresses, etc. is probably a contact management system (often called a CRM for customer relationship management) such as those used by any salesperson. I use Trello for my system because I love the highly visual approach.
Group 2: Back of the Room Sales
The second group of readers are those people who will buy a book directly from you at your speaking engagements. For these readers, you would also order print books at cost. If you need more books than you can carry on the plane, you can have them shipped directly to location. You can also sell ebooks directly on location, but we’ll save the secret of how to do that for another time.
You don’t need to do much to establish yourself as an expert for this group because you have already done that with your speaking. However, some of these people might hire you for another speaking gig or they might refer you to someone. They can also help your direct book sales online via their social media.
This group will have its own database. These are highly motivated customers because they have already shown up to hear you speak. Start the process of collecting their information during your talk by letting your audience know that they will get something valuable, and all they have to do is leave their email address. I can’t stress enough how important it is to collect email addresses from everyone who has already identified themselves as excellent prospects.
Group 3: Online Customers
The third group of readers are your online customers, the people who buy your book from Amazon, your website, or wherever you have your book for sale. These are readers you might never meet or talk to in person. You will probably see far more ebook sales than print book sales for these customers. Your primary distribution network will be Amazon, but I suggest building your own network at the same time, just as I discussed in my article, Beyond Kindle—Build Your Own Distribution Network, and in my article, How to Build a Mailing List That Actually Buys Your Books.
This is the hardest group of readers to collect email addresses from, but you can still do it by offering additional valuable information in the book if they go to your website and leave their email address. Sure, you won’t collect the email addresses from most of your online readers, but you’ll capture the important ones—those people who have identified themselves as being motivated enough to go to your website and download additional valuable information.
The Purpose of Your Distribution Network
The purpose of your book distribution network is to control sales of your books to the right people. The right people are those who have identified themselves as interested enough to put in the effort to give you their email addresses. Although this list will be a lot shorter than if you could capture the email addresses of everyone who might read your book, it’s more valuable because they are more likely to respond to your follow-ups.
Another big reason why it’s important to have your own book distribution network and control sales is so you can collect, analyze, and use sales data. On Amazon or almost any other distribution site, you can’t even get numbers for the percentage of people who viewed your site and then bought your book. When you sell from your own site, you can get that number and a whole lot more.
Why is this number important? One reason is so you can do experiments to optimize your sales page. Internet marketers frequently use A/B testing to determine the best headlines, copy, and images to increase sales. Even changing one word in your headline might increase sales significantly. A/B testing allows you to test two different pages at the same time.
For example, half of your website visitors would see a page with your original headline, and the other half would see a page with one word changed in the headline. You can then measure how many people from each group went on to buy your book (or click to another page) and determine the best headline to use. You can continue this experimenting forever, consistently improving your sales.
Controlling your book distribution network provides many benefits and possibilities. The little bit I’ve covered here is only the tip of the iceberg.