Selling books is really hard!

One way to sell more books is to focus your energy on bulk sales.

Do the math. You can sell books singly, and add up the numbers, 1 +1 +1, or you can sell in bulk and see sales multiply 1000 X 10, or 10+10+100+1000+1500.

You may want to sell thousands of books in a week to reach best-seller status on a big list. Most business books that make a best-seller list include some bulk orders. It’s a little bit tricky because some lists exclude bulk sales from their calculations.

Our client, Mark Miller, amassed more than 5,500 pre-orders leading up to the launch of his 2023 title, Culture Rules, to land on the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists, offering incentives for orders of 11+ books that included a free one-hour virtual conversation about the book. Read our case study about his campaign.

*Note, as of February 2024, the Wall Street Journal best seller list has ended.

Many of Mark’s pre-orders were bulk orders, strategically placed through Porchlight Books and independent retailers.

Even if you don’t want or expect that you’ll make a big best-seller list, bulk sales are still a helpful way to see more of your books in readers’ hands more quickly, creating more possibilities for your book and work.

As a first-time author, you may find it harder to identify bulk purchasers for your book, unless you have a well-established reputation with your clients. As your work grows in the world and organizations see the value you offer, you will gather readers who are excited to buy your next book.

Most authors view a bulk sales approach as both proactive and reactive.

You are proactive when you make a list of possible organizations or individuals who would buy your book in bulk and reach out to share your bulk incentives with them. You are reactive when someone approaches you for work and you negotiate your fee to include a bulk order of your books.

Here are a few ideas about how to leverage bulk buy incentives to increase sales of your book:

Identify incentives that will compel your audience. Whatever offer you make must be congruent with your book’s content and value. Look for offers you can make that fit your audience’s needs and interests.

Be creative! Look for ways to offer unique incentives that compel people to buy more books.

Make sure your offers will scale. If you are offering your time in exchange for bulk sales, make sure the numbers add up. You have a limited number of hours available and don’t want to over-promise your time. Look for incentives that do not require your time, when possible. This could include exclusive access to a video series or other digital resources related to your book.

Use bulk sales as a negotiation tool. While most authors can’t afford to trade keynotes for book sales, you can use the purchase of a bulk order of your books as a negotiating tool in closing a keynote sale by offering your keynote for a price and allowing part of the price to be applied toward a bulk book purchase.

Ask for bulk purchases. Many authors sell thousands of books to clients of their consulting practices. Your book brings your best thinking and learning to your clients in a convenient package, which can be read, re-read, and shared. If clients already pay top dollar for your knowledge and expertise, they will likely be willing to invest in buying multiple copies of your book. Consider the price of a day of training with you vs. the cost of bulk purchases of your book.

Create a landing page or pdf flyer that makes your offers clear and promote/share it widely. Don’t assume that people who want to purchase in bulk will know about your incentive offers. Proactively share your offers. Make sure people can easily find them. Be open to possibilities beyond the offer to come up with approaches that work for your clients.

Time these bulk buys proactively. By sending bulk sales to a site like Porchlight Books, which reports to Bookscran, you can increase your chances of landing one of the big lists. Porchlight also has a monthly best-seller list, so if possible, time your bulk sales through Porchlight to land within a certain week or month. Another bulk sales resource is BulkBooks.

Put a time limit on your offers. If you want your bulk orders to help you land on a best-seller list, work to gather them as early as possible so that they ship during the week your book is released. This may mean timing your pre-order bulk incentives to expire about a week before launch. You can also shift or adjust your offers to continue to attract bulk orders after your book is released.

When you incentivize and promote the bulk sales of your book, you will multiply your success and see your sales grow exponentially.

Tell me something! What other ideas do you have about how to leverage bulk sales? What has worked for you?