Stops along the Information Superhighway are fine if discrete bits of data will fill your needs, and if you’re good at filtering out misinformation and disinformation. But for usable, in-depth information, it’s hard to beat a book. Complete with random and keyword access, portability, and user-friendly language, books may also offer insights and analyses that turn information into knowledge and perhaps even raise it to the level of wisdom.
As these stories from PMA members show, offering information in book form can be highly profitable, especially when publishers focus on well-defined markets and market energetically over long periods.–Judith Appelbaum
For Talkative Parents
We have sold about 650,000 copies of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2—12 since 1984. The book currently sells about 75,000 copies a year.
1-2-3 Magic is the only parenting program based on the observation that parents talk too much. I developed it at home with my children and in my private practice as a clinical psychologist. When I realized how well the method worked, I decided to take the show on the road.
At first, I marketed it through my public speaking engagements–about 90—100 per year then and now. Over time, we have added other sales channels, which include television and radio (we used Planned Television Arts), print (KSB Promotions), catalog, and Web site.
I expect the book to sell well for many years to come. Word-of-mouth recommendations for the program are a big source of sales. Also, 1-2-3 Magic is easy to learn, and it works! Not only that, a new crop of new kids is born every year.
It is true that you have to spend money to make money. A lot of energy and thought must go into marketing efforts, and you absolutely have to hire people who are willing to tackle marketing tasks that you yourself can’t stand.
Thomas W. Phelan, Child Management, Inc.
Web site: www.thomasphelan.com
Inside the Hawaiian Islands
Now in its twelfth edition with more than 300,000 copies sold to date, Hidden Hawaii has become the cornerstone of the Ulysses Press backlist. (It also led to the first meeting of Ulysses Press co-publishers Ray Riegert and Leslie Henriques and their eventual marriage; Ray met Leslie on his first visit to the islands in 1979.)
Hidden Hawaii came about because Ray discovered that no guidebooks provided in-depth information on the beaches of Hawaii. Continually updated during the past 20 years, it has spawned four “baby books”–Hidden Maui, Hidden Kauai, Hidden Oahu, and Hidden Big Island of Hawaii.
Spinoff titles have helped cross-promote Hidden Hawaii and create demand for other island-specific books. A combination of radio promotions and author appearances at bookstores and travel events has boosted the reputation of Ulysses Press and strengthened consumer awareness of the Hidden brand and individual titles.
We expect Hidden Hawaii to continue to sell well as long as the islands remain a popular travel destination for visitors from around the world. As far as we can tell, that should be a very long time indeed.
Marcy Gordon, Ulysses Press
Web site: http://Ulyssespress.com
When we received a screenplay-format book as an unsolicited manuscript, we knew immediately we had the opportunity to present a screenwriting version of the famous Strunk and White book, Elements of Style. Expensive screenwriting software was just becoming popular. We felt strongly that we could position our screenwriting book as a low-cost alternative. Believe it or not, no book on how to format a screenplay was available at the time.
Since we are a film-book publisher, we made sure that this book’s content adhered to the major film studios’ standards. Then we presented Elements of Style for Screenwriters–using the size, style, and pricing of the Strunk and White title and the colors (reversed) of the Chicago Manual of Style–as a traditional entertainment reference book at a great price. The boring “old school” conservative approach is exactly what made the book sexy . . . and credible. Psychological familiarity was our goal.
We marketed the book not only to aspiring screenwriters but also to professionals. Beginning our push with book reviews and limited print advertising, we received several immediate hits. While still continuing to promote to the filmmaker and screenwriter communities in New York and Los Angeles, we began promoting to film schools, English departments, and libraries, using direct mail (a 6″ x 9″ postcard of the cover with copy and reviews on the other side). Also, we began pushing the book at entertainment and book trade shows as our featured release.
Within six months of release, it made the L.A. Times Bestseller List (under its “Hollywood Bestsellers Chart”). In its second year, we made a deal with a prominent screenplay software program for a product bundle, and the book became a sort of user’s manual, explaining many of the formatting terms embedded in the computer program.
Four years after publication, we continue to sell approximately 5,000 copies a year through retail chains and independents, libraries, book clubs, textbook adoptions, catalogs, and trade shows, as well as online. Many little successes position a book for a long backlist lifespan.
Jeff Black, Lone Eagle Publishing
Web site: www.hcdonline.com
How to Say It with Signs
Prior to publishing Signs for Me, DawnSignPress had published a series of successful sign-language coloring books, so we knew there was a market out there for this type of title. With the encouragementof our first distributor, Gryphon House, we took the signs shown in the coloring books, added approximately 250 more signs, brought everything together in one illustrated book, and added “Parents” and “Teachers” to the subtitle (Basic Sign Vocabulary for Children, Parents, and Teachers).
