Selling & Marketing

This post relates to my Bookbinding Basics class on Skillshare, though also about good marketing practices, period!

I’ve had a number of students contact asking for advice on selling books, pricing, and where to sell. I’ve been making books for several years and selling on the side as a hobby and to make a little bit of money. Selling books may sound difficult, but if you do it right and create demand you will be surprised how many you can sell!

On a typical sales day (at an Art & Craft show) I can start the day with 50 books for sale and leave with only 5 left over and several hundred dollars in my pocket. You too can do this, and have fun at the same time.

Where?

Making books is easy. But how, and where can you sell them? Here are three ideas:

  1. Online. The most obvious place to sell is online. You can set up a store on a site like Etsy and other craft sites, or create a personal website to sell from. Building an eCommerce site is super easy with several services offering simple solutions (one of my favorite is using WooCommerce with WordPress).
  2. Craft & Trade Shows. Rent a booth at local art shows. Depending on where you live you can find a multitude of art shows to join and sell your wares. I can guarantee that you will be one of the only vendors (maybe only) selling books, making it easier to sell. Also consider the local Farmer’s Market.
  3. Local Shops. Local, small businesses love to sell locally made goods. Look around for coffee shops, craft stores, antique shops, anywhere that is already selling local goods or may be interested in doing so. Make a friend, and get your goods in the store.

I really like selling at Art Shows and the Farmer’s Market. For one, I like to be involved in my local community. And two, you get to meet a lot of really cool people (customers and other vendors) when you go to shows. Do some networking while you’re out, make a friend. It will help in the long run.

Pricing

Another question I am often asked is how much should a book cost. Well, that’s really up to you to decide. But I will give you a few things to think about:

  1. Make A Profit. First and foremost, you need to make a profit. How much does it cost to buy the materials for the books? Then calculate the time it took to make all the books. Even if you made books while watching TV (that’s what I do) you need to calculate some cost for time spent, that’s a good business practice.
  2. Do Your Research. How much does a notebook typically cost in store? Well, a nice notebook like a Moleskine can run between $10 and $20. So keep that in mind, but the fact that you are selling a Handmade, One-of-a-Kind product goes a long way.
  3. Watch Competitors. Check online to see what other makers are selling their books for. Keep an eye open for vendors at art shows selling books to see how they price their product (check their quality as well!).
  4. Experiment with Pricing. Change prices from event to event and determine what price is working. One week try selling for $15 and the next $25. Sometimes selling goods for more is better than selling for super cheap. People see more value in goods with a higher price, so don’t think you will sell more if you price your books at $5.

Create Demand

While selling be sure to point out all the great reasons why buying your book is a great idea. Make it known that the books are Handmade, people love things that are handmade. Have some materials on hand so you can show people how things fit together and tell them about your process.

I mentioned earlier that you may see other bookbinders at shows, though rare. But what I didn’t mention is that you will have the upper-hand when it comes to sales. Why? Because very few bookbinders sell Perfect Bound books, most will be selling books with a sewn binding, like Coptic Stitch.

Handmade Coptic Stitch Book
Coptic stitched books have an open back and the signatures (blocks of paper) are sewn together in an elaborate fashion. Coptic stitching is one of the most popular forms of bookbinding.

Sewn books are great, I love them, but they require a bunch of materials and time just to make one book. And if you want to sell that one book you will have to sell it for a lot more than a Perfect Bound book. If you run into any bookbinders, check to see what type of books they have and the price. Most likely they are selling for $50-200 (maybe as low as $30, but if that’s the case they better not quit their day job). And I can guarantee they will not sell many. People love handmade goods, but they don’t want to spend $50+ on a notebook. That’s where you come in, because with a Perfect Bound Notebook you can afford to sell at a decent price and still make a healthy profit.

If you have any questions or comments you can leave a comment here or find me on Twitter at @calebsylvest.

Handmade Japanese Stab Stitching Book
Japanese Stab Stitching is an interesting method of binding requiring a drill press to bore holes through the spine.
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Selling at the first Handmade & Bound show in Nashville.

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