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Posts Tagged ‘book distribution’

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Marketing Gurus and Publicists - Who does what?

In my opinion, there is only one huge  reason to hire a PR firm - who they know. Just sending out an email "blast" - you can do that for yourself.

What a true PR professional (I’m not one!) brings to the table is a virtual "rolodex" of media names in your industry (very important) who will listen when this professional sends a story lead to them. They trust this person and know that if he/she sends the lead - they should consider it. It is the rifle approach vs the shotgun. I don’t think shotguns work very well (<:

A marketing professional (I am one) brings a different set of skills to the table. They look at your project from a holistic view. They consider all parts of the project and how to best market it. They work with such things as:

* Who is the target market? How large is it? How easy is it to reach?

* Is the product produced appropriately for the market? Is the language the right level? Are the graphics appropriate, Is it well-edited?

* What is the competition? How does this book stack up against the competition?

* What is the unique "hook" that this project brings? How does it fit in with the competition?

* Is the book priced correctly for the market? Can it be distributed at that price and make money?

* How should the product be distributed to meet the authors/publishers goals? What has to be done to get it distributed to the correct channels?

* How do each of the appropriate channels fit into the overall sales mix? Does that mix create profits?

* And lastly, how should this product be promoted? What mix of publicity and/or advertising will be needed to meet the sales goals?

* Does the author have the funds to meet those goals? If not, what can be done to modify the sales goals and/or increase exposure within the budget?

* Which methods is the publisher/author willing to employ to sell the book? Live presentations? Internet? Print? Broadcast? Everyone has their own time, financial and personal constraints that expand or limit what they are willing and can do.

You’ve got to hire the right person for the job you want done. Some publicists also do some marketing work as I described, but many do not. I work with (and refer to) a lot of PR professionals - and they often bring me into jobs that aren’t yet ready for publicity to help get them ready. There is nothing more disheartening than to see someone pay for a publicity campaign when the underlying marketing work has not yet been done. A good example is a book that wants nationwide publicity, yet is only available on the author’s website and at a price that doesn’t fit the market they are going after. Sigh…

The other advantage a marketing professional brings to the table is that they can help you develop a marketing and media plan that you can implement yourself. I prepare media kits, media plans with timelines and resources, as well as do marketing and website evaluations, pricing plans, get appropriate distribution for people, and yes, refer to a publicist when the author/publisher has that as part of their overall marketing plan.

Sometimes it is a "tough love" business, but a good marketing professional will always guide your decision making in the right direction. They don’t say things to be mean - they just want you to be successful. But, one of the beauties of being an author and/or a publisher, is that you get the final say on all phases of your project, including your marketing.

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How Can You Make Your Book Successful?

Doing a commercially viable book involves many facets - all of which have to present and firing on all cylinders to create a successful project.

* Product - your book has to be well designed and produced and have a definable target audience of sufficient size to sell a "reasonable" number of books. One way to determine this is to go to Amazon and put in the key words for your book. See how many other books there are in your genre, what are their sales ranks? how long are they? how long have they been out? who published them? — all kinds of excellent competitive information available to help you.

* Pricing - Once you know that you have a well-produced book with a reasonably sized market that you can reach, then you have to make sure it is priced right for the market. You can’t base your retail price on anything except the price the market expects for your type of book. You can get a lot of this information from the research I suggest above.

* Place - Once you have your product and pricing right, then you have to understand the places where you will sell it. This includes everything from your trunk, to book stores, to non-traditional locations (gift shops, boat stores, RV stores - whatever suits your genre), to the internet, and more. You have to consider ALL the possible places that a potential buyer will look for your book and try to be there. Every distribution channel has a different cost and it is the combination of all your channel choices together that will make up your profitability picture. You can’t look at any one of them in isolation.

* Promotion - Most people think this is the only part of marketing that is important, but as you can see it is the very last piece of the puzzle to consider. Once you have everything else in place, THEN and only then, can you think about promoting your book. The saddest thing I see is people who spend time and money on promotion when they haven’t adequately addressed all the other pieces of the puzzle. Promotion comes in many flavors and some are costly, but many are not. I am not a big fan of paid advertising for independent publishers as it is just too costly to make a pay off. The four areas to consider are internet, broadcast, print and live presentations. A combination of those well executed, will provide success.

