Posts tagged: selling books

Selling Books in the (Continuing) Great Recession by Edward C. Patterson

Lord John Maynard Keynes, the Father of Modern Economics. "What goes down doesn't necessarily go back up."

A while back, I began a series on selling books in the Great Recession. We’re in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It affects everything we authors and Indie publishers do. (Not to mention causing the demise of major brick-and-mortar retailers such as Borders.) I ran a few articles in the series, but stopped when it (briefly) looked like the recession was lifting. But, goldurnit, it didn’t. As we face a double-dipper economic flop, we need advice on marketing more than ever. 

Today I welcome another guest speaker in my series, Selling Books in the Great Recession. Edward C. Patterson is an incredibly prolific and talented author who captures the emotional truth of everything he writes. He’s also one of the most effective––perhaps relentless––marketers I’ve met.  I know Ed from participating in a very popular Amazon forum, Shameless Self Promotion. He shines at extremely tasteful promotion that makes you want to buy his books. I have several of Edward Patterson’s books and love them. It’s my great pleasure to introduce Ed Patterson to Your Shelf Life.

Sandy Nathan for Your Shelf Life

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Edward C Patterson, author & founder of Operation eBook Drop

In today’s economy, there is a need to focus on books in eBook formats, while relegating the print formats to a backup. Sounds a bit dire, however, as an armchair publisher and Indie author, the cost of toting your books about to bookstores and managing inventory returns will make you tired and frustrated. Meanwhile, using online Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony as distributors and leveraging their easy accessibility, an author can break through the morass of the collapsing Book Industry hurdles. Your works can make it to a reader on such things as a Kindle. With lower overhead (zero is a nice number), an author can afford to price works between $ .99 and $ 3.99 and attract attention. Of course, you must have the goods and you still need to market your work, which means getting the word out over the online networks, getting feedback and spinning that feedback to keep the work in motion. Print copies are still functional for readings, speaking engagements, donations, and your ten favorite friends and, dare I say it, as a foil to show how much readers are saving when they buy your work electronically. Heck, I hawk a Cherokee poetry book at Powwows.

I keep my print version costs down by using a POD. (Print on Demand printer) If an author’s aim is to get rich, the current recession has little bearing on it. It’s actually easier to sell books directly to the public over the web through now than it was in boom times, when you needed to follow stuffy industry rules — rules that the traditional publishing houses are now realizing are their Achilles’ heel. The problem is, most authors are poor marketers and, in good times or bad times, that means that some great reads will not find eager readers. It means that authors must wear another hat to engage potential readers in the online fray. However, it’s a heck of lot better than carting a carton about to an Indie bookstore. It’s a sight more productive than fishing for an agent and lighting a votive candle at an acquisition editor’s altar. These trends were in progress before the recession, but I predict that the downtrend and the inevitable recovery will leave the Book Industry significantly and permanently changed — a far better place for those who author and for those who read.

Edward C. Patterson

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The Works of Edward C. Patterson

Edward C. Patterson has been writing novels, short fiction, poetry and drama his entire life, always seeking the emotional core of any story he tells. With his eighth novel, The Jade Owl, he combines an imaginative touch with his life long devotion to China and its history. He has earned an MA in Chinese History from Brooklyn College with further post graduate work at Columbia University. Born in 1947, a native of Brooklyn, NY, he has spent four decades as a soldier in the corporate world gaining insight into the human condition. He won the 1999 New Jersey Minority Achievement Award for his work in corporate diversity. Blending world travel experiences with a passion for story telling, his adventures continue as he works to permeate his reader’s souls from an indelible wellspring.

His novel No Irish Need Apply was named Book of the Month for June 2009 by Booz Allen Hamilton’s Diversity Reading Organization. His novel The Jade Owl was a finalist for The 2009 Rainbow Awards.

This link takes  you to Mr. Patterson’s Amazon Author Page, which provides links to his books and information about them. Published Novels by Edward C. Patterson include No Irish Need Apply, Bobby’s Trace, Cutting the Cheese, Surviving an American Gulag, Turning Idolater, Look Away Silence, The Jade Owl (Jade Owl Legacy Series Book I), The Third Peregrination (Jade Owl Legacy Series Book II), The Dragon’s Pool (Jade Owl Legacy Series Book III), and Southern Swallow Series (Book I – The Academician). Southern Swallow Series (Book II – The Nan Tu)

Coming soon: Southern Swallow Series (Book III – Swan Cloud; Book IV – The House of Green Waters), Belmundus, The Road to Grafenwöhr, Oh, Dainty Triolet and Green Folly.

