Using Products to Help Sell Self-Published Books: What You Need to Know

Updated on October 6, 2017
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, nonfiction book editor, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

Source

Ever see the modern painting by Edvard Munch, The Scream? Well, that's the face I make when I hear self-published authors say they want to sell a product based on a book OR sell a product with a book.

In theory, it's a cool idea to extend the brand of the book. However, such linkage also extends the author's liabilities and costs, even to the point of making it not just unprofitable, but downright risky.

The Handmade Horror of Custom Products

Although I encounter all types of self published authors who want to create and manufacture products relating to their books, where I see this situation occurring most often is with authors who write children's books. It's challenging enough to write a children's book. But where these authors dramatically ramp up their risk is when they want to sell a custom, usually handmade, stuffed animal or other toy that's based on the story or characters in the book.

From my many years of experience in the promotional products industry, I can tell you that custom and/or handmade products are a nightmare on several levels. Most of the risk and challenges with these products have to do with regulations relating to products and the use of them. It's naive to think that consumer protection laws don't apply to you because you're a small business or self published author!

In the United States, the primary government "acronym" agencies that oversee these issues are the FTC and CPSC, although other agencies (such as the FDA) could also be involved, depending on the particular product. (If you're not in the U.S., check with your local government to see what agencies would oversee these issues.)

FTC (Federal Trade Commission): This agency oversees such issues as product and content labeling (which would especially be required for stuffed toys or fabric items) and advertising (i.e., misrepresentation, issues with advertising to children, etc.).

CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission): This agency oversees product safety issues such as choking hazards, lead content, hazardous situations caused by products, potentially harmful or toxic materials used in manufacturing, etc.

Researching regulations and determining the best course of action requires consulting an attorney familiar with product liability, as well as a commercial liability insurance agent to talk about product liability insurance that would be needed. Investing in both the legal advice and insurance coverage—not to mention the cost of creating, manufacturing, storing, shipping, marketing, and collecting sales taxes for the product!—could easily outweigh any sales and revenues that could be realized, even to the point of a major loss.

Though it wouldn't likely show up on a financial analysis, the one cost that these enterprising authors often forget to consider is the time and energy they personally put into these products. They're passionate about their work and can easily over invest in these adventures, creating even more cost (or even loss).

Selling Retail Products with Books

Another strategy that I have heard of is selling a standard retail product along with a book. Example: For a cookbook, the author would sell featured kitchen utensils (made by someone else) and the cookbook as a package. It's not essentially the same as creating and manufacturing a product, as just discussed. But that doesn't mean it's devoid of risk.

First, you need to do some significant supply chain research to make sure you're providing a product that aligns with your commitment to quality and safety. Plus, you may have to buy in a pretty high volume to get the per-piece price down. Then what if you can't sell enough of the product and book package? You'll be stuck with the inventory... and a loss.

And, as discussed with handmade products earlier, the costs of shipping, warehousing, marketing, insuring, collecting sales taxes, etc. will also apply.

But here's the bigger issue with the product-plus-book strategy: You could be seen as the retailer for both the book and the product. Should there ever be a product recall or an injury caused by the product—even though it's not YOUR product—you could become a party in those claims. Yikes!

Will the Product Actually Help Book Sales?

Reality check: If you're considering creating or offering a product in conjunction with your self published book, how do you know it will increase your sales?

I would venture to say that most self published authors don't go through extensive market research to figure out if adding a product offering to their books would help sales. That's a tough question for even big manufacturers and publishers who have marketing pros at their side! Rather, these authors become so enamored with their product idea that they will often overlook how large an undertaking this really is and charge forward anyway.

Don't delude yourself into thinking that the addition of a product will magically encourage someone to buy your book. On the flip side, don't buy into the notion that because someone loved your book, they'll want to buy any product you sell.

Always, ALWAYS, do a profit and loss analysis, and consult legal, commercial insurance, and accounting professionals, BEFORE ever venturing into making and/or selling physical products in conjunction with your publishing efforts.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Heidi Thorne

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      11 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Linda! Thanks for the kind words and your support, as always. Have a great weekend!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      11 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've shared some excellent advice, Heidi. I appreciate your knowledge of both business and legal issues.

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      11 months ago from Chicago Area

      Thanks, Larry, for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed the post. Have a great week!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      11 months ago from Oklahoma

      I always appreciate your tips:-)

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      11 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Venkatachari! It selling products and books can be successful if done right. But I agree that finding a suitable product match could be very difficult. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation! Have a great weekend!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      11 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      It seems a good advice to use products in order to sell your self-published books. But it may be difficult to find a suitable product that can match your subject.

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      11 months ago from Chicago Area

      Flourish, of course, it just applies to everyone else. Not! ;) But I do hope that someone will take it seriously and look before they leap. Thanks for chiming in, as always!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      11 months ago from Chicago Area

      Bill, haven't we all? :) Just hope I can help save someone from going down the same path. Thanks so much for chiming in and have a great day!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      11 months ago from USA

      Wow, this is a terrific warning, but something tells me there will be people who need to hear the message who think it applies to everyone else.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Been there, done that, failed miserably. LOL Enough said about that.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://toughnickel.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)