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, because high volume sales must offset low margin pricing or books will not be profitable.

High volume sales must offset low margin pricing of retail books. Book sellers add a small percentage of price markup to wholesale costs. Buyers will not pay a lot for any single book. Low margin pricing is critical.

Volume is another name for book. Books selling in the single digits generate little income. Cumulative profit comes with fast-moving inventory, printed on cheap presses. High volume sales can lead to substantial earnings.

Self-published writers typically sell about 250 books. Writers must reach beyond their own networks for word-of-mouth promotion. Sales of 2,500 books may defray startup costs and earn agent representation.

Self-publishing continues to carry stigma. Sales of 7,500 books may lure mainstream publishers. This level indicates professional editing and publishing standards are met. One in a million authors win sales battles.

Successful first-time authors usually debut in mainstream. J. K. Rowling struggled to get the small Bloombury publishing house to buy the rights to her first Harry Potter and Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone title.

Traditionally-published authors have advantage. The publishing house has reputation and a market. It assumes all production and distribution costs. These can be substantial. Each V. R. Duin book averaged $5,000 to print.

It can take over a decade to build a writing business. Commercial value increases with each purchase. Books can float in cyberspace, while writers build opportunities. Writing often is done at night or on weekends.

Self-publishing leaders change. V. R. Duin started publishing at BookSurge, under Amazon ownership. Later renamed CreateSpace, it is closing to pave way KDP Print Now. Titles already on Amazon are unaffected.

CreateSpace authors remain linked to Amazon through KDP. It offers royalty payments and sales-tracking reports, text and cover templates, prints and distributes books and makes eBooks available for immediate download.

KDP Print Now does not offer production-related services. For book and cover design or illustrations, editing, typesetting and composition services, other full-service, self-publishing companies are surging to the forefront.

Design and editorial services are labor-intensive. As was the Amazon experience, writer hand holding may prove to be unprofitable to new providers. Amazon profits from the international book-selling business.

Payments should not be called “royalties”. U.S. earnings are treated as income, which requires contributions to Social Security and Medicare. The tax system reduces net incomes and complicates writing businesses.

Software programs aid financial operations and business planning. Estimated quarterly taxes allow some deductions for outside suppliers, equipment and space. International taxation requires help from experts.

Buying books for give-aways is not a sound business practice. People rarely value things that are free. Writers should order their books for sale or to test sales reports, turnaround times and quality control.

Low margin pricing is found in highly competitive fields with inexpensive products. In businesses with high volume sales, mistakes are common. Audits find failures and inefficiencies in costly press resets.

Publishers make generous profits from books selling by thousands. Bulk orders are filled on offset presses with focus on the fewest possible titles. Printers cut corners or under-report sales of small-volume accounts.

The high-volume strategy is used by established influencers for content generation. It raises interest in past, present and future content. It works best for known, authoritative writers with an existing audience.

It helps to be a participant. It is important to engage with people and businesses of shared interests. The average social media account of 300 followers has a low participation rate in post activities (1-2%).

Caution with words is advised. Deleted tweets are stored in perpetuity by Google and the Library of Congress. Societal and government forces push out bad actors. The FTC investigates unfair or deceptive activities.

Bad news travels fast. Viewers complain about false, hateful, bullying, controversial, grotesque or vulgar content. Political correctness leads to bans, censorship, boycotts and inhibition.

It is important to select connections carefully. It is not necessary to connect with everyone. Unknown writers have to connect with influencers through compatible blogs and links. Networking matters.

Agents may represent creative individuals with 2,500 followers. Traditional publishers may accept 10,000 followers as a “ticket” into their “stable”. Beware of friend “fatigue”.

There are few guarantees in the fickle and rapidly-changing business. Per-click and per-impression advertising may gain followers. Crowdfunding may expand fund-raising. Money spent does not guarantee profitability.

Writers must remain alert to developing trends. Tastes and technologies keep tension on every aspect of this mercurial business. Evolving technologies may influence or limit the future size of business.

Organizations are turning to blockchain technologies. They are used for financial accountings, tracking of ownership rights, certifying transfers and preventing corruption of agreements and databases.

Blockchain is a huge drain on electricity. It is spurring expansions of power grids and renewable resources. It may have prompted an end to net neutrality, allowing Internet service providers to treat users differently.

Cryptocurrencies eliminate middlemen and third-party institutions. They are private, unstable and subject to fraud. Future, simpler and more stable solutions may replace sovereign currencies and exchanges.

The future role of cryptocurrencies is unclear. Expect their changes in data storage, identity, content protection and in payment methods to reach every aspect of the volume business of publishing books.