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When I was a kid, my best friend David had a lemonade stand that made him $80 in two hours. That was a fortune for a 12-year-old in the 90s. Convinced that having a lemonade stand was the path to my kid fortune, I set up my own stand, eager to make some serious money.

I sold three cups of lemonade—one to my mom, one to a friend’s mom, and one to a neighbor. 

So why was David so much more successful? He understood the third P of marketing: Place.

My friend David set up his lemonade stand at the end of the neighborhood 4th of July Parade. Everyone in our neighborhood would march with the parade and end up at the neighborhood pool. Since the parade typically got to the pool before the pool opened, everyone would stand in the hot Texas sun, waiting for the pool to open. And there was David, who was selling ice-cold lemonade hand over fist. 

David always had the biggest super soaker, and he bought them with his own money. 

Unlike David, I lived in a cul-de-sac tucked deep inside our neighborhood. For someone to drive by our house, they had to be so lost that their only option was to turn around. 

Every once in a while, it is nice to go back to the basics and talk about marketing fundamentals. Getting the fundamentals right is far more important than keeping up with the latest trends and algorithm changes. While technology changes, people don’t. The ways we influence people to take action remain the same.

The Third P of Marketing: Place

In this article, we’ll discuss the third P of Marketing: Place. We’ve previously discussed Product and Price, but Place is all about where readers find your book. Sometimes, the key to unlocking incredible sales is where the book is for sale.

Finding the right place to sell your book is where many self-published authors fall. While indie authors have an advantage in price, especially for ebooks, they often overlook place. Many indies only sell in one place, Amazon, which can hurt book sales, particularly for paper books. But even many traditional authors fail to take advantage of place to supercharge sales. 

So, how can you unlock the power of place for your book?

To figure out where to sell your book, you need to understand how place works and why it’s powerful.

Place Creates Value & Quality Expectations 

In 2013, Beth Feeback from North Carolina bought a painting for $10 at a Goodwill store, intending to reuse the canvas for her own work. However, before she could make any changes to the painting, a friend advised her to check the labels on the back. It turned out to be “Vertical Diamond” by Ilya Bolotowsky, a Russian-American abstract painter. The painting later sold at auction for $34,375.

The painting was exactly the same in both places. It was hideous modern art at the Goodwill, and it was still hideous modern art at the auction. The only thing that changed was the place where it was sold. At an art auction, $34,375 is a relatively low price, but at a Goodwill, it’s an insanely high price.  

Authors see different price expectations in the marketplaces of Kickstarter and Amazon.

Case Study: Road Trip Rescue Kickstarter

In July 2023, Becca Wierwille put her book Road Trip Rescue on Kickstarter. She followed the method we teach in our course Crowdfunding for Authors and raised a total of $5,426 from 121 backers. That is an average of $44.84 per backer

That same book now sells on Amazon for $4.99 as an ebook, $14.99 as a paperback, and $22.99 as a hardback. 

Why were readers willing to pay so much more for the book on Kickstarter? The answer is place. The place where people purchase a product affects how much they expect to spend. Readers regularly back Kickstarter campaigns for $44.00 and sometimes more. On Brandon Sanderson’s most recent Kickstarter, the average backing price was $225.28. Compared to Sanderson, Wierwille’s book is a bargain.

Readers are willing and even eager to spend a lot more for the exact same book when purchasing it on Kickstarter. Readers know they could get it on Amazon for cheaper later, but they pay a premium on Kickstarter to get it now and to get all the intangible benefits of Kickstarter like:

  • contributing to making a book possible 
  • getting early access 
  • having their name listed in the book
  • receiving a signed copy 
  • getting exclusive swag
  • gaining access to the author

If you are thinking about independently publishing your next book, you really should listen to all my episodes about Crowdfunding to learn more about Kickstarter.

Place Determines Demand

When it comes to leveraging demand, the rule of thumb is to go where the fish are. No amount of gear, lures, or bait will help if you are fishing in a pond with no fish. 

David figured out that principle with his 4th of July lemonade stand. By setting up his stand where people were already thirsty, his lemonade sold much better than it would have if people had to go searching for him. 

