Thursday, February 3, 2011

Seasonal Book Sales and Your Business Plan

As fascinating as self-publishing is for me, my primary area of interest is coaching basketball. Yes, it is true, not all coaches are dumb jocks (I'll have you know I graduated from college with a 3.72 gpa and a double major). As I grow older, I find learning to be much more fun and interesting than it ever was in school. Self-publishing just happens to be one of the subjects I have taken an interest in.

As well as my book on using CreateSpace sells each month, and it accounts for a good percentage of my monthly sales, the majority of income for the year comes from the sale of books about coaching basketball. Since I have entered the self-publishing business and realized I could make a decent second income, I have taken much more of an interest in not only how, but when, my sales take place.

December has always been my best month for sales. No doubt part of this is due to the annual Christmas season buying binge Americans engage in. March is a peak month and I attribute this to the annual arrival of state tournaments and the NCAA's March Madness National Championship Tournament. October and November are the next best months for sales and this is due the start of practice in the fall. The other eight months of the year are steady with sales numbers being much lower but consistent.

January sales are usually abysmal. I attribute this to the post-Christmas halt to spending and the fact that basketball coaches are in the midst of league play and not interested in learning anything new. This January was different. In fact, it was the single most profitable month since I self-published my first book. I attribute this dramatic change to my introduction of Kindle editions of two books and while I hope not, I feel fairly certain this past January was an aberration.

How does all of this impact my business plan? Since I have been tracking sales volume by month, I have a good idea when to release a new title for optimal initial sales. I also have a better idea of when my marketing efforts need to be coordinated and targeted to specific titles and events.

Surely there are optimal months for the release of new titles. Those optimal months may vary based on overall consumer buying habits and the niche topic of the title. In my case, coaches buy books just prior to the start of a new season in an effort to learn more and do a better job coaching. March is a time of year when coaches are still really excited about their sport and want to plan for the coming season next school year.

Since the majority of my sales take place on Amazon, anything that boosts a new titles initial sales will help the long tail effect on Amazon kick in sooner, boosting more sales overall for the long term. It makes sense for me to finish a project so it can be on sale on Amazon in September. I then target my marketing and promotional efforts so a considerable portion is directed at promoting the newest title. When coaches start buying in October and November, the new title's sales will take off quicker than if I had released the book in June or July.

It also makes sense financially to track sales by month so a reasonably reliable idea of cash flow can be generated. New titles and other business projects take money to get them off the ground and it is helpful to know what time of the year money will be available for a new project.

The bulk of my business expenses fall into four categories, not all of which are directly related to the publishing arm of KCS Basketball Enterprises. I host a coaching clinic each fall and a summer basketball camp. Each of these are once a year events, require a fair amount of money to put the event on and in the case of the camp, is a good income generator. The coaching clinic breaks even but is a great marketing tool and is held the first weekend in October. I have monthly expenses for my website and e-newsletter as well. Finally there is the cost of getting the next title into production and available for sale. All of this takes a little bit of financial juggling and planning and knowing when money will come in helps in the planning process.

For authors of non-fiction books, it is well worth your time to look at publishing release dates as a way to maximize sales. Some topics are so time sensitive it might not matter when the title is released, it will sell right away. Other topics might need to be released at a specific time of the year to maximize both initial sales and long term sales.

The timed release date will of course impact your writing schedule and the time available for editing, design and production. This entire publishing thing has turned out to be just a little more complicated than I thought when I first started this adventure - but it certainly has been a fun learning experience!