Book marketing: why only selling 11 books was a great thing

I only sold 11 copies of my book… and why this was a GREAT thing for my business

With the launch date for Book Blueprint, approaching a few years back and the rest of the publishing process unfolding as planned, the focus turned to marketing. 

The plan was to sell as many copies as possible before going to print, thereby offsetting the publishing costs, dictating how many copies should be printed in the first print run.

A couple of hundred books seemed reasonable. Of course, the unspoken fantasy number, which wasn't revealed to anyone until now, was 1,000 books. A thousand books at $24.95 each is almost $25,000. Minus the cost of producing the book (which didn't include marketing) and about $5 postage per book, would net about $13,000. Not a bad ROI. And hopefully those initial sales would fuel a regular flow of sales over the coming months.

What actually happened? A campaign to colleagues, clients and other entrepreneurial connections, a few weeks of Facebook ads, a couple of podcast interviews.

And sold...11 copies. In fact, three of those were for mum, so the actually number of sales was only 8.

The key to a successful business book

Eleven copies at $24.95 each is $274.45 – barely enough to make a dent in the publishing costs. Was my book a failure even before it went to print?

As a standalone product, yes, it would have been considered a failure. However, in the wider business ecosystem, the story was very different.

While the Facebook ads campaign didn’t lead to many book sales, it did lead to people signing up for the first two chapters of Book Blueprint for free. Now the intent was for those who signed up for the first two chapters to buy the rest of the book. Instead, people who read those chapters contacted us about Grammar Factory’s services.

The result?

We sold four one-on-one book planning workshops and four editing packages, adding up to $13,600 in revenue. Book Blueprint brought in close to $14,000 in new business before it went to print.

The big learning? It’s not about the book sales.

Not about the book sales

At Grammar Factory, we've worked with close to 100 entrepreneurs across a range of industries (Update: This is now well over 200) – business, finance, health and wellness, travel, marketing, property, hospitality, law, photography, personal development and more. Most of them don’t make a profit on book sales alone, yet...  the majority have said that their books helped grow their businesses.

How? They view the book as a stepping stone to other opportunities.

Let’s look at book sales from a traditional author’s perspective.

Traditional author's perspective

The book is the author’s product. To make an income, they need to sell their book. However, if their profit per book is only $10-$15 (in traditional publishing, their royalties would be closer to $1-$2), it’s going to take a lot of copies for them to make a decent income from book sales alone. This is why most traditional authors struggle financially.

If we look at book sales from an entrepreneur’s perspective, it’s a very different strategy.

Entrepreneur's perspective

The book is a piece of marketing collateral. It builds the entrepreneur’s credibility; helps potential clients, partners and the media get to know them; and it spreads the word about their other services. The focus for the entrepreneur isn’t selling a book for a $10-$15 profit – it’s using that book to bring in other opportunities.

Some of these opportunities might include the following.

1. Potential clients signing up for other products and services

By giving them a $25 book, your client is more likely to sign up for products and services that net you hundreds or even thousands.

2. Potential clients signing up for other products and services

By giving them a $25 book, your client is more likely to sign up for products and services that net you hundreds or even thousands.

3. Charging higher rates

Published entrepreneurs are seen as being more in demand and it’s expected that you will charge more for your services. In fact, I added over 50% to my workshop fees and had a client comment that my rate was much lower than he expected!

4. Speaking opportunities as a credible authority

Publishing your knowledge leads to instant expert status, which means you are more likely to stand out from other entrepreneurs trying to enter the speaking circuit. Speaking engagements then lead to other opportunities, including an additional stream of income, selling your books or products from the stage, and being invited for more speaking engagements.

5. Media appearances as an established expert

As with speaking opportunities, published entrepreneurs are more likely to snag media appearances. Published content equals credibility, and journalists are always looking for published experts they can quote.

Ultimately, your book can transform your business, but only if you focus on leveraging your book for strategic opportunities rather than trying to sell it for a profit.

3 tips to get a business return on your book

So would any book have led to $14,000 in revenue before going to print? No. For a book to lead to those business results, it needs to meet the following criteria.

1. It needs to provide value

Your book needs to provide value for your target readers. So many authors worry about giving away too much of their intellectual property that people won’t want to work with them. What we always say is that if you give readers a lot of value in your book, they’re even more likely to want to work with you. After all, if you gave them so much value in a $25 book, just imagine how much value they’ll get from working with you personally.

This is one of the reasons to give two chapters away as a lead magnet, rather than just the introduction. Chapter 1 of Book Blueprint, which is all about finding the right book idea, has a lot of practical advice and most people experience an ‘ah ha!’ moment when they’re reading. If it could give people an ‘ah ha!’ moment at that stage of the book, they’d be far more likely to buy the full book or work with us than they would be if they'd only read the introduction.

2. It needs to relate to your business

While I’m sure you have a number of personal interests and stories you could write about, for the most impact, your book should directly relate to your business. It could:

  • Help your readers achieve the result that they would get when working with you. If you’re a personal trainer, your book might help your readers lose weight. If you’re a financial planner, your book might help your readers reduce their debt.
  • Help your readers complete the work they need to do before they work with you. At Grammar Factory, our core service is editing and publishing for entrepreneurs. Before someone could work with us, they need to have written a book. Book Blueprint teaches them how.

A book that is related to your business automatically draws people into your funnel of products and services. By contrast, an erotic romance will not have the same effect.'s very unlikely... there’s no clear link between your book and your business (depending on your business!). And while your book may attract readers, they are unlikely to be your ideal clients. If they are, they’re unlikely to contact you for your personal training or financial planning service, because they haven’t been reflecting on that part of their lives while reading your steamy saga.

3. It needs to be marketed to the right people

Although Book Blueprint didn’t sell many copies out of the gate, the copies it did sell went to the right people (with the exception of my mum). The same goes for those who downloaded the free chapters, and later signed up for other services.

Facebook ads were targeted at Facebook users who ran business pages who were in the age range and locations of our typical clients, and who had an interest in entrepreneurship, small business, thought leadership and other related topics. This meant the cost per conversion was pretty good, though it would have been good to increase the daily spend to increase the reach of the campaign.

In the end, the key is putting the right book in the hands of the right people. That’s when the magic happens.

Over to you

Writing a book? Start thinking about how you plan to leverage it for your business with the following questions:

  • What opportunities do you want it to lead to?
  • Who are your target readers? Will your book give these readers value?
  • Is your book clearly related to your business? Is there a logical next step that your readers can take with you?
  • How will you get it in front of your target readers?