Look also for The People’s Treasure (Jade Owl Legacy Series Book IV) and In the Shadow of Her Hem (Jade Owl Legacy Series Book V).

Operation E-Book Drop: Providing Our Troops with Free eBooks

Operation E-Book Drop: Providing Our Troops with Free eBooks

Edward C. Patterson is a proud founder of Operation eBook Drop, a member of Amazon’s Shameless, Kindleboards, Publetariat, The Independant Author’s Guild, The Gay & lesbian Writers and Readers Group, and has guest blogged extensively. He has also appeared on the Bobby Ozuna – Soul of Humanity Show.

Mr. Patterson’s website is Dancaster Creative.

5.3 Selling Books in the Great Recession: Dennis Batchelder

I wrote this series on book selling in the Great Recession because I wanted to give my readers some concepts to help tame the beast. More than just concepts, wanted to give examples of people who are selling like crazy despite the recession. For those who haven’t read the previous articles, I am an economist with two academic degrees in the field and years of professional experience. Economics rules!

Dennis Batchelder, award winning author

Dennis Batchelder, award winning author

The first of my guest bloggers is Dennis Batchelder. I first became aware of Dennis when someone steered me to an incredibly popular marketing forum in Amazon’s Thriller Community.

Dennis started and moderates the Shameless Self Promotion by Authors (3) forum, a discussion group which facilitates authors’ and independent publishers’ sales and promotion efforts. The success of this forum might be considered an indication of Dennis’ ability to bring people together and provide a platform for information sharing.

Amazon allows discussion forums to have 10,000 posts before closing them and requiring them to begin again. The Shameless Self Promotion forum is now on its third incarnation, with a total of 22,635 posts by hundreds of authors and writers. It’s one of the places I hang out on line, with the best marketing advice I’ve found anywhere––for free. I recommend it highly.

What does Dennis Batchelder have to say about selling in the recession? I asked him to outline his marketing ideas. Dennis replied:

I’m convinced the mix of the current financial difficulty and the growing popularity of eBook readers has handed independent authors a great opportunity to be discovered by large numbers of new readers. We aren’t shackled to fixed costs, high royalties, inefficient supply chains, and expensive publicity like larger publishers are. We have the freedom to set our prices at ‘no-brainer’ levels: where readers don’t even have to think before one-clicking into a purchase.”

If I may interject, what Dennis is doing makes perfect sense to an economist. In an earlier post, I set out the equation for profit: Profit = Total Revenue – Total Cost  A producer tries to increase revenues and decrease costs all the time, but in a recession, it’s crucial.

The decreasing cost part of the equation involves using all available technology to get the product out better and cheaper––rolling with the punches and producing smart.

In the above statement, Dennis shows us how he takes advantage of the recession and his position as the proprietor of an independent press. He skillfully keeps total costs down and utilizes new technology––eBook readers––to capture sales that mainstream publishers miss. Note that he uses price to attract demand. His overall strategy is optimizing within the opportunities presented. This is economics.

Dennis has two books in print. Here is his pricing and business strategy:

“I sell the eBook version of Soul Identity for one penny on Amazon, and I give it away at This yields me more than fifty sales a day, and it keeps my book listed as Amazon’s number one technothriller. I sell its sequel, Soul Intent, for 99 cents, and that sells between 10-15 a day.

“My goal is to become known by a large audience, and so far it’s working: I’ve sold 16,000 copies of Soul Identity since April, and 1,200 copies of Soul Intent since its release in September.

“I hope to have a hundred thousand readers by the time my third book in my Soul Identity series is published. In the meantime, long live the recession!”

You may not realize how huge selling 16,000 books is. Authors and independent publishers know that selling 16,000 books in seven months is a prodigious feat, not to mention an additional 1,200 copies of a new release.

Dennis’ pricing strategy deserves a couple of comments from an economist’s point of view. Notice that he has set his eBook prices very low: zero and 99 cents. He’s essentially giving the books away.

Does this mean he’s operating outside the standard economic profit motive? Yes and no. The cost of an eBook is in the set up. A computer professional can do it for nothing. Dennis doesn’t need to recoup many fixed costs and can price his book wherever he wants. In economics, the smart producer keeps selling his product until the revenue from the last unit sold (marginal revenue) equals its cost of production (marginal cost). That’s exactly what Dennis has done and perfect economics.

