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Nonbook Products That Boost Revenue

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Speeches, software,
subscriptions, anatomical models, advice, T-shirts, teddy bears—oh, and don’t
forget tattoos: just a sampling of the nonbook products and services small
publishers sell.

 

Product
line extensions
is the term for
merchandise when it’s a variation on the original product. Think Honey Nut
Cheerios, Cherry Coke, and Tide with Bleach. Independent publishers are
following much the same model when they market software, online services, or newsletters
that complement a book, T-shirts punning on book titles, or toy versions of
book characters. And they develop these product line extensions for some of the
same reasons as General Mills, Coca-Cola, and Procter & Gamble: margins and
marketing oomph.

 

The nonbook products may have
higher margins than books or be sold nonreturnable. Novelty products like
posters and ringtones help market the books and develop buzz for the publishing
company as a whole. Products that tie directly into books—anatomical models
from Scientific Publishing, for example—offer customers one-stop shopping for
merchandise that might otherwise be hard to locate.

 

Reports from PMA members indicate
that small publishers are remarkably creative in developing nonbook income.
This is partly because they are closer to their authors (in many cases, they
are the authors), which means they have the expertise and the passion to offer
speeches, school presentations, consulting, and even cruise-ship talks on the
topics of their books.

 

Smaller publishers may also be
more aware of what products effectively complement any given book (those
tattoos, for example, from Isadore Press at Triangle Tattoo Museum of Fort
Bragg, CA). And whether or not they themselves do the bookkeeping, they are
often acutely conscious of the need for a steady income stream. Some PMA
members report that developing nonbook products related to an upcoming title
not only helps promote the books but also helps cover launch costs.

 

“Companion Products” in the June
issue discussed CDs and DVDs along with a few other ancillary sources of cash
directly related to book content. In an upcoming issue, PMA members will share
stories about supplementing publishing income with advertising, mailing list
rental, licensing and novelties. This article focuses on programs, services,
and software.

 

Consulting and
Presentations

 

Writing a book is one of the best
ways to develop credibility as a consultant, and several PMA members do far
more consulting than publishing. In fact, many see themselves primarily as
consultants and their books as effective tools for attracting clients. Books
also provide a way to sell expertise to a far broader spectrum of people than
clientele, including those who can’t afford a consultant’s day rate or are
outside the consultant’s geographic range.

 

Some publishers, like Tom Wallace
of Cincinnati and Beverly Lujan of Salt Lake City, consult in their areas of
expertise. At T.F. Wallace & Co., which publishes titles on supply-chain
management, consulting generates more than a fifth of the company’s revenue and
teaching an additional 10 percent. Lujan, who self publishes <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>The American Accent Guide
,
is a speech pathologist who does accent-reduction consulting.

 

Being an independent publisher
usually means being a small-business owner, which in turn means that consulting
to other small businesses of all kinds is a common sideline. Many small
publishers also speak or consult on writing and publishing. At the recently
established Literary Architects in Indianapolis, founder Tim Ryan says the
principals, all publishing veterans, provide a range of services, but the
greatest demand is for advice on list analysis, list management, and content
management. “We’ve also helped several businesses launch publishing programs,
which remain under their control,” he adds.

 

Speeches and school presentations
can also generate ancillary income. By the end of this year Cathy Stuckey of
Special Interests Publishing in Texas will have presented about 90
mystery-shopper certification workshops for the Mystery Shopping Providers
Association, which charges $99 for each seven-hour session. “I appeared on the
association’s radar at exactly the right moment,” explains Stuckey, who was
invited to develop and present the top-level certification programs after she
sent copies of the revised edition of the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Mystery Shopper’s Manual
to the MSPA
members she had interviewed for the book.

 

School presentations often focus
on writing or the publishing process. Artist Dar Hosta of Brown Dog Books in
New Jersey is a former teacher who is now the author of two children’s books.
She filmed herself working on one of them and edited the footage into a
15-minute tape that shows how books are written, illustrated, and produced.
Combined with a slide show and question-and-answer session, it’s a popular and
profitable presentation. In addition to charging several hundred dollars a day
for school visits, Hosta reports that she typically collects $500 to $2,000
from book sales at each appearance. With as many as 20 school visits a year,
some of them more than one day long, it’s easy to see why Hosta calls these
presentations “critical” to her bottom line.

 

Another New Jersey author who has
cracked the school market is George Smith, a self-publisher who offers a
creative writing class for fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders. He charges $200
per appearance, and he estimates that these classes currently generate 10
percent of the revenue at George Smith Publishing.

 

Inspiring Teachers, which has only
six books in print and a market consisting primarily of new teachers, depends
partly on staff development workshops—each with one of the company’s books as a
required text—for income. Most of the workshops are presented either in August
or in January, while most book sales occur in August, reports Emma McDonald of
the Dallas-based publisher. She charges $1,500 plus travel expenses for one or
two trainers (both certified teachers) plus the cost of books (fees for
workshops within Texas are discounted); a school district can send as many as
100 attendees.

 

At California’s Corps Productions,
Ernie Spencer and his wife supplement their publishing income by lecturing on
ships operated by cruise lines such as Celebrity and Princess. Their
cruise-ship contracts specifically prohibit discussing compensation, Spencer
says, but he assures us that it’s most definitely “satisfactory.”

 

Online Resources and
Software

 

Bettie Paige of RGE Publishing in
Las Vegas says she’s considering seminars on how to win in the casinos, but at
the moment the company’s only nonbook products are online guides. The most
popular describes the video poker offered at different casinos nationwide, and
there’s a similar worldwide resource for blackjack. RGE also sells
subscriptions to these guides in a members-only area of its blackjack and
roulette forums. By 2005, her nonbook products accounted for 65 per cent of the
company’s profit.

 

Nontraditional publishing is
almost as important at the Washington, D.C.-based Teaching Strategies, where an
online assessment system used by early-childhood education programs (birth
through pre-kindergarten) accounts for about a third of income. Publisher Larry
Bram reports that 20 percent of the company’s total revenues comes from
training teachers to use the Teaching Strategies curriculum models, and a small
but growing share comes from licensing content.

 

Both software and downloadable
materials round out the product line at Out of Your Mind . . . and Into the
Marketplace, the Southern California publisher of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Anatomy of a Business Plan
, the companion
software, Automate
Your Business Plan
, and downloads including Spanish-language
spreadsheets for Excel and instructor guides. “The software, a $95 item, has
become our primary product and is very profitable,” says author and publisher
Linda Pinson.

 

Linda Carlson is a Seattle
marketing consultant who writes regularly for the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Independent
. Her own most recent book isCompany Towns of the
Pacific Northwest
(University of Washington Press).

 

 

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