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Combining Retail and Non-Retail Book Sales

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PUBLISHED MARCH/APRIL 2018

by Brian Jud, Book Marketing Consultant —


Brian Jud

The best distribution system is a combination of retail and non-retail sales. This article describes how to apply these strategies to a book with content appropriate for two different demographics of women.

When asked who their target reader is, many authors reply, “I don’t know,” or “Everybody who likes (their topic).” Either answer will reduce your sales. People buy for different reasons. Retailers want store traffic and more profit. An appeal to that motive will not persuade librarians or consumers to buy your book. Know your prospective buyers and promote to them according to their objectives, and you can increase your sales.

Describing your potential buyers helps you make the right product available where and when prospective buyers want to buy it. It also makes your distribution, promotion, and selling strategies more effective and efficient as you reach each prospect with the proper message. This applies to fiction and nonfiction equally.

Defining your likely buyers is not difficult if you simply think of the five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. For instance, if your prospects are in an older demographic, you might consider a large-print edition and promote more with traditional than mobile media. Instead of saving for child-raising or college expenses, they may spend more on travel or save for retirement. That information would lead you to distribute through airport stores or gift shops on cruise ships rather than discount stores.

Now that you know your target readers, use two parallel distribution paths: retail and non-retail. Retail sales—through bookstores as well as non-bookstore retailers such as supermarkets, airports, discount stores, etc.—typically require a distribution partner, and unsold books are returnable. The other route is to sell directly to non-retail buyers in corporations, associations, and the military. These people use your books as promotional items, and in most cases are nonreturnable.
The best distribution system is a combination of retail and non-retail sales. For example, have your book about pet fish available through Petco and PetSmart, in stores and online. Convince the manufacturer of home aquariums to purchase your book in large quantities and give them as a gift-with-purchase to people who buy them.

The information below describes how to apply these strategies to a book with content appropriate for women. But because women of different ages buy for different reasons and in different ways and places, it is important to group them according to their similarities. Women 22-40 may be in their parenting years and have less discretionary income. Women 40-60 are probably more concerned with careers and have more to spend on travel. Here is how you could organize your distribution, selling actions, and promotion accordingly.


Strategies for Woman Aged 24-40

Most publishers—of fiction and nonfiction—are most comfortable selling through retail outlets, so the first step is to create distribution. Your prospective buyers might shop in supermarkets, or gift shops in parks (easternnational.org and wnpa.org), zoos, and museums (eventnetwork.com). They might visit specialty stores (for toys, kids’ clothes, furniture, and others, contact selectmediaservices.com), pet stores (find distribution partners at the Pet Industry Distributors Association, pida.org), educational stores (discoverytoysinc.com), pharmacies, dollar stores, wholesale clubs, and discount stores (seek distribution through readerlink.com and symaksales.com/home). With less time available for shopping, target buyers may search for your content through catalogs, home shopping networks, and stores online. Is your content appropriate to the academic market? Then arrange distribution with American Reading Company (americanreading.com) and sell through Collective Goods (formerly Books Are Fun, collectivegoods.com).

Non-retail opportunities for this segment include sales to libraries (public, children’s, hospitals, etc.), child care centers (bit.ly/2qmT0Uj), book clubs for kids (bit.ly/2qof4xP), groups such as the International Moms Club (sell through AmazonSmile and support IMC, momsclub.org), or as a fundraising item for PTA/PTO events (bit.ly/2lSIFKi).

Sell your book as a premium to appropriate organizations such as The National Association for the Education of Young Children (naeyc.org), homeschooling associations (find a directory of homeschool associations at homeschoolcentral.com/hsorg.htm), private schools and government agencies. For work-at-home moms, contact buyers in places such as the Families & Work Institute (familiesandwork.org) or the Home Business Network (homeworkingmom.com) to use your book as a premium.

Implement a niche promotion strategy to reach these prospects by participating in relevant groups on Facebook and Twitter and submitting books for niche awards and reviews (fictionwritersreview.com). Authors could seek appearances on niche television and radio shows (usnpl.com). Find print media that reach your target buyers, then seek reviews and submit articles to be published in them. Depending on your content, examples include Parenting, American Baby, You & Your Family and/or Working Mother, as well as Home Business Magazine (homebusinessmag.com) and Home Business Journal (homebizjour.com).


Strategies for Women Aged 40-60

These women generally shop in stores different from the younger group, so create distribution through appropriate retail outlets. They might purchase products in gift shops, but those in hotels, at airports, on cruise ships, or Hallmark stores.

Your choice of online bookstores might include 800CEOread (800ceoread.com) and other business-oriented stores online such as Franklin Covey Co. (franklincovey.com), Successories (successories.com), and The National Small Business Network (businessknowhow.net/Books-Manuals_c_11.html)

Submit your book to lists of business books (ryrob.com/best-business-books). Seek an office-supply wholesaler such as Essendant (essendant.com), and use Collective Goods to set up displays in workplaces (collectivegoods.com).

Non-retail opportunities could include sales to reading groups around the country. Conduct seminars, webinars, and personal presentations.

Sell your book in large quantities to alumni associations as a fundraising item, and to other associations such as the Young Presidents’ Organization (ypo.org), the National Association of Women Business Owners (nawbo.org), and the Association of Women Professionals (awoman.org) for use as a premium or advertising specialty. Sell to niche libraries (law, hospitals, or business) and to business schools for use as a textbook or supplemental reading.

The promotional tactics and messages you use to reach buyers in this segment will also be different. Your social networking might be confined to LinkedIn. You would still seek awards and reviews, but they would be in different niches. Try for appearances on radio and television, but for different shows such as TV CEO Exchange (pbs.org/wttw/ceoexchange) or CNNmoney (money.cnn.com).

The examples and the links above can be integrated into a marketing strategy for any genre. Base your sales, distribution, and promotional actions on a good understanding of who your prospective buyers are, as well as what, where, when, and why they buy.


Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant and the executive director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS) (bookapss.org). Contact Brian at brianjud@bookmarketing.com or premiumbookcompany.com.

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