Case Study: Choice Books Spinners

I was talking with a literary agent recently who told me one of his clients was selling tens of thousands of copies a year with “no marketing.” All his publisher did was place his books in the Choice Books spinners at pharmacies, grocery stores, and hobby stores. 

While his books didn’t have any promotion (Promotion is the fourth P, which we will cover in a future episode), having a strategic place is still savvy marketing. 

Next time you are at a pharmacy, look for the Choice Books spinner and pay attention to the kind of books they sell. The books often promise specific solutions to very specific problems.

Think of it as selling literary prescriptions for social, financial, and emotional challenges. There is no pill at the pharmacy that will help you with your finances. But a book on budgeting and getting out of debt may be just what the doctor ordered. 

Ask yourself, where are people when they are in the mood to buy your kind of book?

  • Are they on vacation?
  • Are they at school?
  • Are they at church?
  • Are they at the grocery store?

People’s tastes change based on where they are and what they are doing. Place and timing are connected.

Place Determines Audience

Birds of a feather flock together. Different kinds of people visit different kinds of places. A book sold at a truck stop will reach a different kind of reader than a book sold at the tourist gift shop across the highway.

So, who is your Timothy? What kind of places does he visit? Think outside of the typical bookstore. The more creative you are, the less competition you will face and the more books you will sell. 

Case Study: Tricia Goyer Selling at Homeschool Book Fairs

Tricia Goyer is a homeschool mom who writes the kinds of books homeschool moms like to buy. She sells through Amazon, but she also travels to homeschool book fairs all over the country and sells tens of thousands of books in person by hand to fellow homeschoolers. 

Selling in person directly allows her to keep most of the money because she doesn’t have to share a cut with a retailer like Amazon, and it helps her keep in touch with her Timothy. By talking with other homeschool moms she gets to hear about their hopes, dreams, frustrations, and preferences. These conversations inform her writing and give her a huge advantage over other authors who are “writing for themselves.” 

For more on selling in person, listen to my episode How to Sell Your Book In Person.

Place Determines Margins

Some places let you sell your book yourself and keep all the money. Some places, like Audible, keep almost all the money for themselves. Most places are somewhere in the middle. The location where you sell your book impacts the amount of money you earn per copy sold.

Having your book for sale in an airport bookstore is great, but is it worth paying $10,000 to buy the placement? It depends on the book and how many copies you can expect to sell. When thinking about place, remember to calculate how it will impact your finances. 

Place Determines Competition

Where your book is for sale determines which books it competes with for attention and dollars. On Amazon, you compete with all the books ever written, and it is really easy for your book to get lost.

That’s a lot of competition!

Compare that to selling your book at the back of the room after you give a speech where you are the only person selling books. Public speakers are like my friend David selling lemonade; they have 100% of a captive market, which is part of the reason public speakers tend to sell so many books at live events. 

Case Study: Larry Correia Selling Books at Gun Shows

Gun shows typically attract thousands or tens of thousands of attendees with cash who are ready to spend. Gun shows often have a lot of nonfiction books for sale, including books about guns, gun safety, and politics. But traditionally, there were few fiction books for sale. Then Larry Correia started selling his monster hunter books at the SHOT Show, one of the biggest gun shows in the country. He had the whole market to himself and sold books hand over fist. Word about his books spread from one gun enthusiast reader to another, making Larry one of the bestselling authors of urban fantasy. 

Larry knew his book would appeal to the kind of people who attend gun shows. It was just a matter of showing up to the right place. You can learn more about his journey in our interview

I’m not saying you should try to sell your contemporary romance at a gun show. But I am encouraging you to think about where your target readers like to hang out. Your contemporary romance about a couple in Saint Louis might sell well at the gift shops near the Arch. 

How to Get Your Book Sold in Unusual Places

Sometimes, you have to go to a place yourself to sell a book, but many places will sell your book for you. You just need to connect to the kind of places.

Step 1: Establish Your Sales & Distribution Channels

Getting your book into more places requires both sales and distribution.

Sales means contacting retailers to get them to stock your book. You’re not selling to readers; you’re selling to shops and stores.

