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Rampant TechPress
Making a Bestseller

In addition, please read "tracking your book sales" and "Inside Amazon Sales Rank".

Getting the best sales from your book

The staff at Rampant TechPress has the lofty goal of ensuring the successful transition from your original book proposal to a completed on-the-shelf bestseller.

This is often a challenging task.  The author remains the main component in the mix --- Great works sell themselves while poorly-conceived and badly written books fester on the shelves, damaging the reputation of the author and the publisher who was gullible enough to publish rubbish.  Every publisher wants to get a bestseller but the reality is that a runaway-bestseller is a very rare event for any publisher.  

What makes a bestseller?

The bestseller "On Bullshit" has an Amazon Sales Rank of 14, translating into sales of more than 2,000 copies per month!  Why?  Well, the book is a hardcover edition (which is perceived as gift-quality by the consumer), and it is very cheap ($5.97 on Amazon).  It's also written by a Ivy League professor who has "snob appeal" even though more than 95% of the buyers of "On Bullshit" had never heard of Harry Frankfurt.

Personally, I found that “On Bullshit” is not a book to be tossed aside lightly.  Instead, it should be thrown with great force. (a review stolen from Dorothy Parker).  I found it to be a boring, tedious book that would be of no interest to anyone unless they are proctologic enough to care about the subtle nuances in word definitions.  Me?  I run screaming from anyone anal enough to bring-out word definitions into an argument as it shows a shallow mind.

The book “On Bullshit” became a bestseller for its title, and price/value ratio, nothing more.  Nonetheless, it’s a superb piece of marketing where a publisher took a piece of academic ruminations and turned it into a hot book. 

The First American Bestseller

Word-of-mouth is also a great factor.  Consider Thomas Paine's bestseller "Common Sense", first published in 1775.  The only publisher who agreed to print it wanted half the revenue, and Paine agreed to donate his profits to supply mittens for the Revolutionary Soldiers who were attacking Quebec.  The book sold over 20,000 copies in the first 90-days, and eventually over 500,000 copies.  Even today, 225 years later, "Common Sense" has a respectable Amazon Sales Rank of 20,000, about one copy per day.  Click here to learn more about the Amazon Sales Rank.

The two main publishing models

Publishers use a price/market model to plan the sales of any book and there are successful publishers using a variety of publishing models:

  • Tight Target Model - This method targets a small market with high disposable income (Surgeons, Engineers, Attorneys, &c) and operates with a high-price structure where a break-even point might be less than a thousand copies.  For example, a book on new Surgical Techniques by a noted physician would have deep penetration into a market with almost total inelasticity.  An inelastic demand curve means that the market will demand the product regardless of price, and this is usually true when a professional is required to keep-current with their profession and has a ongoing professional responsibility to keep-up with the latest research.  It can also be true for books that have no competition or no close substitutes.  An example title might be a 400-page book titled "Internals of Waste Treatment Plants" for $199.00.
     
  • Loose Target Model - This publishing model appeals to the public at-large and attempts to compete in a highly elastic market, head-on with other books on the exact same topic.  In a crowded market, product differentiation is critical and a book must "stand out" and distinguish itself by providing extra value.  An example would be low-cost books, broad-appeal books such as "Walter the Farting Dog".

Differentiators in a crowded market

It's no secret that a book in a crowded market must distinguish itself.  This extra-value differentiator can be quality, low price, a top expert author.  These are the "impulse buy" books that you see on end-caps and tables in the bookstore, all screaming at you that this is a book that you didn't know that you needed, and that you had no intention of buying when you first walked through the front door.

  • Written by a top expert - Everyone seeks the "final word" on a subject.  For example, there are no competitors to "A Brief History of Time" because there are no other quantum physicists who can match the name recognition of Stephen Hawking. 
     
  • Great price/value ratio - When you compete side-by-side on the bookshelves you must have better quality.  For example consider the travel book market.  Companies such as Fodor and Michelin have invested tens of millions of dollars into their travel book series, and the books are printed overseas in runs of over 50,000, making it possible to offer a all-color book for under ten dollars. 
     
  • Perceived high value - With close competitors the first task is ensuring that the buyer takes your book into their hands.  It's all-about the spine of the book, and the message must be concise and descriptive.  Once the book has been picked-up by the buyer, it's a head-on contest with the closest competitor.  In markets such as digital photography, Photoshop and travel books, it's all about the quality of the photo's.  Ceteris Paribas ("All else being equal"), it's the most visually appealing book that walks out the front door of the bookstore.

Here is the rough breakdown of each dollar spent on technical books:

 

 

   

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