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Selling Books on the New York City Subway

The following post is excerpted from Fred Gleeck's ezine, Fred Gleeck Insights. Fred is a great marketer. He tells a great story here:

I love New York! One of the days when I was running around like a chicken with it's head cut off on the subway I saw this guy hawking something further down the subway car. In my typical NYer style I averted my gaze, hoping not be accosted to give him money.

Lucky I couldn't do it. I squinted out of the side of one eye to see what he was selling. In his hands he had a fairly large load of paperback BOOKS. His books it turns out.

I watched him graciously take a $10 bill from a lady a few seats away from me. I tried to see what the title of the book was with no success. So, I stopped him and asked him what was up.

He told me that for the last 3 years he had been riding the subway every day selling his book. He reported to me (and I have no reason NOT to believe him) that he had sold a tad over 48,000 books. That is not a misprint. He has sold a LOT of books through this ONE channel of distribution.

I promptly invited him to come to the upcoming publishing seminar as my guest. I'd love to give this guy 10 minutes to tell the rest of us exactly how he did it. I'm not sure he's coming, but you should come to this event if you sell books or any other information products.

Let me do the math for you on this one. He was selling his book for $10 - CASH! I'm sure that he is diligently recording every dollar he makes. I know he's pretty savvy because he told me (when I asked) that his printer in Bang Printing in Minnesota. A well known book printer that I have gotten quotes from in the past myself.

The book was about 120 pages. If he prints 3,000 at a time he probably gets them for around $2. So he's making $8 on every book.

Since he sells about 15,000 copies a year, that comes out to $120,000 net. Not bad. Given he's on the train so much I'm sure he has an unlimited travel card which costs him about $40 a week or so.

When people tell me they can't sell books, I'll be referring them to this individual. His story was about his experiences as a gang member and I don't even remember his name because he promised to email me. Hopefully you'll be hearing more from Mr. X!

A couple of points to make:

1. Get creative! Books are not just sold in bookstores. In fact bookstores are a lousy place to sell books. Reason being is that you don't make the kinds of margins I detailed above. If you have a book in a bookstore that's great, but what about using the old NOGGEN and looking for other creative channels?

2. No invoicing, this guy got paid on the spot. Good idea.

3. Exposure of this kind breeds additional benefits. He told me that he's been asked to speak at a dozen different universities from Pennsylvania to Europe.

John Kremer, who will speaking at The Publishing Seminar, is a master at showing people how to sell their books through different channels. After all, he's the author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books. If you don't own this book, you should!

What ways can you sell your information products that are non-standard? Look for them and you'll make a lot more money and find customers that you would otherwise never find!

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Comment by BLUE on December 6, 2007 at 6:25pm
I know that guy very well.
He's a down to earth person...


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