Distribution is the logistics of getting copies to the store, handling returns, and managing the money flow. These logistics may not be glamorous, but they can make all the difference. 

Sales and distribution cost money, so you will already need to have achieved some success to play this game. Companies like Anchor and Ingram can help you, but they typically want to work with authors who are already successfully selling books.  

Remember, selling books yourself at a book festival, homeschool book fair, or gun show doesn’t require sales or distribution. 

Step 2: Reach Out

The key to selling through local shops is to make a personal connection with the store owner or buyer. First, reach out to the store. Visiting in person is best, followed by a phone call. In a pinch, you can email but don’t expect a good response rate to your emails. Most book buyers get flooded with emails from people trying to get them to sell their stuff. 

Step 3: Identify the Buyer

The person who answers the phone or who greets you in the store probably isn’t the person who makes decisions about which books get stocked. Your goal with the first person you come in contact with is to identify the buyer and find out how to get in touch.  

Step 4: Give Your Pitch 

Include an explanation for why their customers would love your book. Explain the retail discount and the terms.

  • Are the books for sale on consignment, or is it wholesale?
  • Do you take returns of books that don’t sell?
  • What are the terms?

If you are traditionally published, make sure to get these terms from your publisher. If you are indie, check with your distributor.  

Step 5: Offer a Sample

Offer the buyer a sample copy to read or a sample set of books to sell. That way, they’re not committing to indefinitely keeping your book in stock. They can use the book or set of books to see how long it takes them to sell the initial copies you sent. You might also consider leaving a copy with the first person you meet. Having retail advocates for your book can be a game changer. 

Step 6: Deliver the Books

Ideally, your distributor will do this for you, but regardless, it is your responsibility to ensure the correct number of books are delivered to the correct person at the correct location. 

12 Online Places to Sell Your Book

  1. Amazon
  2. Apple iBooks
  3. Kobo
  4. Barnes & Noble
  5. Google Play Books
  6. Scribd: A reading subscription service that allows authors to publish their work in various formats (books, audiobooks, documents).
  7. Your Website
  8. Kickstarter
  9. Patreon
  10. Substack
  11. Etsy
  12. Alibris

24 Offline Places to Sell Your Book

  1. Coffee Shops
  2. Trade Shows (gun show, insurance adjuster conference, etc.)
  3. Homeschool Conventions
  4. Church Foyers
  5. Locally Owned Tourist Shops
  6. Gift Shops (museums, hospitals, visitors centers, historical sites, aquariums, zoos)
  7. Hobby and Interest Stores (Especially if your book centers around hobbies or interests like knitting, gaming, gardening, or photography.)
  8. Themed Shops (dive shop, computer store, smoke shop, gun store)
  9. Themed Schools (dojo, ballet studio, music school)
  10. Conferences and Seminars (Especially if you are speaking)
  11. Public Transport Shops (Train stations and airport bookstores sell a shockingly high number of books.)
  12. Indie Book Stores
  13. Farmer’s Markets (Your own stall or consign to other merchants) 
  14. Pet Stores
  15. Spas
  16. Barbers, Stylists & Nail Salons
  17. Art Galleries
  18. Music Stores
  19. Renaissance Festivals 
  20. Board Game Shops (For fantasy books, game guides, or anything related to game culture.) 
  21. Comic Book Stores (They sell regular books too.) 
  22. Outdoor or Sporting Goods Stores
  23. Antique Shops (Historical nonfiction, books about antiques, crafting, refurbishing, or historical novels.)
  24. The back of the room where you speak. 
  25. Drug Store Spinners

Bottom Line

Your book can’t be everywhere, but it can be where it will have its best chance to succeed. The more creative you are with place and the more you hustle to get your physical book in front of readers, the more copies it will sell. It may be that the key to your success is to start thinking outside of Amazon. You don’t have to stop selling your book on Amazon, but you may find other places to sell your book that perform better for you. 

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Hoping for a fresh start, Dr. Karis Henry accepts a position in Harbor, Missouri, a small, underserved town by Feather Lake. The long hours and demands of the community clinic are just what she needs—a way to bury the memories and control the pain. But the minute Clay Montes shows up, her new life falls to pieces.

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