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“You Need to Have Books in Order to Sell Books”

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

By Michael Heath /

sell books
“You Need to Have Books in Order to Sell Books”

Ron Pramschufer, of the former company, was known for reciting maxims including the one in this title. Here, he was saying that an author needed to have printed books if the work was to be successful. Today the statement may be more of an anachronism than an aphorism. Or is it?

The Digital Age ushered in books read on electronic tablets, while print-on-demand books essentially eliminate the need for inventory. Do self-published authors really need copies on hand for a chance at success? Before the Internet, writers either caught the interest of a literary agent or their work was doomed. Granted, vanity publishers edited manuscripts, designed cheesy covers and printed books for friends and family, all for a big fee. Bookstores wanted nothing to do with these tomes. The books carried the stigma of works that did not make it. Minor leaguers. Losers.

Computers, publishing software and the Internet enable writers to bypass the whims of the traditional publishing industry. Aspiring authors can produce their own finished work or have a company do it at an affordable price. Retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble online allow authors to make their books accessible to everyone. Upwards of one million books are self-published every year, which is a lot of new books and lots of competition. New authors often go with the print-on-demand model by simply uploading their files and metadata to a website, and hope for the best. Others do the same with an e-book. Both approaches are very limiting and rarely produce meaningful results.

A printed book is tangible. Prospective buyers can hold, thumb through and even smell the product. Having actual books demonstrates a vested interest and belief in the project. It shows readers what you have. Who wants to read a book that the author did not bother to print? E-book-only projects sound like direct-to-video movies. Who wants that?

In 1990, I opened a store. An experienced retailer advised me to accept all the major credit cards because “you want to make it as easy as possible for your customer to buy.” That advice always stuck with me, and it applies here. Print books and sell them from the trunk of your car. Put a title online both as print-on-demand and as an e-book. The market is competitive, but so what? There is always room for one more good book. Get it out there; the world is waiting.

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