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Selling to Specialty Stores

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Every store that sells a product related to your book’s topic can be a source of sales for the book. Publishers, sell your cookbooks at food stands and gourmet shops; books about dogs or cats to pet shops; books about foot care in shoe stores. As appropriate, you could sell your book in home-improvement centers, auto-supply stores, drugstores, camera shops, toy stores, garden-supply stores, or computer stores. You can offer your book for sale in car washes, doctors’ offices, banks, restaurants, ski lodges, movie theaters, appliance stores, or coffee shops. The opportunities are as endless and as fertile as your creativity will allow.

Why Sell to Specialty Stores?

In bookstores, each book on a shelf is surrounded by competing titles. In a specialty store, your book is likely to be displayed in a much less competitive setting.

In addition:

    In most cases, specialty stores buy nonreturnable.
    Proprietors of small businesses often view books favorably, because selling selected books can be a special service to their customers and/or because book sales can be a source of incremental revenue.
    Many specialty retailers purchase directly from the publisher, in which case you don’t have to deal with distribution discounts.
    Although individual orders are usually small, the buying period is shorter, the process is less formal, and the access to buyers through mass mailings is easier than with bookstores.
    Your promotional dollars work more efficiently with specialty retailers because the people you contact are in your target market and the benefits you present are especially interesting to them.

How to Sell to Specialty Stores

Since the process differs from segment to segment, Dan Poynter recommends visiting local stores or calling major ones to find out how they buy products. Ask questions that will help you make life easy for your potential buyers. What operating procedures do you need to fit into, and what expectations do you need to fulfill? What are this industry’s major trade shows, magazines, and associations?

Must you use a distributor, and if so, which ones are the best? If you sell through a distributor, its normal discounts apply. If you sell directly to these retail outlets, the discounts range from 20 to 50 percent, depending on quantity, your sales history, and your negotiating skills.

Look at your product not as a book, but as an accessory to a particular industry.

If you have a title on motivation, or one that will help a business run better, sell it through stores that stock similar products, such as Franklin Covey (2200 West Parkway Blvd., Salt Lake City, UT 84119-2331; 801/817-1776, www.franklincovey.com); or Successories (2520 Diehl Rd., Aurora, IL 60504; www.successories.com).

If you have a title on how to dress for success, office-supply stores might be a good outlet (Staples Inc., 500 Staples Dr., Framingham, MA 01702, 508/253-5000, www.staples.com); and so might stores that sell clothes to executives, such as Burberry (350 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10019, 212/246-2570); or Brooks Brothers (346 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017, 212/682-8800).

Do not limit yourself to brick-and-mortar stores. Think about selling through online stores too. If you publish educational children’s books, why not sell them through Learning Express at www.learningexpress.com. If your books are about an aspect of patriotism, sell through www.hnhgifts.com/huttonhammo. If your book talks about baby boomers’ relationships, money, or health, sell it in the Marketplace at BoomerCafe, www.boomercafe.com.

Author Eric Gelb offers another niche-marketing suggestion: “Search out magazines for marketing opportunities. Some magazines sell books,” he notes, and many “use unsold ad space for book clubs and book catalogs, and to sell books that relate to articles they feature in that issue. We have sold copies of our books to numerous publications including Ladies’ Home Journal, Success magazine, and The Crafts Report. Study the masthead and contact the publication by telephone to verify contact points. When you can, speak to the editor or marketing director directly to pitch your idea. Then follow up with a letter and sales kit.”

Additional Hints for Selling to Niche Markets

● Arrange to sell through small local stores to create a track record. Then use your experience to show other retailers what your titles can do for them.

● When you contact small retailers, use terms that are important to them. Describe how your products will increase their profit per square foot. Tell them how your media promotion will stimulate traffic through their store. Prove that you know what their customers want, and that your titles will help increase their overall sales.

● Give retailers ideas for cross-selling, such as suggesting that they place your barbecue cookbook near the display of outdoor grills.

● Be willing to customize your products (cover and content) for an industry or customer. Some stores may want a special size to fit their shelves or display racks. Other may prefer a hardcover version of your paperback or a paperback version of your hardcover. Sell people books they want to buy.

● Provide free counter-top displays with the purchase of a minimum quantity, along with instructions for reordering to refill the displays.

● Contact the buyers for appropriate departments in large stores instead of the general purchasing department.

● Read magazines and attend trade shows to learn about any industry your book relates to. Then network and follow up with exhibitors and attendees. For example, if your title has to do with music, you might attend the American Music Therapy Association Conference (AMTA; www.musictherapy.org) and the Music Industries Association of Canada (MIAC) Annual Conference and Trade Show (www.miac.net), and subscribe to DJ Times magazine (www.djtimes.com).

● You can find trade shows and magazines devoted to almost any topic. Search for trade shows by name, type, location, or date at sites such as http://directory.tradeshowweek.com/directory/index.asp and for magazines at sites such as http://dir.yahoo.com/News_and_Media/Magazines, which provides links to periodicals’ Web sites.

● Look for selling opportunities where others see only nonbook stores. See these outlets as potential vendors of your books, and work with them to increase your sales and profitability.

Brian Jud is author of Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers Weekly book) and The Marketing Planning CD-ROM, which describes new ways to sell more books profitably to special-sales buyers. He is also the editor of Book Marketing Matters, a special-sales newsletter. Contact Brian at P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 800/562-4357; brianjud@bookmarketing.com; or visit www.bookmarketing.com.

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