AN IBPA ROUNDTABLE
Selling Direct, Part 3: Routes to the Right Buyers
“About 90 percent of our revenue comes from direct sales.” Or maybe it’s 50 percent, or 10 percent, or 37.2 percent. Whatever the figure, two conclusions are inescapable: Lots of IBPA members serve targeted readers directly, and the variety of defined markets members reach is awe-inspiring.
The reports below complete a series we began in January. Many thanks to everyone who contributed.—Judith Appelbaum
In the Great Outdoors
Our publishing company focuses primarily on regional natural history, regional recreation, and outdoor adventure. We consider our region primarily Southern California, deserts, Southwest, and Baja California.
We have 72 titles in print that are Sunbelt titles. We also distribute products for 60 publishers and have a total of 280 books (including e-books and Kindle) that are both published and distributed titles. Despite the rough economy, we managed to produce half a dozen guides and bike books in 2010. We also sell maps, which do very well for us.
We contact our markets—outdoor groups, parks, museums, outdoor retail outlets, gift shops and specialty shops, major chains, and libraries—online and through our e-mail lists, publicity and marketing, events, book reviews, and sales reps.
Offering special discounts and deals for direct buys works for us, especially when we want to try a book out. Sometimes we even leave a book on consignment in an outlet to prove that it will sell or leave a sample for a store manager to try it out at no risk.
Out on the Water
Pardey Books publishes only titles written by me and my husband, Larry Pardey, about sailing, seamanship, and boatbuilding. We usually publish one book a year and now have 10 books plus four DVD programs with yearly sales of about $100,000.
Our target market is worldwide, and approximately 15% of our sales are direct through our Web site.
We reach our audience by contributing articles to yachting magazines (it’s nice to get paid for articles, which work even better than advertising). We also have about 4,000 people on our email list.
Our DVDs are available for download on a very active site, TheSailingChannel.tv, that has highly visible links to our site. To encourage people to buy from us rather than from other sources, we offer a 10 percent discount on any title; we offer combos with 20 percent discount for a book-plus-video purchase; and once a year, during the slower summer sales season, we send out an email blast offering deeper discounts on selected titles.
We target people interested in weight loss and health for our health and fitness titles and also offer dietary supplements. We reach our market via a blog and affiliate sales. Direct sales bring in 30 percent of our publishing revenue.
Primal Nutrition, Inc.
Mostly for a Religious Market
Four of the five books we published in the past year address the Catholic audience in particular but are books that most Christians may enjoy; the fifth book is directed toward people interested in hunting. We also sell DVDs for the same markets.
Most of our revenue comes through our direct sales, and most sales come from Internet ads.
Time-honored Teaching Tools
We specialize in republishing children’s educational books that were originally published in the late 1800s and early 1900s. None of our 43 titles has ever gone out of print, and in 2010 we reprinted our two English grammar texts—Primary Language Lessons and Intermediate Language Lessons—for the eighth and sixth times, respectively.
Most of our sales are to homeschoolers and some state-sponsored distance-learning programs. Occasionally, we do print ads in various homeschool magazines and send out e-blasts to lists kept by homeschool magazines with whom we also do occasional print ads.
Some 30 percent of our revenue comes from direct sales. We offer substantial discounts on books bought in sets (American history set, three books; English grammar set, two books; etc.), and we retained two specific homeschool wholesale clients for ourselves when we set up trade distribution with NBN.
Lost Classics Book Company
All in the Family
We have 210 titles and counting, of which at least 50 were published in the last 12 months; and we focus on having something for everyone in the family. All books must have a positive message.
We target children, schools, libraries, and families, contacting them via our Web sites, local book and craft fairs, and an active Internet presence. Our books are available in chain and independent bookstores, and through major Internet booksellers; but we also encourage people to buy directly from us by offering a special discount that varies with the number of books purchased. At present, probably less than 10 percent of our revenue comes from direct sales.
Penny D. Weigand
A Productive Panoply
I have 44 active authors so we can be in a lot of places at the same time, and a very successful school show program that involves offering class packs of books to schools at a discount prior to an author visit. My books have won 53 national awards over the last several years.
