Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Jessica Brilliant Keener discusses the Amazon Advantage Program . . . and perseverance.

I had a recent email exchange with Jessica Brilliant Keener, author of TIME TO MAKE THE DONUTS, and out of that discussion came a great insight into how the Amazon Advantage Program really works (I didn't know, I am ashamed to say--because I probably should) and the value of perseverance in getting your own book sold to consumers. No one is going to do it for you, including (especially) your publisher.

Read and learn.

Jessica writes: My book came out in 2001 (just after 9/11) with Lebhar-Friedman, a medium sized publisher with a focus on business and food books. We had strong sales initially (sold about 8,000 the first few months), then my co-author, Bill Rosenberg, who founded Dunkin' Donuts got yet another cancer (his 4th) and he died the following Sept. at the age of 86. Our publisher left and the publishing house cut its book list in half. The consultant/publisher who replaced the publisher who left (!) wanted to sell the remaining 2,500 books to remainder outfits. We (Bill's widow and I) didn't want that. So, Bill's wife bought the remaining books at $1.00/book and rights to the book reverted back to the author.

I then signed on with the Amazon Advantage program. You go online to do this. There is some approval process but it didn't take long--a week or ten days I believe. I've never TALKED to anyone. The program allows me to sell my book on Amazon. I get orders by email. The email Amazon sends me includes a shipping label that I print out and tape to my mailing package. I then ship the amount of books to Amazon. Once a month or so, the program sends me my "check" electronically to my account. I make about $8/book sale--and I believe that's taking into account my mailing costs.

If you sign up for this program it's important to respond quickly to orders. You must confirm you've rec'd the order within 2 days and you must ship the order no later than 5 business days from confirmation. You also need space to store your books.

In my case, I've been able to store them (I've about 1,200 left now) in my husband's office. The books are stacked in boxes of about 14 books/box. (This is how they arrived from the distributor's warehouse.) In the meantime, I've been unable to let this book fade and continue to pursue other sales venues. The interest is there. Recently I sold 200 books to a professor who directs an entrepreneurship program at Nova University in Florida. I sold another 4 dozen to a professor of business in Texas, and 300 books to a Professor at the U. of New Hampshire (where they have a Rosenberg Chair in Entrepreneurship). I've sold these books at about half-price but even so, there's still a decent margin left. The book's retail price is $24.95.

This summer I met with the CEO of Dunkin' Donuts and the VP of marketing to discuss coming out with a softcover version of the book--with the idea that we would place a substantial number (possibly 20,000) in the Dunkin' Donut stores themselves. Dunkin' loves the idea but needs to test it. The company has never sold a book in stores. The VP of Marketing bought 100 hardcovers and plans to test market them to see if customers will, indeed, purchase a book this way. I've two publishers interested in pursuing this idea.

Obviously, all this takes enormous effort and time on my part and my enthusiasm comes and goes in spurts. I get into the idea of selling directly to specialty markets (professors who teach business and entrepreneurship) and then I get tired and go back to my regular program of freelance writing for magazines, and writing novels and short fiction.

So, there you have my entire writing life (sort of). Or, is this really a tale of my inability to give up on the worthiness of my humble donut book? After 4 years, I still believe in its relevance. I guess the moral to this whole outpouring is that good books don't have to go away or die.

Indeed! And I suppose that might be a subtext to this blog; POD is/should be the catalyst for keeping books alive.

But perhaps the most important point here is that the author is the one who has to keep the book alive. Look at the great ideas/marketing that Jessica put behind her book. You really have to make it happen.