Friday, June 19, 2009

The Benefits of Selling to Non-Bookstore Markets

I got a chance to review "Publishing Basics" article on non-traditional book selling opportunities at:

...and thought you would love to read more about it.

Special-sales marketing is the process of selling your books to individuals — or to professional buyers — in businesses other than bookstores. In non-bookstore marketing, a successful title is written in response to an identified need, is published in the form desired by the reader, then is properly priced, distributed and promoted directly to a defined group of prospective customers. There are two major advantages of special sales over traditional bookstore marketing. These are control and segmentation.

1. Control. Special-sales marketing gives you more control over your destiny. The responsibility for success falls squarely upon your shoulders as you direct and control the journey of your titles to the appropriate buyers.

Pricing control. Competitive titles are not on a shelf next to yours, so immediate price comparisons are unlikely. The price ceiling is raised, if not eliminated. At the same time, distribution discounts may be eliminated and your print run could be higher. A strategy of pricing your titles based upon the value they offer the customer is more the rule. The result is more pricing flexibility and more leeway to offer price incentives, discounts, two-for-ones or coupons. There are instances in which you could actually lower your list price and still be more profitable.

Product control. Bookstore marketing requires that you sell books, probably 6” x 9” softcover books with a wide spine for easy visibility on the shelf. In special-sales marketing you are not necessarily selling books, you are selling the intangible content of your books. People are interested in what the information in your books will do for them – educate, inform or entertain. The beauty of non-traditional marketing is that the categories of frontlist and backlist are irrelevant. Buyers are concerned with the relevancy of your content to the solution of their problems, and the format in which it is delivered, while relevant, is not mandated as a book.

Buyers want to buy helpful information, not necessarily books. This gives you the flexibility to customize the form in which the information is delivered. It may be a comb-bound or spiral-bound manual that lies flat when used as a workbook during your seminars. Or, it may be a 3-ring binder allowing people to add or change pages easily. You may choose to serve the needs of you potential customers with a video program, DVD, CD or saddle-stitched booklet.

Promotion control. You no longer have to cringe when a careless editor misinterprets your press release, or when a reviewer pans your book. Instead, you can create your own publicity, advertising, sales literature and sales promotional tools to tell your story in your way. You may also decide to contact people directly by telephone or personal visit to present your story and negotiate the terms of sale.

Distribution Control. In non-bookstore marketing you can devise your own sales channels. You might sell your business books through airline magazines or career coaches; your book about dogs, in kennels; or your book about car safety in schools or automobile dealerships. You might choose to sell your romance novel to discount stores, or negotiate with Godiva Chocolate Company to use it as a premium, or have limousine services purchase it as a gift for their passengers.

2) Market segmentation. Some people looked at Goliath and thought he was too big to hit. David looked at him and thought he was too big to miss. You might look at special-sales marketing and think, “Is the non-traditional market big enough to approach, or is it too big?” The answer is yes. A market of $15 billion is too big to pass up, but it is too big a market in which to compete profitably — if you look at it as one goliath market.

Selling books is similar to selling automobiles in the sense that neither is one homogeneous market. In the latter, there are many groups of people, each with a preference for economy cars, luxury cars, sports cars, SUVs, used cars or antique cars. Within each segment, some people may also demonstrate a unique preference for style and color. There are demographic breakdowns in age groups that buy certain brands or styles, as well as psychographic differences among people who buy particular cars to express themselves.

The essence of special-sales marketing is this concept of segmentation, the act of breaking the mass market down into smaller pieces, each more relevant to your particular title. The total non-bookstore market is actually made up of hundreds of “mini-markets,” each with varying degrees of suitability for your title. These could be separated geographically, demographically and psychographically.

As an example of non-traditional market segmentation, consider the market for selling job-search books to unemployed people. Not everyone in that total market has the same career needs, skills or aspirations. There are college students seeking their first position. There are 50+ people with families and greater financial obligations. Women, minorities, blue-collar workers and Hispanic people all have different needs, require different information and may look for job-search assistance in diverse places. A title describing the basic functions of how to get a job could – and should — be marketed differently to each segment.

This concept applies to fiction, as well. Fred Fenn’s Journey to Common Ground is an historical fiction novel set in New England during the Civil War. This book could be sold in Civil War museums, or in airport stores, gift shops and bed & breakfast inns in New England.

Segmentation also applies to publicity. You might seek a review for your science fiction book in the Fantastic Daily Book Reviews ezine, your romance novel in Romantic Notions or your mystery in The Drood Review instead of submitting them to the New York Times Book Review.

Award competitions are also segmented. IBPA’s (formerly PMA) Ben Franklin Awards competition has many different categories for fiction and non-fiction titles. You may also enter your science fiction book for The World Fantasy Award, or your mystery for the Dagger Award presented by the Crime Writers Association.

Segmentation helps you market your book where interested, prospective buyers congregate. This may save you from wasting time, effort and money – all valuable commodities to the independent publisher. Below are additional benefits that accrue when selling books in special-sales markets.

A) Increase your sales in a marketplace equal in size to the bookstore market. If you do not seek book sales outside of bookstores than you may be missing half of your potential. Or, to look at it from a different perspective, you could double your sales with additional marketing effort directed to non-bookstore markets.

B) Experience growth that is virtually limitless. You can create an entirely new segment for your books simply by conducting some basic research. Mandeville Press was able to breathe new life into its line of spirituality titles by finding new sales in yoga-center bookstores and meditation centers, in bookstores at retreat centers and through marriage counselors.

C) Take your titles to the potential buyers rather than waiting for them to go to a bookstore, browsing among all the competitive titles. When you call on large corporations or small gift shops you have the buyers’ undivided attention. Most likely, no other author or publisher has tried to contact them. And when you call on people who more regularly deal with publishers – such as book clubs and catalogs — the buyers are usually receptive to your presentation.

D) Reduce the competition because most publishers ignore the segments in which you are selling. The majority of publishers ignores special-sales markets, with the possible exception of libraries, and relies upon bookstores as their sole source of revenue.

E) Minimize discounting since buyers do not have immediate access to competitive pricing. Bookstore buyers know where your book compares to competitive titles. That is their job. But if you go to product managers in a corporation who are looking for a premium to boost the sales of their products, they do not know if yours is priced above or below competitors’ titles. They are only concerned with its cost — how the information in your book can help them sell more of their products profitably.

F) Sell books on a non-returnable basis. Although some buy on a returnable basis (discount stores, warehouse clubs, supermarkets) most special-sales buyers do not expect to return books.

G) Stimulate increased exposure. Confer multiple hits upon your target buyers through a variety of promotional tools such as articles in niche magazines, trade shows, direct mail, and media performances. If you are selling a title about improving someone’s tennis serve, a review or article in Tennis magazine would more efficiently reach prospective buyers than it would in People.

H) Increase your flexibility in negotiations since there are few fixed distribution fees. Discounts are more flexible, and are typically based on the number of books purchased. Even if you negotiate a 50% discount with a buyer, you are 5 – 20% better off than selling that same book through bookstores. There are also non-price variables open to negotiation, such as format, terms and payments periods.

I) Improved cash flow, since some businesses purchase your products at list price. Government agencies are obligated to pay you interest if uncontested invoices are not paid within 30 days. In special sales markets, many orders are for multiple copies, minimizing your costs to fulfill orders. Shipping charges are typically prepaid an added to the invoice. Returns are less prevalent and payments may be made in 30 days from your invoice date.

J) Make your marketing expenditures more efficient. Segmentation of your prospects and pinpoint promotion reduce waste and increase the efficiency of your expenditures.

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