AN INDEPENDENT ROUNDTABLE
Target Marketing Moves
Niche markets for books are infinite in number. I’ve realized that time and again during meetings and conversations with publishers across the country, and the reports on target marketing in our May and June issues recently made that same point.
This is the final installment in our Spring 2008 target marketing series, but no way is it the last word on the subject. For easy access to more target marketing insights and information, see “Basic Health Succeeds with Special Sales” and other pieces in this issue and check the collection of Independent articles at ibpa-online.org.
Many Formats for One Niche
BRB Publications, Inc., sells reference books into the security, professional investigative, and information industries. Our titles are used in connection with professional background investigations and preemployment screening, and we offer them in a variety of formats: print, CD, online, and database licensing. We follow the dollar and monitor how our customers, of all sizes, want to buy.
Print. We have two imprints, one for titles we offer through bookstores and one for references that are updated annually, which we don’t offer through the trade. Some of our titles are up to their 20th edition.
CD-ROM. We consider CDs a dying format but still functional for some data. We offer four products on CDs, which we print on demand in-house, ensuring that our users have current information.
Online. Our preferred format, this is ideal for the customer, since we update data weekly. We sell annual or monthly subscriptions to four online products and let customers renew online—nothing to ship or warehouse means a higher profit margin.
Database licensing. This is the option with the highest margin but the biggest risks, since it allows customers to have access to your company assets. A clear and strong contract is needed, along with due diligence on your part to determine who, how, and why you should trust in this arrangement. An attractive option within the database licensing realm is XML feed, which gives customers access to a bit of information at a time via the Internet.
Our biggest marketing efforts are directed toward professional trade associations and leaders within our niche. We try to display at annual conventions; we are generous with our products as door prizes for events; and we selectively purchase advertising. Most of the larger associations in our field have online bookstores, and some are quite successful at selling our product. But even if sales are minimal, having titles posted at an association’s site gets us the equivalent of its seal of approval.
The other benefit of working with associations is finding the industry leaders within your niche—the professionals who speak at conferences and make recommendations. Being known and respected by these important people is critical for success. We keep them informed of new titles and editions and contact them regularly for endorsements, testimonials, and sidebars within our titles.
Our rule of thumb is: Get at least 50 percent of a title’s sales outside the bookstore market. If we cover the print cost from trade sales, we are generally happy.
Niche publishers do best by marketing to their niche and not worrying about national media. A book review in my largest trade association journal means more sales to me than a hit in Publishers Weekly.
BRB Publications, Inc.
Plying the Pet Network
We serve a number of different markets, but at this point, the one we have the most books for is the adopted pets/humane market. Our books for it are Happy Hound: Develop a Great Relationship with Your Adopted Dog or Puppy and Happy Tabby: Develop a Great Relationship with Your Adopted Cat or Kitten. We also sell a vegan cookbook; since many vegans don’t eat animal products for ethical reasons and animal lovers buy our books, there’s a bit of crossover.
Although our books are for pet owners, we’ve found that animal shelters, rescue groups, and humane societies are interested in them too, because they can help people make better choices when adopting a pet and make it more likely that the adopted animal will stay in its new home.
Because animal shelters and rescue groups benefit when more animals are adopted and aren’t returned, we recently created the National Association of Pet Rescue Professionals (naprp.com), which offers help with adopter education, fundraising and promotion, and administration and management. Not surprisingly, copies of our books are a member benefit, along with free cover customization for member groups that want to sell them in quantity. The NAPRP newsletter and Web site are giving our books more exposure, so we’ve seen a lift in sales both at our store and at Amazon, and the blog tours we’re doing for our pet books and NAPRP cross-promote.
Having started the organization and used press releases and contact with other humane groups, we are about to start doing teleseminars. So far we have lined up teleseminars with people from Best Friends Animal Society, the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, a grant-writing expert, and an expert in dealing with employee and volunteer relationships.
Sometimes you need to look beyond the obvious market and think about who else benefits when people read your books.
Logical Expressions, Inc.
Action via Associations
Our current key target market—for three books released in 2007—comprises the top educational administrative field (superintendents and principals), and teachers. And our marketing campaign uses the approach I describe in our new book, Niche Publishing.
I’ve been back to McNaughton-Gunn (which has done an exceptional printing job on these books) three times for each of these titles, and I’ll be back again before 2008 ends, probably for all three.