There is no quick fix or magic bullet - it is many things done consistently and well, over time.

I have been in the marketplace with my book since 2004. My strategy has shifted over that time as success has come, as the industry has changed, and as the books sales have changed. I’ve done two editions over many printings; have used wholesalers, a national distributor (Midpoint) and now use LSI. I’ve had sales into every part of the travel business and have had publicity in everything from the AP (3 times) to Money Magazine, to AAA to AARP and hundreds more - all from my own efforts with a small infusion of a publicist’s help early on. You can see some of it here: http://www.roadtripdream.com/media2.html

There is nothing special about what I did - I had never written professionally, knew nothing about the publishing business, and had no special help that isn’t available to each of you. It is about having a little money to invest in your own success, persistence and dedication to being successful, getting involved in (and understanding) the publishing business, understanding your own genre, and never giving up.

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Pricing - Retail and Discount Schedules

You, as the publisher/author, get to set your own retail price. You also should set your own pricing discount schedule for your various types of distribution. The law says that you must offer the same discount to the same "class" of customers. It is a little confusing what this means, but generally the type of customer and the terms under which your book is sold to those customers determines the pricing schedule.

 

Typically they look something like this:
THIS IS AN EXAMPLE ONLY

Retail/end user (for instance on your website) Satisfaction guaranteed (returnable if not satisfied)
1-2 copies - no discount, payment upon purchase
2-10 - 10% - payment upon purchase
10+ 15% - net 30 days

Wholesale -

all quantities - 55% discount, returnable, net 90 days (pretty standard)

Retail book stores -

1-2 copies - 20%, non-returnable paid upon order (called a STOP order)
2 + copies - 40% discount,returnable, net 90

Special sales - maybe gift stores, food stores, pet stores or other genre specific
(these are less standard, but might be something like this)

1-5 copies - 25%, non returnable, paid upon order
6-20 copies - 40%, nonreturnable, net 30 days
20+ (or full case) - 50%, nonreturnable, net 45

Once you determine your discount schedule, the law says you must apply it in an even handed way. If you want to offer a different discount to a particular client, you must establish a new discount schedule with some terms that are different than your existing schedules that justifies the difference in terms. another variable that I didn’t mention above and that can effect your schedules is who pays shipping.

Now, in a very practical way, do I think the full force of the US government is going to descend upon us little publishers? No. But is it good business practice to do this and treat your customer equally? Yes.

Once you publish a book and have it listed in Bowker’s Books in Print with a specific retail price and establish your discount schedules, your work with pricing is done. Anyone who buys a book from you may resell it at any price they choose. You have no control over that - nor should you. You’ve set your terms, gotten paid according to your price schedule and released it to the world.

One word of caution that should be noted is that of credit terms. Once you establish your discount schedule, you also need to consider who you consider to be credit worthy. You do not have to extend credit to anyone, however, you do need to assess each companies credit worthiness. Having a standard credit application and terms under which you extend credit can make the difference between the success and failure of your business. There is no point in "selling" books to a company that does not have the known ability to pay for them. There is nothing wrong with asking for money or a credit card upfront. That one small act will save you a world of heartache with companies and individuals who can’t or won’t pay their bills.

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Is Distribution for POD an Oxymoron?

Recently a question was posed to me about distribution for POD books. While I believe that is really an oxymoron, it does cause considerable confusion, even among authors that do traditional off-set book printing.  Distribution in the traditional sense, implies book stocking at some level - either at a warehouse or in a retail location. With the advent of print on demand, the idea is to eliminate warehousing and provide just-in-time delivery to the consumer. So how can you have both? Or should you want to? Here is my reader’s question:

In your opinion, if trade distribution doesn’t work well for the POD publisher, what do you think is best to get your books sold and distributed? I’m a little confused by the statement that stores ’seldom stock’ books from LSI. Do they order from them or not?

Here is my answer:

You have to understand the difference between “available nationwide” and “in store stocking”. In a BN (or other large store) there are approximately 80,000 titles at any one time – out of several million books, that isn’t many. And those titles have approximately 6-8 weeks to prove themselves, or they are out of there! 

