What the Heck Am I Going to Do with 100 Copies of My Book?


10 ways to get 100 copies of your printed book into the hands of readers

Once upon a time, you had to order at least a thousand copies of your book if you wanted to see it in print — thus the old cliche of the self-published author with boxes and boxes of unsold books in his basement. Oh, the shame!

But these days, the “sweet spot” in terms of manufacturing costs has lowered considerably. It’s possible to order bookstore quality books at affordable prices in quantities as low as… 1!

Then what’s stopping them from ordering printed books?

Many writers are still reluctant to print physical books, though, due to the big boom in eBooks, believing the popularity of eReading devices like Kindle, iPad, Nook, Kobo, and others have rendered printed books obsolete.

Not so!

Only 1/3rd of Americans own an eReader or tablet. The other 66% of your potential customers will be looking for the kind of book they can hold in their hands.

Plus, you’ll need printed copies of your book to send to press, literary critics, libraries, and to have on-hand for readings and signings.

So let’s imagine you start by printing 100 books just to test the waters. How are you going to make sure you get the most bang for your book? (Oh, bad puns are such fun!)

 How to distribute the first 100 physical copies of your book

10 copies for family and friends —

Assuming you haven’t alienated your loved ones during the writing process, family and friends can be your first and strongest supporters. They’ve seen you through the process from the start and they’ll be thrilled to read the finished work (unless, of course, they make unflattering appearances in your book).

10 copies for book critics —

I won’t lie: getting critics to review a book that wasn’t published by one of the big publishers or by one of the hippest small presses is difficult work — but it’s not impossible. You should make an effort to target ten reviewers who cover books like yours. They might appreciate being only one of ten reviewers chosen to receive your book. And even if they don’t write about you, they’ll have an introduction to you and might remember your name the next time around.

10 copies for the press —

Between your local newspapers, weekly art magazines, TV channels, and radio stations, you should be able to stir up some press coverage for your book and book-launch party. Make sure to contact them at least 2 months in advance of your launch event.

10 copies for your local bookstores —

Many locally-owned bookstores (and even some chain stores) will stock a few books on consignment. Visit three or four bookstores in your surrounding area and talk to the staff about selling your new book. And, of course, give them all the hype about your upcoming book launch event.

5 copies for your local libraries —

Whether you define “local” as town, city, county, state, or region is up to you. But the library system has a proud history of supporting authors and defending Freeeeeeeeeeedom of Speech! A librarian on your side is like having a secret weapon.

20 copies for your book launch party —

The big event! You’ve alerted the press. You’ve told your fans, family, and friends to get the word out. And now you’re standing in front of a packed room. Aren’t they all going to want an autographed copy when you’ve finished reading?

20 copies for online retail —

You’re going to want to offer your book for sale through your website, too. Set aside a minimum of 20 copies to sell — and maybe mention that those first 20 copies are autographed!

10 copies for giveaways and prizes —

Twitter and Facebook contests are a great way to engage readers and get them to share your social media content. A free copy of your book could be the perfect prize!

But I also know a writer who left a bunch of copies of his book in public places (park benches, bus seats, etc.), with a note written on the inside “Thanks for reading! When you’re done, please leave this book in a public place for someone else to enjoy. Oh, and if you liked what you read, send me an email at … ” Within a few months, he’d gained hundreds of new subscribers to his email newsletter, greatly increased the traffic to his website, and sold more copies of his book than he ever would have had he not encouraged people to share his book for free.

4 copies for that random chance encounter —

You never know who you’re going to meet! And while you can’t exactly carry a book conveniently in your pocket, you could keep a couple in your car, in your computer bag, etc. Just in case the need arises.

1 copy for you, of course! —

Look at it there, standing proudly on your bookshelf, right in between The Sun Also Rises and Infinite Jest. Well done! 


What are some of the ways you’ve gotten book copies out of your house and into the hands of readers? Let us know in the comments section below.

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[Picture of books from Shutterstock.]

Chris Robley
Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."



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