During the past 12 months, I published 17 new titles, three reprints, one DVD, and three video books. My children’s books all have an educational bent. My fiction imprint, Publisher Page, does political thrillers, mysteries, romance, and adventure. My nonfiction titles range from self-help to informative; plus I have several photography books and paranormal and metaphysical books. I offer stuffed animals from the children’s books, video books, audiobooks, travel kits, art lesson kits, posters, and prints, as well as books, to the consumers I reach directly.
Help with Work
We sell our three books direct through multiple channels, having strategically chosen not to sell through Amazon or any other channel that unilaterally changes our street price or limits our pricing decisions.
Our target audience is a population of over 30 million—people who are unemployed, underemployed, fearful of losing their jobs, or wanting career help, and for college students worried about the future.
Means of contacting them about our books, audio products, and seminars include our own Web site and blog, articles and blogging on other sites (for example, I’ve been a guest contributor to a Washington Post subsidiary), affinity marketplace partners, networking, a commission-only direct-sales force, speaking engagements, alliance partnerships and cross-selling with others whose products and services fit our model, traditional book reviews, book fairs, and outreach to media.
We make it easy to order from us, but we don’t mind if books are purchased through approved channels that have pricing integrity and fit our business model.
Next year, we will publish a fourth title, and we expect channel sales to take off as we roll out a new program. We are planning a recurring-fee technology platform, client assessments, video, newsletters, and a number of resources packaged as outplacement solutions or, for colleges and individuals, as placement solutions.
Job Doctors International, LLC
On Taxes When You Work at Home
Our one book—on special tax deductions for home-business owners—is in its fifth edition with several spinoffs, including an audiobook, tax deduction recordkeeping software, and telecoaching. We also offer relevant books published elsewhere, and we reach people who have or are considering a home-based business via my newsletter list (30,000), our Web site, an affiliate program, Webinars, teleconferences, and live presentations.
Through all the above, I provide information that can slash home-business owners’ taxes by $3,000 to $5,000 a year, while establishing myself as the authority on this subject. Then I offer a “special.” I have a self-paced home-learning program packaged in a “clamshell” that contains the book, six CDs, etc., that normally sells for $197.
For a “special” I may offer the exact same content, but delivered electronically through cyberspace, and sell it for $97.
About 90 percent of our revenue comes from direct sales.
Ronald R. Mueller
Home Business Tax Savings, Inc.
On the Other Hand: What a Distributor Does for Me
Catholic Word is now distributing my book. They can get it in places I could only dream of, and they know the Catholic niche well. It is deep and wide.
So far, I have published one book, but others are written and waiting for art/photography. I write for children, generally ages four to eight. The fact that a little one-book-so-far publisher like me can be represented by such a distributor shows the need for Catholic materials, especially for children. (Now there is also a group called Catholic Marketing Network that has a trade show each summer to bring people in the world of Catholic publishing together—bookstore owners, parish school of religion directors, Catholic school librarians, publishers, and so on.)
Before I worked with Catholic Word, it wasn’t that difficult to get the word out about my product, but it took a lot of time. While the Catholic market is broad and the need for orthodox Catholic materials is great, there is no Catholic equivalent of, say, Barnes and Noble. I had to try to contact each of the thousands of Catholic bookstores myself to let them know about my book. And it was impossible to find a current list of those bookstores since many of them are closing and many more opening daily, it seems. Also, this niche includes Catholic parishes, schools, and their libraries.
I can also reach customers by making presentations and selling my book at local Catholic schools. I send a flier for the children to take home several weeks before a scheduled presentation so families can order the book ahead of time. At the presentation, I sign the books that were ordered. This past spring, I sold more than 40 books in one morning.
Beyond stories about saints, Bible stories, and prayer books, there are very, very few stories for children written with a Catholic theme and/or worldview. Everything I’ve read recently about self-publishing mentions writing for a niche. With 68 million Catholics in this country, the huge Catholic niche is waiting to be filled.
New Springtime Press