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
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
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
- 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: