Hey there Sea Changers and welcome back. Today we continue our series covering some of the ways that we can fund our sea change by investigating how to make money selling books online. Yep..books. Do people still read books? Well as a matter of fact – absolutely they do. In fact, I did some research, and not only do people still purchase and read books, but over half of them do it online.
Now I will of course double check those figures myself, but I am actually not flying blind into this one. You see I was at a BBQ on the weekend where one of our friends brought in a whole pile of books to give to another. The conversation around books was then had – quite a long one in fact – but the wash up was that out of the 10 people in the conversation, 7 still purchase and read books at least monthly. And to my way of thinking, 70% (granted from a very small focus group) certainly make this subject well worth exploring. So let’s check it out…
How do we get started?
Before we get started, let’s just confirm/discount whether there really is a market for this online. Based on my initial research, I am confident, but I would hate to convince anybody to start their own online book business and have it fall away due to lack of interest. So as usual, let’s see what people are searching for:
What are people looking for?
To start let’s just confirm our market numbers:
1. Number of monthly searches
As we are looking to see if there is an interest in the purchase of books online (so we can sell them), let’s start by checking for purchase related searches. You will need to find yourself a good keyword tool (I use Jaaxy) and enter in the keywords that best describe your market. In this case, let’s start with the basics:
Not bad – including variations there are over 7000 odd searches – Admittedly this is not as high as some other niches I have written about but it shows an interest. I would certainly not be warning you off this one based on those numbers. To be sure let’s just check a few breakdown niches as well:
Again, not huge numbers (the results for varying search commands scroll a fair bit further than shown), but it definitely shows that people are at least looking at how to purchase certain book types. What about another product:
Wow – didn’t see that coming. Really good numbers for used books. Maybe a good sub niche here.
2. Growth trends
Another important aspect of online sales and niche selection is to check that interest is maintained or increasing over time. To gain an insight into this let’s check out how the searches for books are trending online.
Note: due to the search results above I have added a trend for used books as well.
So what does this tell us? Well let’s break it down:
- Interest in purchasing these products has been well maintained over the past 5 years.
- There is a definite interest in the purchase/trade of used books online
- There are definite spikes in interest at different times of the year – potentially Christmas and other occasions such as Mother’s day etc.
All in all, I really see a good opportunity here.
What is our niche?
Ok, now the fun part begins – we need to start looking at breaking down our market into a niche. Based on the stats above – and others from my research – I tend to think that you could build a successful site around ‘books’ in general allowing for discussions about a large range of materials. However, that is not to say that there is not a great range of topics should you wish to narrow down to a sub-niche. Examples include:
- Used Books – Well obviously – based on what we have seen so far.
- Fiction – crime, romance, fantasy etc.
- Non Fiction – biographies etc.
- Hobbies – cooking, fishing, automobiles, electronics etc.
- Gaming – big enough to be a sub niche on its own.
- Children – Another huge market.
- Travel – As with children’s books – a very popular area to specialise in.
- Electronic and Audio books – Kindle etc.
As you start to think about this, the question to ask yourself is whether the content you are covering is too large to cover effectively. The risk here is that if you start with a niche that is too broad, you may not be able to cover everything to the level required or to become authority on the subject – which you will need to be if you are going to convince people to purchase from you and not their local store. Don’t forget, you can always add a new section to your site as you grow as well.
As you work through narrowing your targeted niche, consider the following:
- Are you able to solve a problem – Most people undertake searches on the internet to solve a problem – see next section.
- Is it a subject that you have an interest, or knowledge in– I am guessing that you are in this post as you know about, or have an interest in books – or at the very least the subjects being covered by the books. If you don’t have either of these, maybe consider another market as, to be honest, you might struggle to produce solid content if you don’t know much about them – or worse, have no interest in them – and trust me, people will know immediately if your information is not up to scratch.
Let’s investigate this a little further by discussing the problem solving elements of niche selection.
What problem are we solving?
If this is a niche that you are interested in, you may already know what it is that you are trying to sell. If not, then maybe start to look at it from the perspective of solving problems.
Think about your own search behaviours when you are online – I would hazard a guess that most searches you do are in order to solve a problem. These can be in a number of ways such as:
- You know what you want to start cooking french food so need a recipe book to do so.
- You have a problem and need a solution – I.e. “I need something to do on my vacation by the pool”.
Your goal here is to determine just what problem/s you are trying to solve for your readers. This maybe one problem that spans your site or differ for each post that you write. For example, if you have chosen recipe/cookbooks for your niche, then problems might be:
- Matching ingredients – They want to know what ingredients they need to stock as staples – you would outline these with recommended books to match.
- Which to buy – There are a number of French cookbook options – but which is best?
In these cases, people would be searching for those topics based on having a problem and needing a solution. Your site would outline and review the best options for them.
Alternatively, if your site is about fiction novels, then you would be addressing problems such as the fact that I know I want to purchase a couple of books for my vacation but not sure what I should get. You would then be outlining the best books for sitting by the pool. You could potentially categorise them based on:
- and so on…
Note: You do not need to identify every possible problem that your readers may have straight away. In many cases, the more you write, the more ‘problems’ will present themselves so initially you really just want to make sure that there are some that may need solving as we have found here.
How are you going to convince them to buy?
Now that we know our niche (or are at least working on it) and have an idea of the types of problems that we want to solve, there is one last thing to consider which is the issue of consumer buying habits. I have mentioned that this is a great niche when it comes to online purchase behaviour so your sales/post pitches just need to match the needs of the problem that your site visitors are looking to solve. Some examples include:
- Those that like fiction often read as an escape, or to relax. Highlight these emotions when discussing or reviewing a book.
- Those looking for self-help/tuition type books will want to know exactly what the book is going to cover.