What LSI gets you (through Ingram) is availability – BN has access to it in their system via the Ingram database as “available” for order if someone comes in and asks for it. If they get enough requests, they may actually put it in the BN system, vs having to look it up on Ingram’s system and their stock.  If BN (for example) decides to “stock it” or “carry it”, the first level of doing that is to have it available in their (BN) warehouse vs through Ingram’s warehouse. If that goes well, they may try store stocking in a few stores where the demand is coming from. If that does well, then they may try it in other similar stores, etc.

 To get regular store stocking, you have to have one of two things. A distributor that has enough confidence in your ability to promote your book regionally or nationwide as apprpriate (and therefore be “worthy” of store stocking) or enough people coming in and asking for it because of publicity that you have done to generate the buzz and demand for your book (see above).

 So when I say “seldom stock” I mean that the only way a POD book will be stocked is via the first method above. To have a trade distributor, you must have stock in the distributor’s warehouse (usually hundreds, if not thousands of books or it isn’t worth the distributor’s time) and that model does not fit a POD model. If you are going to print thousands of books for a distributor to sell, then you must have an off-set run to make it viable financially – and then you have to be confident in YOUR ability to “pull through” the consumers to buy the books, or you will end up with those books back in the distributor’s warehouse and eventually back to you because the didn’t sell through.  Something no one wants to see happen. You have to plot your marketing strategy very carefully to know what will work for your book.

 That is why my first question to a prospective client is always “what are your goals for your book and how will you reach those goals?” A goal of a few hundred books in a local or nationwide market has a much different marketing and distribution plan than a client who wants to sell 50,000 this holiday season. I’ve had both clients this year.

 So to answer your question, it depends upon what your sales goals are for your book and do you have the time, money, know how and other resources to make it happen.

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The Decade of Mobile Publishing

This is a guest post from a fellow Linked-In member - very insightful about the coming decade.

 

Whether it will be the Apple Kindle killer or someone else’s tablet computer, mobile publishing will have a huge impact in the next decade with serious consequences for the print industry. Printers who choose to disregard this phenomenon will do so at their own peril. Print production will rapidly become a subset of multimedia production. Folks with knowledge of print production will retain their value only if they also augment their skill set with a thorough knowledge of video, flash, html authoring and other multimedia skills.

Many have argued that formats like the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and other electronic content delivery systems will never have the look, feel and flexibility of the printed page. In some cases they are probably right, but in the vast majority of cases, that point of view is simply wishful thinking.

Here’s why. The next decade will see tablet PCs that are much more than electronic books. They will have gorgeous full-color touch screens that will come very close to simulating paper, but will have even more flexibility. You will be able to write on them, create art on them, shoot and retouch and edit photos and video on them, and of course connect with the Internet through WiFi and 4G networks. Phone, fax, notebook, notepad, still and video camera, voice recorder, calendar, LinkedIn, Facebook and a whole lot more all in one 6×9 package weighing a pound our less.

Would you honestly spend two or three times as much money for every book you buy when you can carry around a few dozen books everywhere you go and use the same device to replace your laptop, desktop, fax machine and more?

A few other things will almost certainly happen in the next decade. Solid state memory will probably replace existing hard drives because they are better suited for mobile computing. The ability to read SD cards is already a de facto standard in the PC market. CDs will fade in popularity because the devices for reading them are simply too bulky for tablet applications, and they will be replaced by SD cards. It’s a bit surprising that this trend hasn’t already started, though I suppose CDs are still cheaper than SD cards and the superior capacity of the cards is not a plus when you are selling music. Still, movies are not yet moving to SD cards either. I predict they will in the coming decade. The bulk and cost of adding CD/DVD read/write mechanisms to tablet PCs will make the manufacturers of those devices opt for smaller memory devices that don’t require any moving parts.

When a very good full color tablet PC hits the market, which may happen as early as next month if Apple rumors are correct, they will sell by the millions. Netbooks are already selling well, but they just don’t hit that sweet-spot of portability and capability that a Kindle-sized tablet PC will offer. The book sellers are ready to pounce on the market since they make most of their money on books and related offerings, not on the end-delivery product. Amazon and Barnes and Noble may try to keep pace with new offerings, but it seems likely a more full-featured machine will quickly eclipse the models currently available.

