Eat Your Book

I was talking to an author who had worked for a multinational food company and had recently switched to a not-for-profit organization. She had a book in mind and wondered how many copies we typically sold for a book in that category. I gave her a five-figure range.

“Oh, I guess I’ll have to get used to that,” she said, “because where I came from, we talked about selling millions of boxes.”

“Yep, all we need to do,” I said, “is convince people that they should eat their book every week!”

She got a good laugh about that. But I was serious. Kind of.

One of the great things about publishing is that a book can last a hundred, two hundred, even five hundred years. One of the difficulties with publishing is that a book can last a hundred, two hundred, even five hundred years. Once readers buy a book, they usually don’t need another one–ever. Oh, maybe it gets damaged, maybe they give it away, maybe they loan it (never to be returned), and they want another. But those are the exceptions to the rule.

Dogs may eat books, but people don’t. Book publishing is not like making soap or car wax or microwave dinners or windshield wipers that get used up and then repurchased. Publishing is much more challenging.

But books can somewhat emulate consumables. Certain categories of books get repeat buyers. Curriculum and textbook publishing, for example. The same “consumer”–the teacher–buys the same material over and over again . . . or requires new groups of students to buy it each term. Also some people buy the same book over and over as gifts for friends and family. Libraries will sometimes buy multiple copies of a book–if it is very popular.

Books in a series can function the same way. I liked the first one. I want the next. Coloring books or puzzle books are similar. I literally use one up and want another.

Books last–a lifetime or longer. That’s what I love about publishing. Good publishing strategy, however, can also include a mix of books that get used up regularly.

Just some food for thought.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

5 thoughts on “Eat Your Book”

  1. You, my dear, are getting books for dinner tonight. I will make sure they are IVP books so that they will taste and digest better….and will have to be “rebought” from IVP.

    love, me

  2. How about getting Andrew Marin’s book “Love Is An Orientation” into a Kindle version for me?

    A real estate developer friend was talking to me the other day about how he thinks the huge commercial projects will give way to smaller, more human scale projects. He thinks it is the beginning of a trend.

    One of my favorite new places around here is a little gelato store owned by a young couple. They make about a gallon of just a few flavors and the size I usually buy is about 1/2 cup.

    Good post.

  3. Terry,

    Yep, Love Is an Orientation is coming in Kindle soon. Glad you’re interested.


  4. What are your view on Cremation for Christian’.? Do you have any books on the subject. I was taught from very young that Cremation is Pagan and I believe it is, as nothing in the Bible supports cremation.
    Would be interested in hearin from you.

  5. Inez

    We do not have any books on the topic of cremation. There is a one-page article in the “New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology” on the topic. There it confirms that some ancient civilizations did practice cremation and that rarely it was practiced in the Old Testament (as when Saul and his sons were cremated—see 1 Samuel 31:12-13—by their own people). Burial arose as a common Christian practice as a sign of affirmation of belief in the bodily resurrection of believers from the dead. Personally, I appreciate this affirmation that burial brings, but I believe that since the Bible neither commands nor forbids cremation that whether one chooses one practice or the other is a matter of Christian freedom.


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