A note about price elasticity. I know you’re thrilled to discover all these economic terms, but I’ve heard the question asked in different ways a dozen times on the Shameless Self Promotion by Authors (3) thread. The question is, “How do I price my eBook? If I raise the price, will I cut sales?”

Price elasticity describes the response of sales to a change in price.

If you lower a book’s price by 10%, does the quantity sold increase by 10%? More than 10%? Less? The book is price elastic if a drop in price produces an increase in sales. An item is price inelastic if a drop in price produces no change in sales.

My experience selling my books as eBooks confirms Dennis’: eBook sales are highly price elastic. Drop the price, and sales will increase. Strategically, it makes sense to drop the price to the extent of giving them away. (I haven’t been courageous enough to do this, but Dennis’ experience tells the tale.)

The question then is: How to keep sales up and flowing after the price drop? I’ve heard others report, “Well, I dropped my price; sales spiked and then dropped off.” The rest of the marketing ball of wax comes in there: On-line networking, contests, Twittering, personal appearances. Word of mouth. Reviews. There seems to be a magnetism attached to some books that fuels sales, as evidenced by Dennis’s sales. Believe it or not, “selling” a book for nothing doesn’t mean automatic success.

Another point, if an independent publisher isn’t maximizing monetary profits, then what is he or she doing? The independent publishers reading this will know this right away, but for the benefit of newbies, money may not be the first or primary motivation. Independents operate in a world where hundreds of thousands of new books are introduced every year, some by major publishers with major publicity budgets.

In that world, getting noticed is the problem. Making a monetary profit may be a possibility somewhere down the line, but getting readers is is key at the start. With sufficient steady readers, an independent publisher may opt to stay an indie and do fine financially and otherwise. He or she may also find literary agents and traditional publishers coming to call, giving entry into a different marketplace.

The number of readers is the key to this. Dennis Batchelder’s pricing strategy is aimed at that goal.

Would you like to know more about the man who achieved the great sales results and the books he wrote? Here he is:

soul_identity_smallDennis says, “I have been writing for ten years, and I’ve spent over twenty years in the computer security industry. I grew up in New England, moved to Maryland, and survived a nineteen month stay in Hyderabad, India. Now I live with my wife, our three youngest sons, and my mother-in-law in Bellevue, Washington.

“My novel Soul Identity is half techno-thriller, half existential journey. It depicts an organization that helps you leave your money and memories to your own future life. Think about a God-less, business-based take on reincarnation–and the consequences this could cause.

soul_intent_small“Soul Intent is the sequel, and it explores why people do bad things for good reasons. It’s set both in Germany during the Nuremberg trials and the present day. This is an adventure tale of stealing, hiding, and recovering Nazi Gold.”

Dennis Batchelder can be reached at

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan

Happy holidays, everyone! I’m taking a few weeks off. I do have more guest bloggers lined up for Your Shelf Life. We’ll hear from them in 2010.

5.2 Selling Books in the Great Recession: The Only Equation Book Sellers Need to Know

Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate and Guru of Conservative Economists

Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize Winner and Guru of Conservative Economists

P = TR – TC

The economist’s traditional way of putting this equation is:

pi = TR – TC

What is this? It’s the equation for profit, which is what runs your life if you’re in the book business, and most others. (Economists use the Greek letter pi to indicate profit.)

Profit = Total Revenue – Total Cost.

I’m posting this article before putting up the words of my guest bloggers because my guests are are old hands in the publishing world. They jump in running with their comments. What they say might be a bit confusing if you’re not familiar with the background. I’m setting out a few basic economic formulas to establish a framework for thought.

Total revenue is all the money coming in to your publishing endeavor as a result of your books, eBooks and whatever else you sell. That might include revenue from speaking or seminars, whatever. How you define your business for tax purposes is up to you, your CPA, and your tax attorney. Whatever: TR includes all remuneration from your endeavors, however broadly you define them.

From TR, we subtract Total Cost. This means the cost of everything from editing and proofing to stamps on the promotional postcards. Costs of all consultants, printing. Rent, electricity. Everything.

Profit is what’s left over after you subtract total costs from total revenue. That’s “the bottom line.” If the number is negative, you’ve made a loss.

In traditional publishing, where the publisher buys your manuscript and publishes it at his expense, this equation runs the show for a simple reason: In a capitalist society, businesses go bankrupt if they don’t make a profit.

