Preparation and Knowledge Are the Keys to a Selling Your Books at Costco
by Nicholas Nebelsky
Back in April of 2015, I wrote a blog post, “Tips for Local and National Book Signing Events.” I want to share more secrets with you that might make you rethink your strategy.
Don’t Overlook This # 1 Crucial Mistake
Marketing your book is the single most important thing you need to do in advance of your book-signing event. A successful marketing campaign drives sales! It lets your customers know WHO you are, WHAT your product is, WHERE they can find it, and HOW MUCH it costs. It takes a lot of time, but the extra work will pay off. When you’re given the opportunity for a book signing, the goal is to get as many people as possible to your event. This makes everyone happy, especially the retailers that are selling your book.
In hindsight, I could have done a better job of marketing. I sent out press releases, invited radio stations to do live reports from my book-signing event, yet I still think I could have done more. I should have hired a publicist or at least someone besides myself who could help drive people to the event.
When Books Come to Life
After all isn’t that what we’re trying to do? I remember when a few customers would ask me to draw them a little picture of one of my characters with my signature. Perhaps to them, it made the signature even that more valuable. Only time will tell! I actually LOVE talking to children and their parents about my books. That’s when books come to life! When you can give your readers a front-row seat to your world and open your stories to them; they fall in love with you even more. Customers love to have access to their idols, and this experience that you are creating for them shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There were times when my walk-up traffic was down the aisle and created traffic jams. Crowds around a table draw more people. The other thing I did was I gave out stickers to every child who walked by. That alone brought in tons of foot traffic, and it gave me an instant connection to my customer.
Cost of Goods Unsold and the Fine Print
There is a flipside to selling too many books: it’s called the “Cost of Unsold Books.” This is a term I made up. It means you haven’t sold enough books and now have to pay extra costs to get the books back into your hands.
It all starts when you tell your customers that you accept returns. Sure, it’s a way into the larger box stores, but unless you’re prepared, it may be difficult to make any money. Don’t be surprised when they take advantage of this benefit. When those unsold books come back to you, there’s a cost, and it’s not pretty. I wasn’t prepared when I found out that “the publisher is responsible for the charge back, the cost of shipping, and an administrative fee.” Oh man, did I get slammed on that. I had my books in nine stores, with an average of 50 sales per store. That left about 270 books unsold. Not only did I have to pay for my printer to print them, and ship them to their destinations, I had to pay to have them shipped back to me.
The most asinine part of this was that four of those stores were within a 30-minute drive to my house. And yet Costco policy was to ship the books pack to their point of origin (Pittsburgh) and then forward them to me in Gilbert, Arizona. I couldn’t believe it! When you’re talking about 270 books, that’s about four 70-pound boxes. It just didn’t make any sense to me. It wasn’t Costco’s fault; it was my printer’s. And yet ultimately, it was my fault for not paying close enough attention to the fine print. This is enough to drive anyone to not want to sell books anymore.
My wise plan of “print on demand” backfired on me, and I was stuck having to pay for these charges. I lost money on that huge deal, even though I initially sold 800+ books. Anyone who sells books on Amazon would be thrilled to have those sales numbers; they are worthy of a Top 10 list.
There’s more! I then was thinking, “Why is Ingram so eager to sell so many books to Costco?” They were suggesting huge allotments to each store. At first, I was thrilled. Eventually, though, I thought it through, and the numbers didn’t add up. I was given two hours for each signing. If I had 80 books to sell, I’d have had to sell more than one book a minute. That’s almost impossible for a newbie with no track record. Plus talking to customers eats up your time, so those two hours go quickly.
COSTCO was SUPER GREAT to work with. They went out of their way to make me feel like a STAR; especially the Marketplace Gilbert, AZ store. In no way was I ever upset with Costco, they were a class act to deal with. Ironically that is where I sold the most books. The bottom line is that you have to do your homework before you tackle any of this.
They say that failing isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of success. You’re only a failure if you don’t get back up after you’ve been knocked down. In this case, I learned a lot, and I’m so much more intelligent now about how to run my business. I am proud of what my one-person publishing house has done. To date, I have four books published, 10 apps, and two online courses that I’m developing about publishing and writing.
I was also the first print-on-demand printer allowed to sell his books in any Costco. I organized nine book-signing events in two states on both coasts concurrently. And most importantly, I made a difference for every child who read my books. For those reasons, I consider myself VERY successful!
Children who are treated differently for being different need someone to take a stand for them, and Nick Nebelsky believes his books and apps do just that. Nebelsky seems to have found his niche in helping those children be heard. He’s an author, illustrator, and publisher of books, apps, and online instruction. He is offering a free online course on book creation available on his web site at IntenseMedia.com.