As a book nears completion, it is all too easy for an author to get caught up in the euphoria of finally finishing a long-awaited project. But it is important to remember that the work does not end with the book.
After all, what good is a book with no one to read it?
So with your final revisions complete and a first edition coming back from the printers, now is the time to start looking at distribution.
Shipping costs have gone up again this year, and we can expect them to continue to do so as time goes by. So for indie authors, getting books into readers’ hands while breaking even is harder than ever.
If you want to make a living as a working author, figuring out how to ship books cheaply will need to be a priority.
How Indie Authors Can Ship Books Cheaply
In shipping your books, the name of the game is maximizing the return on your investment. First-time authors just trying to move a few copies here and there won’t have the same needs as a more seasoned author with an extensive mailing list.
So how you go about distributing your book will depend on your unique situation.
Fulfilling Small Orders
Independent authors who are selling directly to readers will do most of their business through the post. Usually, this entails setting up a website and providing a shopping cart button for customers to order from you directly.
That’s pretty standard internet retail. But once orders start coming in, you need to actually start shipping in a timely and cost-efficient manner. If you’re shipping single copies to individuals, then more than likely that means you’ll be using media mail.
Offered through the United States Postal Service, media mail is the standard for shipping parcels like books, DVD’s, and the like.
It requires that you provide your own envelopes. Padded mailers are recommended for this. You’ll also need to either go to the post office in person to have your postage labels printed or subscribe to a service that will handle it for you.
It’s worth noting that media mail is considered a fourth-rate shipping option, meaning that your parcels will take longer to reach their destinations. Among customers spoiled by Amazon’s next-day shipping, that can prove an inconvenience. But it is usually the cheapest option, making it the best choice for our purposes.
The main exception would be if you’re shipping multiple books to the same address. In this case, a flat-rate box might prove more cost-effective.
Media mail is fine for shipping single books, but if you ever start selling in substantial quantities you may find yourself a victim of your own success.
Fulfilling Larger Orders
If you’re lucky, you may find yourself in a situation where brick and mortar booksellers want to stock your book.
While large chains have been struggling to compete with the likes of Amazon, independent booksellers have been having a surprise resurgence. Part of the strategy of many of these stores is spotlighting independent authors who would get lost in the shuffle of larger retailers. It helps them to carve out a niche in the market.
But while these stores can provide rare opportunities for indie authors, they also come with a unique challenge. Namely, how to get your books onto their shelves.
If you’re local and have the means, you could deliver them personally, of course. But otherwise, the quantities they request will usually be too great to make the regular post a feasible option. But they’re unlikely to be large enough to justify large freight options. It’s an unenviable middle ground.
One solution is what’s called less-than-truckload, or LTL, shipping. As the name implies, LTL shipping is for when you need to ship a freight order that won’t fill an entire truck on its own.
Essentially, multiple shippers share the truck, making the deal more cost-efficient for all parties. It’s the perfect middle-ground between a dedicated freight order and mailing individual copies through the post office.
If you’re in a position where you need to ship more copies than you can stuff into individual envelopes, finding LTL shipping prices in your area is at least worth a try.
Getting Your Book Ready to Ship
But regardless of whether your shipping a dozen copies or a thousand, there are a few items that you should check off your to-do list before you even worry about shipping.
Some items that your sales page should feature include:
- Your Book Cover – Ideally this is something you will have already worked out by this stage in the publication process. An eye-catching cover is a must. It’s the first thing prospective readers will see, and many will decide whether or not to look into your book based on the cover alone.
- Sales Copy – A sales copy is a basic rundown of what your book is and why anyone would want to read it. Think of it as pitching the concept to your audience.
- Author Bio – An author bio isn’t necessarily essential, but they are kind of expected. Readers are accustomed to having at least a short blurb on who the author is, so the presence of a bio helps make your book look more professional.
- Testimonials – Testimonials have become a common feature in pitching a book to potential readers. It’s is a good idea to make pre-publication copies available to select readers or other writers in your genre for this reason.
- Writing Sample – The purpose of a sales page is to generate interest in your book. You’ll have a much easier time doing that is you give readers a taste of your work in the form of a sample excerpt.
Write It, Print It, Ship It
At this stage, you’ve already done the hard work of writing, revising, and printing your book. Getting the finished product into stores is just the final mile of the marathon.
Finding ways to ship books cheaply is simply a matter of figuring out the most efficient choice to meet your demand. Having done that, you can focus on what a writer should be doing: planning out your next book.
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