Think Volume
September 2018 by V. R. Duin


It isn't smart.
To become part
Of the landscape.
We must escape.

There are highs and lows in the volume business of publishing books, because high volume sales must offset low margin pricing if books are to be profitable.

In the volume business of publishing books, high volume sales must offset the low margin pricing. Book sellers typically add a small percentage of retail price markup to the wholesale cost of each book. Profitability comes with a high volume of book sales. Buyers will not pay a lot for any single book. Therefore, low margin pricing is critical to the sale of books. Within this low margin business, it is necessary to create high volume sales. Volume is another name for book. Books selling in the single digits generate very little income. Cumulative profit from publishing books comes with fast-moving inventory, printed on cheaper presses. Low margin pricing and high volume sales can lead to substantial earnings for writers and publishers.

Self-published writers typically sell about 200 books, most of these to personal networks. Writers must reach beyond their own circles for high volume sales achieved through word-of-mouth promotion. Writers generally must sell 2,500 books to defray startup costs. This same number also may earn the representation of a Literary Agent. Sales of 7,500 books are said to lure traditional publishers. In the volume business of publishing books, commercial value increases each time purchasers take a chance on a book. Books can hold a place in cyberspace, while writers build opportunities for them, but another source of income may be required. It can take over a decade to build a business publishing books. Writing and promotion often are done in the middle of the night or on weekends.

Complicating the income situation for writers is the tax system in the United States. Royalties from book sales are treated as earned income, from which contributions must be made to Social Security and Medicare. This further reduces net incomes for writers. Despite low volume sales, writers must file estimated taxes quarterly, whether they operate as businesses or as sole proprietorships. Deductions for outside suppliers, equipment and space may be allowed. Taxation and accounting may require the help of an expert trained in bookkeeping, auditing and taxation for the volume business of publishing books. The use of a bookkeeping program may be required to track the financial operations and make future decisions about publishing books. Perhaps these payments should not be called “royalties”.

Writers who buy their own books to give them away may not be developing a sound volume business of publishing books. People rarely value things that are free. Therefore, these gifts may not benefit from word-of-mouth promotion. The only reason writers should order their own books is to sell them or to test the integrity of the sales reports, turnaround times and quality control measures at the book publishing house. A publisher does not make a generous profit unless and until books are selling by the thousands. Independent printers may cut corners or fail to report sales of books printed in small numbers on demand. Bulk orders are printed less expensively on offset presses, including at many self-publishing houses.

The strategy used in high volume business of publishing books is being used by established influencers for content generation. Regular updates to content can generate traffic to websites and raise interest in past, present and future content. This high volume content approach works best for writers with an existing audience for their known, authoritative and quality content. Creative writing prompts are available across the Web to spark ideas for students, bloggers and other writers. Volume businesses often use per-click and per-impression advertising to gain followers and crowdfunding to expand and distribute content. However, crowdfunding may not guarantee full credit to contributors or achieve fundraising goals. There are few guarantees in the fickle and rapidly changing, business of publishing books. Trending tastes and digital technology keep tension on every aspect of this mercurial business.

Writers must remain alert to developing trends. For instance, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies may influence or limit the future size of the volume business of publishing books. In addition to the considerable challenges of the new publishing environment of website design, security concerns and SEO, other technology is evolving. Many organizations are turning to blockchain technologies for receivables, payments, tracking and recording of ownership rights, certifying transfers and contractual agreements and for preventing the corruption of financial transactions and of voting databases, among other important purposes. The electricity usage of blockchain is spurring discussions of expanding power grids and bringing on renewable resources. The communications demands may have prompted the end of net neutrality to allow Internet service providers to charge differently for different users and uses.

Countries are looking into establishing their own sovereign cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies are currently private, unstable and subject to fraud, or manipulation. They also require a huge amount of electricity. However, cryptocurrencies eliminate middlemen and third-party institutions from financial transactions. In the hands of governments, blockchain may create a simpler and more stable solution to global finance than the existing sovereign currencies and currency exchanges. The future role of cryptocurrencies is unclear, but they are changing the financial world. The question is not if, but How soon blockchain technology will change currency as we know it.. Expect promising blockchain changes in data storage, identity, content protection and in payment methods to reach every aspect of the volume business of publishing books.

Highs and Lows of Publishing

  • high volume sales V. R. Duin says:

    In businesses with high volume sales, mistakes are common, making it important to audit for failures and efficiencies in the sale of books.

  • Low margin pricing V. R. Duin says:

    Low margin pricing is typically found in highly competitive fields with inexpensive products, like publishing books, in which large quantities sold can make up for low profit on each book.

    • volume business of publishing booksV. R. Duin says:

      A volume business, like publishing books, will avoid costly press resets and focus on building a mass market following for the fewest possible titles.