I have been told that fitness books are difficult to sell ever since videos revolutionized in-home workouts. However I felt I could succeed with niche books about products already used in the fitness and healthcare industry–exercise balls, foam rollers, and resistive bands–since I had become known internationally as an expert physical therapist.
Fortunately I was correct. I have now sold more than 70,000 books–most of them outside of bookstores at a retail price of $39.95.
In terms of content, these books offer:
• Fun-filled, time- and energy-efficient workouts
• An easy-to-read writing style and easy-to-follow exercise instructions
• Hundreds of illustrated exercises designed to be photocopied for patient/client education (saving the fitness or healthcare professional valuable time)
• Information and exercise programs based on up-to-date research
• Photographs that show optimal exercise posture positions
• Exercises that are tried and tested, not just by the elite athlete but by the couch potato too.
Because it’s very difficult to generate traditional bookstore sales for a fitness/health book with a small marketing budget, I decided to sell to the healthcare consumer. I believe four components initially contributed to success:
• Writing one of the first books on the Swiss exercise ball and allowing readers to reproduce pages for instructional use
• Locating a company that could provide complete book production services
• Finding a distributor willing to advertise and market my books
• Supporting my distributor by always promoting my book to the media, general public, healthcare and fitness professionals, and to anyone else who would listen.
Production & Distribution Decisions
For production, I was fortunate to find Alan Bernhard, from Argent Associates–in the A section, under “book compositors,” in the Yellow Pages. (Little did I know, at the time he was the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Book Publishers Association, now known as the Publishers Association of the West.) He helped me turn my book ideas into reality by offering design, production, and press management, “a turnkey solution to adding staff-free titles to a publisher’s list”–just what I needed.
To select a distributor for the healthcare industry, I looked through all the trade physical therapy journal advertisements and approached Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products, which advertised in the majority of these journals. Their ads were far superior to ads for other book distributors and publishers. (Later I found out that they routinely won awards for their catalog, had a great reputation, and liked working with authors of self-published books.)
Since my first phone call to Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products nine years ago, we have had a successful ongoing relationship. They continue to market and distribute my books to the healthcare industry, primarily physical therapists, chiropractors, and personal trainers.
After my books gained national popularity, I decided it was time to find international distributors. Again, I looked outside the bookstore market. I found many distributors of physical therapy products willing to market my books, and I now have distributors in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. In addition, Therapeutic Exercises Using Foam Rollers will soon be translated into Japanese.
Benefits of Selling “Beyond the Bookstore”
Here are the key benefits for me of selling books outside the bookstore market:
• Long shelf life— My first book is seven years old and still going strong.
• Very few returns— My distributors in the healthcare/fitness industry return only a handful of books per year, as compared to the hundreds of books Baker & Taylor returns.
• Excellent payment history— I receive payment within 30 days.
• Marketing assistance— All of my healthcare book distributors in the U.S. and abroad actively market my books.
• Great communication — I share my marketing plan with my distributors so they can be prepared to respond.
• Mutual respect— I strive to provide quality book products, in a timely manner, with personalized attention to all queries and, in return, my distributors work hard at marketing and distributing.
• Bookstore sales as icing on the cake. Because of the wonderful job done by Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products and my healthcare distributors abroad, I have been successful without having to rely on sales in the bookstore industry.
Now I am looking forward to pursuing this approach with my sixth title, Bounce Back Into Shape After Baby. Although I hope chain and independent bookstores realize my books will fill the “fit niche” market, I am thankful that my distributors within the healthcare industry will continue to be valuable assets to my company.
Freebies Pay Off
Although I have heard that giving people the right to photocopy pages from a book reduces long-term sales, I have found just the opposite.
When I give fitness experts a way to promote their program–by photocopying exercises from my book–they promote me. My name and telephone number appear at the bottom of every reproducible page, and my first title, Therapeutic Exercises Using the Swiss Ball, published in 1994, continues to be one of my best-selling books because of the reproducible pages.
I have sold thousands of books to clients and patients who received three or four reproduced pages and decided they wanted to purchase the book in its entirety.
Caroline Corning Creager, P.T., is a fitness expert, award-winning author, and C.E.O. of Fit Niche Books (d.b.a. Executive Physical Therapy, Inc.). She can be reached at 970/532-2533, 800/530-6878, Caroline@CarolineCreager.com, or P.O. Box 1319, Berthoud, CO 80513. You’ll find her web site at www.CarolineCreager.com.