After I had finished writing The Bible Incorporated, all I had left to do, was print, bind and package the book, and then sell enough of them quickly enough to pay for the first print run.
Believing I had a best selling book concept, I thought a good minimum order would be 25,000 copies. After all, there were nearly 300 million people living in America, and I reasoned, “Who wouldn’t want to know God’s wisdom for life and business?”
When I placed the initial order, the printer called me right away and asked if I was sure I really wanted 25,000 copies? After all, he explained, most books published in America never sell more than 5,000 copies, and that’s with established publishers who have distribution outlets and thousands of bookstore customers.
He added one more bit of sage advice… “You’re just a guy with a basement. You have no publishing experience. You have no distribution channels. You have no contacts in the Christian bookstore space. You should drastically downsize the number of books you are ordering.”
I had no idea that publishers with well established distribution channels rarely sold more than 5,000 copies. So, I put my hand over the phone and quickly asked the Lord what to do.
He was good with it, so I placed the order.
The only thing left was to sell enough in the next 30 days to pay the approximately $100,000 it took to produce that first print run with nice bonded-leather covers.
I wasn’t afraid to proceed for two reasons… First and foremost, I believed I was on a mission from God. This book was His idea and I was merely trying to follow His unfolding directions. And secondly, I had no real idea of how the publishing world worked so I simply proceeded terms that made sense to me.
For example, I took my mockup of the book to the largest Christian book distributor in the world at the time (Spring Arbor) and met with the buyer with the hopes of pre-selling a minimum of 1,000 copies or 5,000 if they wanted a deeper discount.
The buyer was a professional, but politely tried to get rid of me, once he realized I was just “a guy with a big basement” that was about to receive 25,000 books. He explained nicely that they don’t do business with people like me who are not established.
Furthermore he added, that if they were to order, it would only be a few dozen books at most. He explained that when they bought from the biggest, most established publishers in the world, they would typically order one or two cases of 24 books at most. There was no way he was going to order 1,000 books from what he called, “a mom and pop” operation.
But you see, sometimes ignorance can be bliss because I assumed a 1,000 book order was small and that a 5,000 book order would be reasonable. Not sure how I came up with those numbers, but based on absolutely no information, I came up with those minimum order sizes and corresponding pricing.
I then looked at this very experienced, well seasoned, professional book buyer for the largest Christian book distributor in the world and told him that he didn’t understand what he was looking at.
I told him that The Bible Incorporated was going to be a best selling book, that I would be on television programs across the country and around the world. There would be huge demand for the books. People would go to bookstores looking for it, and not find it. Then the stores would call his company and they wouldn’t be able to satisfy their orders.
I had no invitations to be on TV, nor did I know anyone on Christian Television. It just made sense to me that Christian television programs would want to interview me and talk about the book and even use it as a fund raiser.
Turned out, I was right. I was invited on some of the biggest Christian television platforms and many regional ones across the country, and the book became a “hit”.
But in the meantime, this man who tried to turn me away, gave me a purchase order for 1,000 books.
I left Grand Rapids and headed to the second largest distributor of Christian books and had the same conversation, except this time, I could tell the buyer that Spring Arbor Distributors (now Ingram Book Distributors) had just ordered 1,000. I left with another purchase order and then headed to the third biggest distributor (Appalachian Book Distributors) who, apparently not wanting to be left behind, gave me a purchase order for 5,000 books.
Those and other orders provided the necessary cash to pay my printing and binding bills when they came due. In my ignorance, I thought my plan was elementary and small scale. It was only later I found out how amazed other publishers were at my success.
When we later sold our company to World Bible, I told the president that if they would have had the book at the beginning, they would have probably sold many times more than I did. He assured me, that they would never have done that well with the book, partly because it would have only been one of many titles they promoted.
I shared this story of the beginning and launching of The Bible Incorporated because I know many reading this, have their own God given vision, and possibly have no idea how to launch and get going. I would suggest, you get with the Lord and listen to Him. Let Him set your expectations. Don’t get bogged down in industry norms. Get elevated in God’s norms.
It is a walk of faith to be sure, but without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)
As you may know, we are offering very special Christmas pricing for The Bible Incorporated as I was able to get my hands on a quantity of them in time for Christmas. I’d like to invite you to take a look at this book that has been used to bring many to Christ in the marketplace. You can DO THAT HERE. We won’t be promoting this much longer, so if you’re interested, I suggest you get yours now.
It also comes in an audio version, narrated by Tennessee Ernie Ford’s son, Buck Ford and musically interpreted by acclaimed worship leader, Ray Hughes.
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