How Many Books Should I Print?
By Amy Groening

Word Alive Press is a partnership publishing model. This means that we are working together with our authors to sell and distribute your books. We have found that this model is an effective way of offering books through a wide variety of mediums, while still helping to ensure our authors recoup the investments they put into their books.

As I explained in my Quick Guide to Royalties post a few weeks ago, the quickest way to make back your investment is by author-to-person sales: taking the copies of your book that you personally printed, and selling them through your own connections at the retail price.

Why? Well, think of it this way: printing a book costs money. Distributing a book costs money. Carrying a book in your store costs money. Each of the professionals involved in each of these transactions along the way need to cover their costs (and most of them are trying to make a profit), which means the more entities are involved in that book sale, the more slices need to be taken out of your profit “pie”. When you print your book and sell it yourself, you’re cutting out as many of the middle men as you can, and that means that your earnings can go straight into your own pocket.

This doesn’t mean selling books through your distributor isn’t important—being able to get your books into bookstores, Amazon, chapters/, Barnes&Noble,, etc, means that people you may never get to sit down and make a sale with will be able to buy your book. But the difference between a 20% royalty on the wholesale price of your book and a 100% profit on your own book sale makes your person-to-person sales a very attractive option for the finance-savvy writer.

The question remains, how many books should you print?

It’s important to choose carefully. The more copies you print, the better your price point will be. However, a “great deal” loses its value if you find you’ve purchased more copies than you can reasonably sell. On the flip side, if you print too few books, you’ll be re-ordering at a higher price point than you could have received if you’d ordered a large amount the first time around.

Tally Up Your Connections

How many members are in your congregation? How many friends and family members do you have? How many connections do you have at your place of work? Realistically, how many of these people can you picture purchasing a copy of your book—whether for themselves, or as a gift for a friend? Don’t be shy. Poll your friends and family, and take pre-orders of the book when possible. This will help give you an idea of how many copies you’ll be guaranteed to sell right off the bat.

Think Outside the Box

Alright, so you’ve got your personal, existing connections figured out. Now, who else might be interested in partnering with you to promote your own personal copies of your book? Look for organizations that share your message, and get up the courage to contact them. See if they’d be interested in carrying some copies of your book, and if so, how many. Add that to your prospective book total.

How Much Are You Willing to Promote Yourself?

The more you get out there and connect with your potential readership, the more copies of your book you’re likely to sell. Are you a public speaker? Do you do workshops? Do you have a heavy online following? These avenues can help you sell more copies of your book. Take into account how often you hold events. If you do weekly speaking events and are able to have a book table in the auditorium at every showing, you’re likely to sell more books than if you have a speaking event once a year. If your events draw 500 people, you’ve got more potential sales than if your events draw 50. If you’ve got a big event every month, you could easily need more than 500 copies of your book to keep your readers satisfied.

Break-Even Point

It’s smart keep your finances in mind and be aware of your break-even point: the number of books you’ll need to sell to cover all the costs of publishing.

To calculate your break-even point:

Total the cost of your publishing program with tax + cost of illustrations + printing costs for your preferred print run size + estimated shipping costs = expenditures for publishing your book

Multiply your retail cost by the number of copies you’re planning to print. Subtract this from your total expenditures for publishing, and you’ll see whether you’ve broken even.

If you haven’t broken even with your chosen print run size, you might want to increase your print run—but make sure you have a game plan to sell those extra copies first!

Figuring out your final print run might feel like a guessing game. You’re not alone! We are here to help you figure out the size of print run that will suit your needs so don’t hesitate to give us a call and talk over your printing options.

Whether you’re nearing your press date or just finishing up your manuscript, we want to hear from you! We welcome you to contact us to talk over printing options (or any other part of the publishing process).

About this Contributor:

Amy Groening is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cat committing random acts of feline crime.

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