Personalized Books: Customization in Print

Ideas for selling personalized books Blog Graphic header

What’s better than a personalized gift? I mean really, is there anything that is more touching and meaningful? 

Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit. But when it comes to giving something tangible, making it personalized really ups the emotional connection.

And what about buying something that’s been personalized by the creator? Like when you back a Kickstarter and your support perk is a signed copy or a personalized edition? That’s just awesome.

Your Book, Your Way

For many years, this was the Lulu tagline. We still use it sometimes too. 

The idea hasn’t changed. We offer a service that lets you make your book the way you want. Pretty much the entire idea behind any self-publishing company is the ability to control how your book is made.

Since self-publishing grew to be an accepted and popular means of book making, the options authors have to personalize have fallen by the wayside. Or, more accurately, authors who self-publish aren’t taking full advantage of the control this process affords them. 

I’m not just talking about offering a range of formats for your book. There’s more you can do with printing and publishing services!

Personalization Offerings

Did you know people who buy things prefer personalized items? I’m not just saying that. Deloitte, a consumer review and consultancy, published a study in 2015 that, among other things, noted that 1 in 4 consumers would pay more for a personalized item. And in a variety of product categories, more than half of respondents were interested in personalizing experiences with their shopping.

Here’s what it means: people like the idea of buying and gifting products that are unique. 

So, how does this impact you and how you sell your books? 

When you use a traditional publisher, they get to make a lot of the decisions surrounding the look and design of your book. Not so with self-publishing. You already know that. But are you really taking advantage of what you’ve got in your hands?

Unique Books = Books Sales

That might be ambitious. But you can use personalization to spur new sales and to create positive experiences for your buyers. I’ve got four ways you can use self-publishing for a wide range of unique marketing campaigns and sales tactics.

1. Presale Rewards

This one works best for authors with some established fans and followers. Let’s say you’ve got two books out there and you’ve done a fair bit of marketing resulting in 1,000 emails on your mailing list and a comparable number of social media/blog followers.

With your third book on the horizon, you could easily use Kickstarter or some similar platform to create a funding campaign for the new book. You would be advertising your upcoming work, generating buzz (and income) before the book releases. And thanks to customization, you can offer unique versions based on the funding level. Imagine this:

Your book is normally priced at $12.99 paperback, $18.99 hardcover.

Funding levels:

  1. $50 – a hardcover copy with a unique cover, signed interior
  2. $30 – a paperback copy with a unique cover, signed interior
  3. $20 – a hardcover, signed interior
  4. $15 – a paperback, signed interior

There you have it. You can run a presale campaign and generate additional revenue with something as simple as an alternate art cover. Thanks to the ease of publishing, it’s a breeze to create an alternate edition of your book—in most instances, you can use the same interior (just watch the ISBN) and upload the unique cover.

2. Gifts

We started with an author-focused idea; let’s transition to a more personal one. For events like birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or anything really, books are a terrific way to give something to your friends and family they will treasure. 

Online self-publishing offers single-copy printing at reasonable costs. For the holidays, I made a short book of funny quotes from my coworkers. It was a low-cost book, I crafted it easily, and it contained a bunch of funny things we’ve said. Everyone got a kick out of it and we got to relive some great moments from 2018. A simple, easy gift that shows thought and has permanence. 

For an entrepreneur or author, there’s value here too. Imagine you’re a novelist and you have published five books. Looking through your sales you notice of all those sales, 30 buyers have bought a copy of each book. Those are your most dedicated readers. Maybe when your next book is ready to launch, you create a special edition with a personalized note to each of these buyers. 

That might be a bit of work, but if I read an indie author and got an email from them saying they wanted to offer me a special edition of their next book, I’m not only going to buy it; I’m absolutely going to leave a review and tell my friends and family about the treatment. Showing a reader you value them with simple, personal gifts is a great way to spur word-of-mouth promotion.

3. Workbooks and Textbooks

This one is a little more specific. If you’re a business with some books products like textbooks, workbooks, or notebooks, you can easily brand them with unique covers or customer-specific interior content. Thanks to simple file uploading, books can be custom-made and built to order. 

If you sell a textbook or workbook, this level of custom control can be a great selling point. And not just a selling point, but a great upsell. Using ecommerce to sell your book, you can easily accept an order with a custom worksheet the user can fill out, allowing you to generate a unique interior or cover to their specifications, using the template you’ve already made. 

Personalization at this level is definitely more work, but that added effort could be what sets your book publishing apart from another, similar company. That’s a tremendous edge that can offset the added work customizing entails.

4. Market Specific Books

Much like the opportunity to offer specialized textbooks or workbooks on a per order basis, the utility of print-on-demand and ecommerce provides an opportunity to customize content for specific markets. This is a very niche use, but if your print products are instructive or offer content that is applicable to a broad market, personalization can be another means to boost your product over other options.

Here’s an easy example.

Imagine you’re a small publisher and you’ve written a short book about how the publishing process works. The book covers some basics like self-editing, the publisher timeline, and post-publication.

Now imagine fine-tuning that book with genre specific details and a unique cover for each genre you publish? You can be sure the book will be more appealing with a title like “A Guide to Publishing Fantasy from Publishing Company A” and a cover that reminds the reader of a fantasy novel. 

This is a little less personalization and a lot more toward customization, but that’s still one of the major benefits of print-on-demand. 

Along that same line, you could take an exciting book and customize it for an event. Going to Book Expo this year? Maybe you sell a special Book Expo edition of the book. 

Repurposing and repackaging existing content (customizing your book in other words) is a proven way to target new audiences. 

Versatility is Your Friend

I’ve found myself saying this a lot lately. When an author or business owner asks about why they should consider Lulu or even self-publishing in general, I keep harping on versatility

In the modern publishing world, the only real cost to versatility is time. If you have the time, you can offer a range of personalized book options from unique covers to specific dedication pages. Not taking advantage of the option to personalize and customize means you are leaving powerful tools untouched. 

Personalization is a tool anyone can take advantage of: from the publishing company looking for new ways to promote to the gift-giver trying to wow their recipients. With the ease of self-publishing, making your book your way has never been more possible or profitable.

Paul H, Content Marketing Manager

Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.

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