If you’re a self-publisher or run an independent press (an Indie), the bottom line also matters, even if profit isn’t your total focus. How many of us can afford the time and expense to write and see our work in print decently (i.e., edited and properly typeset), when Mom is the only person who buys it? The profit equation applies to all of us.

John Maynard Keynes, Father of Modern Economics

John Maynard Keynes, Father of Modern Economics

Another equation that applies to the publishing world:

Y = C + I + G

This is the equation for national income––the big picture.

Y, used by economists to mean national income, usually called Gross Domestic Product or Gross National Product. GDP means the value of goods and services produced within the United States (in our case) during the year.

C stands for Consumption: everything we clever little shoppers buy from dinners at fancy restaurants to vintage wine to a whole lot more necessary things like brain surgery and clothes for our kids.

I means Investment, spending on goods and services intended in increase the size or efficiency of our productive capacity over time. So, spending on factories and new ways of making widgets.

G is Government Spending, which operates independently of consumer spending. Many of he functions of government (mosquito eradication, the military, our highway system, disaster relief) are functions benefiting society as a whole and need to be paid for by society as a whole. These are independent of private consumption, as is the cost of paying for our governmental system. (Congress, the Executive Branch, the court system … all that.)

National income equals the total of everything we spend, everything we invest, and all government spending.

What does this have to do with selling books and the Great Recession?

The definition of a recession (or depression) is that National Income is lower than it was before. Economists have means of measuring these variables and comparing economic performance over time. (The most recent measurements of economic variables say we’re OUT OF THE RECESSION! Ain’t that great? Don’t you feel it?) [This was written in 2009. Nuthin's changed. It's not Obama's fault… Really. It's the disparity of income between the upper and lower segments of our society. Trickle down doesn't work.]

Since, by definition, Income is lower in a recession, that means that at least some of the other variables, C + I + G, are down, too. In the current case, off the top of my head, I’d say Investment is stalled and Consumption is depressed. Government spending is strong, which is the whole idea behind the Stimulus Package. [Except that we called it off.]

Lord John Maynard Keynes, the father of modern economics, was the first to notice that the government can counteract what’s going on in the private sector. If C and I are faltering, G (government expenditures) can invigorate a sluggish economy.

Thorstein Veblen, Author of The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)

Thorstein Veblen, Author of The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). Coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption", which probably explains what fueled the Great Recession. That and crime in high places.



It means that overall consumer demand is off. (Duh.) Folks have less discretionary income––money they can spend as they want. That means that every friggin’ thing that they buy with that income competes with everything else for limited dollars.

Though we book producers worship books and consider them hallowed, other folks consider them just another form of entertainment. In a recession, books compete with all other forms of amusement––movies, sports events, music, everything.

Consumers rationing scarce dollars will think twice before plunking down $20 for a book (especially from an unknown author) when they could go to the movies or hit Starbucks.

Buyers may be more aware of opportunity cost, the economist’s jargon for, “Every time you make a choice, you lose.” If you’ve spent your $20 on diapers for the baby, that coffee table book fades into the sunset.

The book is the opportunity cost of the diapers. But which do you need more???


Recall the formula for profit: Profit = Total Revenue – Total Cost.

To handle today’s world, the smart book producer and seller can mess with both TR and TC. He or she can work to up Revenue and decrease Costs, or both.

This is what my guest speakers address in their comments, which begin with the next posting.

John Kenneth Galbraith, Keynesian Economist, Presidential Advisor, Prolific Author

John Kenneth Galbraith, Keynesian Economist, Presidential Adviser, Prolific Author

A NOTE: I haven’t mentioned CREDIT and CREDIT CARDS in the discussion above, treating disposable income and the other variables as though they were fixed amounts.

In reality, consumers have plastic. For years, we financed our lives using deficit spending, just like the government. We use credit cards instead of printing money.

This is fine, until the credit card’s limit becomes binding or the monthly payments of multiple cards take us such a large portion of our income that we can’t pay the rent. Or something happens. Like the loss of a job or a company going under.

The natural tendency to defer payment to some (much) later time by borrowing on future income does have a limit. Many of us have experienced that limit. Personal bankruptcies have soared along with corporate disasters. [Only thing different in 2011 is whole countries are going broke now.]

So the equations above do apply, but they’re elastic. A consumer can go a long time before the crunch happens.

Next up are some of our book marketing all stars!

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan Back in the Day When I Was an Economist!

All the best,

Sandy Nathan
Winner of thirty national book awards
#1 Bestselling Author ofIn Love by Christmas 
Sandy’s Amazon Author page, where you can find ALL of her books.

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