- Parents will generally only purchase books for their children if they can be convinced that they are appropriate.
So at the end of the day, even though we do have purchaser behaviour on our side, to be successful in selling books online, consider the following:
- Solve problems without purchase – That’s right – write your posts in a way that actually makes it easier for people to do their research and buy elsewhere – by doing this, you are solving problems and helping readers out. If they trust you, they will be more likely to return next time and buy from you then – especially if you follow up with posts on similar books that might interest them!
- Provide the intangibles – The advantage of books – which is maybe why people will purchase online – is that we don’t really need to know what they feel like before we buy them. For fiction books however, as we stated above, we will need to provide the intangibles in our posts – I.e. is it a really deep thriller, really funny or will it make them cry?
- Know your audience – A big mistake many make here is to target the product at the user and not necessarily the buyer. This is especially important around children’s books etc. where parents are buying for their kids. They don’t always care too much about the subject rather want to know specifics around appropriate wording, learning levels or picture colours etc.
Tip: Still not sure? Have a look and see what others are doing. It might just help you with some ideas.
What do we need to do?
Ok, so now that we have an idea in regards to our niche and know some of the problems that we can investigate, we need to choose and setup the media that we intend to use to sell our product. This can include:
Build a Website
Websites allow you to solve problems via blog posts and videos that people can view in order to identify the solutions that they need. Usually, this process is fairly straight forward in that you build your website, write posts (on the differences between certain authors for example), then provide links so that they can view/purchase the relevant materials from your links.
Promote on Social Media
Social media is a powerful platform that can allow you to get your message out there into the big wide online world. It has the power to reach thousands and allows you to target specific segments if you choose the correct platform. In terms of selling books online, a good platform to start with is FaceBook where you can discuss books with your audience.
Pinterest and Instagram can also be good for book visuals such as recipe pictures and/or showing pics of people reading your books in different places such as beaches, by the fire etc.
Join like-minded groups
If your book niche is aimed at the hobbyists, you can really get amongst them quickly as there is usually some sort of social media group, online forum or membership page that you can join to gain you exposure to potential visitors and sales. FaceBook is a great place to gain access to hobby groups and can not only allow you to interact with customers but also gain more information and education in terms of content ideas for your posts or products.
Note: Many of these groups will not allow you to spruike or promote your sites directly, however if you can interact and demonstrate your knowledge then people will ask you directly for the information. At the very least, as above, it is a great way to get ideas and insight into what people in this area really want to know about and what they are buying online.
How do we sell them?
Ok, now we come to probably the most important aspect of this whole online selling caper in that we need to consider what products we are going to promote. It should be noted here that the main process that I will be discussing is to sell them via an affiliate marketing arrangement. In short, this means that you will write about books and then refer your readers to a link where they will purchase directly from the vendors. You then make your money via commissions from those vendors. Let’s have a look at some of the best avenues for essential oil vendors:
Affiliate programs are setup directly by companies or marketplace platforms (Amazon, Ebay etc.) that allow you to join and then refer traffic to them via customised affiliate links.
To find affiliate programs in the books space, simply type “affiliate: books” into your search engine:
From here you can search through and find programs that:
- Relate to your niche/problems that you are solving.
- Have quality products – your brand can be severely damaged if you promote poor quality products or fake books.
- Have solid payment and customer service arrangement.
- Pay decent commissions.
- Have good testimonials covering commission payouts and quality of product.
In most cases, you will need to apply for the program before you are allowed to promote their products – don’t take this step lightly or you will be rejected. Affiliate programs will generally want to know:
- Your website name.
- Traffic levels.
- Why you want to join – (so I can make money by selling your travel books is unfortunately not generally a good enough answer).
- How you plan to promote their products.
One thing to be aware of here I guess is to keep in mind the issues we discussed earlier in regards to selling books online. You need to make sure that the programs you choose can be trusted and that the consumer is comfortable that they have recourse if something goes wrong. For this reason you will need to make sure that your chosen programs are going to resonate with your readers and your niche. That said, some marketplace programs such as Amazon and EBay can give you access to these types of products and as they are more trusted, then they maybe worth a look for sure. Some Amazon examples are as below:
Note: the advantage of the big sites such as Amazon is that they most often offer their books in both paper and electronic forms giving you access to a potentially larger customer base.
Trade your own stock
If you are one that prefers to work with more tangible products, then maybe you could also investigate working with your own stock – especially if used books is your thing. The process for this is quite simple:
- Find your products – this maybe via a wholesaler, local dealer, flea market, op shop or any other source where new and second hand books are sold.
- Promote the product for whatever price you see fit – often via a marketplace site such as Shopify, Amazon or Ebay.
- Sell the product and ship to the customer.
This process requires higher setup costs than affiliate marketing as you will need to purchase your books to start with. The real advantage here though is that with this method, you can build your stock gradually and relatively cheaply as there are so many avenues to purchase books from as listed above. You can then sell them via your site as a purchase or even a trade type scenario.
To assist in finding out where to acquire books, you can again so some searches online such as “wholesale books” for example:
Note: These results will usually be based on your geographical location so you may at times need to sort through a few pages.
From here you will need to follow the same processes as with affiliate programs in determining whether they are a good fit for your business plans including:
- Relate to your niche/problems that you are solving.
- Have solid delivery and customer service arrangements.
- Have good testimonials covering service and quality of product.
Alternatively, keep your eye out in your local area for book fairs and swap meets. These are a great way to find and purchase your products at good prices – you never know, you might even find a solid supplier for future sales as well.
Tip: This method can be very effective in driving online traffic and sales via the implementation of more traditional sales methods such as kiosks and market stalls etc. As people get to know you, they can purchase from you there and then be directed to your website for future sales.
And there it is – How to make money selling book online. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, need some advice or have any experiences to share.
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Until next time
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