If you’re looking for a growth market, I’d suggest European-style men’s carry bags which will be perfect for the new tablet PCs. They’re too big for your pocket, but a heck of a lot easier to carry around than a laptop.

Authored by Stephen Beals  http://www.printoolz.com

 

 

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When do you Start Marketing Your Book?

Get your book really ready by following these steps:

1) You need a distribution strategy (whether POD or off-set - just the logistics are different) - how sad is it to create great buzz - and you don’t have your book anyplace where the trade and consumers can get it for your anxious buyers. Big lost sales and a waste of $$ on the publicist.

2) To engage a trade distributor (assuming you are doing print runs) you must have a written marketing plan for them.

3) You have to make sure that your product is top notch - or a publicist won’t take it - their reputation is on the line with every book they recommend to their media contacts. that is what you are really paying for - who they know.

4) You have to make sure that your price is competitive with other books in your genre or no amount of publicity will create the sales that you expect.

5) You need a good media kit for the publicist to use as a basis for the publicity she/he will create for you - or you can pay the publicist to do that work for you.

When I can "have it my way" - which isn’t often (<: - I prefer to work on the book at least 6 months ahead of the pub date - you really need that much time to get the marketing/distribution/pricing plans together, apply to distributors, get their paperwork done, get their sales team representing your book to the chains, the chains place their advance orders, you know how many to print and ship to them, they have to get them in stores - all prior to your pub date.

A website is another activity that should be done as early as possible - you can use it to begin creating advance buzz for your book, have a media room where the media can learn about your book (cover art, pictures from the book, pub date, etc.) and a place to post your media coverage as it comes in. You can post your Table of contents, a sample chapter, do a blog, and so on - lots you can do to start building that platform waaayyy ahead of the book.

You also need your publicist in place with your media kit to do pre-pub reviewers 3-4 months minimum before pub date (required time), get early copies out to large magazines with long lead times, and then when the time gets closer, do newspapers, blogs, websites, and short cycle magazines.

WHEW!!! See why it takes 6 months? Oh - and YOU have to follow-up on all this to maximize the impact.

My motto: No follow-up = no results

Of course all of this is predicated on your goals for your project, the amount of resources (time & money) you can devote to your book and any constraints that your life situation imposes on you (don’t want to do live appearances or maybe radio terrifies you, etc.).

So give your book a chance – start early and plan your marketing just as carefully as you planned your words on the page.

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A Bad Distribution Experience

I recently had a conversation with an author who was trying to understand why her distributor “oversold” her book and she got so many returns. She had even done an additional print run to try to keep up with “demand” and was now stuck with hundreds of books that didn’t “sell through” to the consumer. This is a very good illustration of what can happen when you decide to play with the “big boys” without really understanding the full implications of doing that. The sad thing is that this author really only wanted her book in a few local stores, but didn’t fully realize what she was getting into when she signed on with a distributor. Here is part of the advice and information I provided to her:

 

A distributor only responds to the demand placed by the book stores and wholesalers – they weren’t “unsure of the demand” – they were obviously getting orders.  They don’t order books from you just to have them sit in the warehouse.  If orders are coming in from their clients, they fill them – and order more.  They are used to the returns game, so they just keep ordering.

You have to realize that this is a huge business – you can’t just play the game “partway” – it is an all or nothing game.  The distributor doesn’t “test the waters” – their job is to sell books and to fill orders – nothing else. The book sellers want to sell every possible book of yours they can – they have to have them in the supply chain to do that – in their warehouse, in the stores.  And they do this thousands of times a day – they don’t have time to worry about your individual titles – you’ve signed up to play the game and they are “gaming the system” for you.  It is nothing personal – it is all done by computers – no one is looking at your titles – it is only numbers.  YOU are the only one looking out for you.

As I said, you needed to understand that all the books “in the field” weren’t sold.  Your distributor can look that up for you, but they won’t unless you ask. Their computers are just whirring away placing orders and taking returns.

So, all that being said, what are you going to do now to sell your books?  How many do you have left?  Unfortunately you just have to chalk this up to experience and move on with your sales efforts.

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This is why having people on your team that have been through these very situations is so important. A few dollars spent on some consulting would have saved her a print run, a bad experience with distribution and a lot of heartache.

 

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