Selling physical copies of a book can be challenging for self-published authors. With print-on-demand there’s no economy of scale, so individual cover prices can be high.
You can print a large batch of your books yourself, which results in a lower per-unit price, but then you’re stuck with trying to distribute them. Some authors sell through their own website, but the cost of postage just drives the price up again – plus people have to find your website. They’re probably more likely to find you directly on Amazon or via Ingram Spark’s global distribution program.
Some authors personally ship their books round to bookstores – Ingram has some advice on the best ways to do this. Australian author Matthew Reilly chose this route, long before the advent of print-on-demand. He paid to print 1000 copies of his debut novel after being rejected by traditional publishers. A commissioning editor eventually stumbled across a copy of his book in a bookshop.
Other options include local markets, author events such as book signings and readings in local libraries. Children’s book authors may be able to give a talk in schools about their book.
Finally it’s worth considering whether you’re trying to make money with print sales or trying to raise awareness about your writing. If you simply want to get your book out there, there’s nothing stopping you from casually leaving a copy in an airport, a café, a jumble sale or second-hands hop, on the train or bus or even at a community library – why not try slipping a copy in a couple of Street Library boxes? If you do this, make sure your book includes a link to your author website and ideally a photo and some information about you. And if you’ve written other books, be sure to list them in your back matter.