We followed the usual procedures: contacting the library dealers, Baker & Taylor, and both the usual book reviewers and reviewers at the major education magazines and newsletters. And we sent out “hello” copies to key educators at the national and state level.
In addition, we get authors directly involved in selling, since they are among the top leaders in Illinois (one was the equivalent of secretary of education, and the other two were Superintendents of the Year). With their help, we have targeted the top associations where one or all three were keynoting or were featured speakers. That usually resulted in four-digit sales for distribution at the associations’ conventions. (A high percentage of the listeners also purchase one, two, or all three books at author-signing events.)
In turn, those sales have lead to thousands of sales to schools, school districts, or other association meetings.
The books have also been made available in digital form, but that brings in the usual disappointing 2 to 3 percent of the total bought.
From the office, we’ve continued to contact associations via direct mail, offering free book samples, but always with the intent of selling in lots to regional meetings and at conventions. Now we are also contacting companies that display at those meetings to suggest that they use the books as giveaways to schools and as handouts at their booths.
My best advice is: Publish books from highly motivated leaders in a niche field that contain much-needed advice, and make sure they’re edited to read well (which in this case means they’re fairly free of educationese). Then work with the authors to have them speak often and well to the most likely buyers of the book. When it’s a win–win relationship with all involved, it’s easy to expand with more good books through the selling venues that were successful with the first launching.
Communication Unlimited and Education Communication Unlimited
Making Multiple Impressions
Because we publish Christian-themed graphic novels, we have the benefit of two target markets. We target the comic book and graphic novel market (both the direct-distribution comic stores and the larger big-box stores with graphic novels sections) and the Christian book market. Although the direct comic-store market is relatively limited (with about 5,000 outlets in North America, including Mom-Pop shops) it is attractive, since all sales through its one and only distributor (Diamond Comics Distribution) are nonreturnable.
To help promote the third book in our four-part Eye Witness series (Eye Witness: Rise of the Apostle), we are offering retailers free posters and a free floor-standing point-of-sale display (to be produced for us by fellow IBPA member City Diecutting, Inc.) if they meet a minimum order requirement on the first three books. This not only provides a nice way to display our graphic novels within their stores; it should also stimulate sales of the first two books in the series in locations that may not have stocked them before.
To market to the direct-distribution comic outlets, we run ads in Diamond Distributors catalog and send a promotional postcard to retailers the month the books are listed in that catalog. To drive traffic to those stores, we run ads in the trade magazines—Wizard, Comics Buyers Guide, and The Comics Journal—and place banner ads in appropriate networking Web sites (MySpace, Comicspace).
For the Christian book market, and for the secular market to some extent as well, we utilize our master distributor (STL) and run full-page ads in its order catalogs and its seasonal consumer edition (which smaller chains use to promote items directly to the consumer). In addition, we run ads in the larger wholesalers’ catalogs (Ingram/Spring Arbor). To drive retail traffic, we run print ads in magazines targeting the Christian youth demographic (Relevant, Ignite Your Faith); and we post ads/banners on youth-oriented networking Web sites (MySpace, Shoutlife).
A final piece of the marketing puzzle, which we use for both markets, is sending out review editions. Six months prior to a book’s release, we send an abbreviated galley edition to about 20 of the largest media outlets that publish regular book reviews. We send full-length review copies two months prior to release to a wider array of national and regional media to generate book reviews and line up interview opportunities (approximately 50 copies). Once the book is printed, we begin shipping approximately 100 copies to targeted media (regional and local newspapers, TV, and radio) and midsized to larger retail chains.
A lot of what we do through our marketing is very hard to track, but we view our strategy as trying to generate as much exposure for the books as possible, following the old adage that most people need multiple impressions of a product before they’ll buy it.
Two things that seem to generate tangible and immediate results for us are positive book reviews and TV appearances. A review by a respected magazine or Web site usually results in an increase in traffic to our site and sales through retail outlets we supply directly, such as Amazon. Similarly, when award-winning author Robert James Luedke appears on a national or regional talk show, we see an immediate spike in traffic and sales on our Web site’s shopping cart. This kind of exposure can drive traffic for a few days or a few weeks, depending on whether the broadcast is available for later viewing on the Internet.
Bottom line: Research, research, research! You can’t reach your targets unless you know who they are. With Google and other tools we have today, it’s easier than ever to poke around from the comfort of your office to figure out who’s your market, where your potential customers go for their information, and how to get directly to them via the Internet and otherwise.
Head Press Publishing