Book marketing is relatively simple (but not necessarily easy) because there are only two arenas in which to compete: retail and non-retail. The retail sector consists of bookstores (bricks and clicks) and other outlets such as office supply stores, supermarkets, airport stores, warehouse clubs, health-food stores, gift shops and specialty stores.
Selling to these establishments is primarily done through middlemen that control the flow of goods and who exact a fee for their services. Sales through these channels are plagued by two other factors that deteriorate profits: returns of unsold books and payments in 120 days or more.
Publishers may also sell to libraries, and then consider their sales opportunities exhausted. But there is a significant source of profitable revenue in the non-retail arena. This is made up of buyers in corporations, associations, schools, the military and government agencies.
One of the principal advantages of selling to these non-retail buyers is that sales are usually in large quantities, and once sold, the books are non-returnable. The buyers usually pay the shipping charges, and most pay within 30 days of the invoice.
However, there are disadvantages. There are few (and in most cases no) middlemen to help publishers reach buyers in this sector, so you may have to do the selling and negotiating yourself. And you can “leave money on the table” without a clear understanding of the discount structures and terms of sale. In addition, many buyers refuse to deal with a supplier carrying one title or a limited product line. If your primary customers are not geographically concentrated, you must cover a large territory, thus limiting your chances of face-to-face selling. Furthermore, you have to handle all the tasks involved in selling, invoicing, promotion, customer service and arranging credit for each customer.
Perhaps the primary reason publishers shun this segment is that they do not know how to market to these buyers. For the author and small publisher, marketing means doing the planning, prospecting, proposing, presenting and negotiating yourself.
Create your own access network
The good news is that there is help for publishers of all sizes to reach the large, lucrative yet nebulous arena of non-retail sales. These facilitators are called Market Access Providers (MAPs). A MAP is a marketing partner that personally sells your books on a non-returnable, commission basis to known buyers with whom they have an existing business relationship. MAPs do not carry any inventory of your books, but act as your sales agent. The MAP contacts you when it takes an order for your books, then you ship directly to the buyer. MAPs form an intermediary network that can sell your books to non-retail buyers at a cost lower than if you did it yourself.
In the promotional products industry there are independent representative organizations that serve as MAPs. These companies represent multiple, non-competing lines and have established relationships with professional buyers and work on a commission.
Choose this option if you do not want to or cannot do it all yourself. But there are advantages and disadvantages of which you should be aware. On the plus side, your direct costs for prospecting, acquisition, transaction, maintenance and maintaining relationships are lower. Using a MAP eliminates the time and cost of hiring, training, managing and maintaining your own sales force. Also, the reps know their territories and the potential buyers, and can sell to prospects you may never have known existed and could take you years to find. This can increase the velocity of your cash flow as the reps shorten the time between initial contact and payment. MAPs work on a straight-commission basis, so you have little or no costs unless books are sold. Perhaps most importantly, you can go about your normal business of publishing while the reps generate incremental revenue for you.
There are disadvantages, too. You lose control over the relationship with the buyers since the reps do not want the buyers to learn about or deal directly with their suppliers. And it may require that you find several rep groups to cover a large territory. The reps are not your employees, so you do not control the time they spend on selling your titles vs. their other lines. Similarly, feedback is infrequent, and they may have limited knowledge about your titles. Examples of MAPs include these.
- The Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) promotes the use of incentives among decision makers in corporate America. You can search the IMA membership directory on its site (http://www.incentivemarketing.org).
- The Incentive Gift Card Council (https://www.usegiftcards.org/ ) is an industry group that educates the corporate community on the benefits of gift cards and awards.
- The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) is the largest organization serving the advertising specialty industry. ASI (http://www.asicentral.com/) attempts to bring together suppliers and sellers by providing catalogs, information directories, newsletters, magazines and other marketing and selling tools.
- The Marketing and Sales Group in York, PA. Guy Achtzehn, President of MSG, (email@example.com) operates a network of sales people who call on corporate buyers of promotional products
- My company is The Premium Book Company and we can sell your book on a commission basis to non-retail buyers. My website is premiumbookcompany.com
There are options available to you for making the journey to increased sales and profits in the non-retail category. Choose the alternative that is best for your titles and circumstances and begin to reap the potential rewards. It is not as difficult as you may think if you consult a MAP before making the trip.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org), and the creator of Book Selling University (www.booksellinguniversity.com) He was the host of the TV show The Book Authority for 13 years, a guest on over 1200 shows, and is a media trainer. Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.bookmarketingworks.com