bookstoreAlthough this hasn’t always been true, it’s true today. I know, sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But let’s think about this. Your book is one of about 30 million books available in the world. And, let’s say, our sample bookstore carries 60,000 titles, which is a pretty big store. 60,000 divided by 30 million equals 0.002. This pretty big bookstore is able to stock 0.2% (that’s two-tenths of one percent) of the potential books available. But fortunately, you managed to make the cut, your book is on the shelf … along with 59,999 other books.

 Our sample bookstore is in Cleveland. This means that our bookstore is a pretty good place to buy a book … if you live in Cleveland … if the book you’re looking for is one of the 0.2% of potential books the store has chosen to stock … if the clerk knows where to find it. But even if our Cleveland bookstore is a pretty good place to buy a book, it’s not a very good place to sell a book … unless most of your book-buying audience lives in Cleveland and buys their books from this bookstore.

Which brings up a big question: “Who is my book-buying audience and where do they live?” Here’s an ugly truth, most books sell fewer than 500 copies. Very few books sell over 100,000 copies. Let’s say your book has the potential of selling 10,000 copies – not bad. Let’s say your book does not necessarily focus on Cleveland or Clevelandians. Let’s say your book is about the challenges of moms getting kids to and from soccer practice while saving time to provide healthy, home-cooked meals for the family on weeknights.

Let’s keep things simple and just target the US market for the moment; Canadian hockey moms will have to fend for themselves. According to the US Census Bureau Population Clock (while I’m writing this), there are 316,710,145 people living in the US (about 391,000 of them live in Cleveland). Cleveland represents 0.1% (one-tenth of one percent) of the US population. Let’s say about 200 people per day come into our Cleveland bookstore; pretending they’re not the same 200 people every day and that the store is open seven days per week, that’s about 6,000 people per month in the store. 0.1% of America’s population lives in Cleveland; 1.5% (optimistically) of Cleveland’s population may visit our bookstore.

For the sake of simplicity, since 0.1% of America lives in Cleveland, let’s say 0.1% of your potential 10,000 book-buying soccer moms live in Cleveland – that’s ten book-buying soccer moms. 1.5% of those ten book-buying soccer moms may visit our bookstore in a month – since that’s only 15 percent of one book-buying soccer mom, odds aren’t great that one (or more) of your 10,000 book buying, healthy cooking soccer moms will come into the Cleveland store and, if they do make it in, will discover your book among the 60,000 other books in the store. That’s depressing!

But I’m not saying don’t have your books in bookstores; I’m saying don’t rely on bookstores to sell your book. Because bookstores are a terrible place to sell books.

Don’t worry, all is not lost. Next week we’ll talk about how to find your book-buying audience and how to sell them.