Initially, we marketed thebook through a direct mail campaign to our house list of customers. Then we submitted it to Gryphon House,which agreed to distribute it. Word of mouth was a factor within our niche market. Later, Independent Publishers Group (IPG) distributed to the large chain bookstores.
I expect the book to keep selling because of the increasing popularity ofand interest insign language. These factors create a new audience every year.
Barry Howland, DawnSignPress
Web site: www.dawnsign.com
Parkview Publishing was established in 1996 to publish Irritable Bowel Syndrome & the Mind-Body/Brain-Gut Connection by William B. Salt II, M.D., a book for people who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Since its publication date (October 1997), it has sold 57,000 copies.
Well before the publication date, we began selling the book from our Web site, developed by our son. The site and a wonderful review from Library Journal served as our only “marketing” in the beginning. But even so, the book sold 5,000 copies in its first three months. At that point, we began to participate in the PMA marketing programs; after approximately eight months, we signed up with a publicity and public relations company.
The book became a featured alternate selection for Rodale Press Prevention Book Club and a Benjamin Franklin silver award winner. We also succeeded in getting reviews from well-known doctors and journalists, which we then included in our marketing materials. We have also tried hard (although without success) to entice several pharmaceutical companies to purchase large quantities of the book (at deep discounts) for their sales reps to give to gastroenterologists to pass on to their patients. The idea was for the book to accompany the pharmaceutical company’s IBS-related drug–a nice package for the drug rep to present to the doctor.
In January 2002 we published a second edition with Dr. Neil Neimark as co-author and renamed the book Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the MindBodySpirit Connection, to fit better with our brand, MindBodySpirit Connection books. It has just been selected as one of 2002’s Best Health Books for Consumers by ACAAary Journal.
Susan Salt, Parkview Publishing
Web site: www.parkviewpublishing.com
Environmental Awareness for Kids
Dog-Eared Publications creates nature books for children with the goal of helping them grow up with an environmental ethic. We discovered a National Park Service niche, and have written books to fill that niche. We also have good sales to other federal areas, aquariums, zoos, museums, and nature stores.
Of our 23 titles, only one has gone out of print, and one–Discovering Endangered Species–has sold more than 80,000 copies since 1990. We published this book because the publisher is passionate about the topic, but we also saw it as helping parks, forests, zoos, aquariums, and the like accomplish their missions: teaching about the value of species and the threats they face.
We have kept this title and most of our other titles alive by:
_ working hard to be sure they make a unique contribution to the world of children’s nature titles
● updating text (facts) at least every other printing
● giving away many sample copies to potential buyers
● creating new covers periodically
● adding realistic wildlife stickers to most of the titles (this has proved to be an excellent idea for our books)
● offering steep discounts a few times a year to pique the interest of buyers
● attending conferences to tell buyers of the improvements
We hope our latest book, Discovering Sharks and Rays, will also have a long life ahead of it.
Nancy “Nan” Field, Dog-Eared Publications
Web site: www.dog-eared.com
My book Contemporary Lampworking: A Practical Guide to Shaping Glass in the Flame, now in its third edition, has sold about 14,000 copies since its initial publication in 1995.
At that time, there was no really good how-to book on glassblowing using a torch. What was availablewas out of date or oriented toward the “happy hands” spun-glass aesthetic that turns off more sophisticated artists. Meanwhile, glass in general was becoming more respected as an artistic medium. I shopped the book around to a few publishers; they all found it too specialized and didn’t want to take the risk. I have been crying about that all the way to bank!
About a dozen magazines cater to the glassblowing and crafts trades, so I advertise in many of them. I also used direct mail. I don’t have a U.S. distributor, but a few large suppliers of glass equipment buy enough copies to get a big discount, and they distribute to some stores.
No end in sight. A smart move on my part was to include lots of other artists demonstrating techniques, as well as pictures of their work. This gets them excited about being in the book, and their excitement helps create buzz. I have also revised frequently and thoroughly to reflect the growth of the field and changing interests within it so my book will go on being regarded as the bible of its field.
Bandhu Dunham, Salusa Glassworks, Inc.
Web site: www.salusaglassworks.com
Within a Needlework Niche
We’ve done 11 printings and sold more than 106,000 copies of Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square. First published in 1996, it was a basic reference work in a format that nobody had thought of before, and just right for our market.
We publish a knitting magazine and have strong distribution into knitting shops, so using that sales channel was easy. The book has also done surprisingly well in the trade, even though it’s spiral-bound. (In the beginning, we packaged it in a little vinyl portfolio into which we inserted a spine. Later, we eliminated the vinyl and put a hang-tag on the binding. Finally, we devised a sort of cover wrap that put a spine on the edge opposite the spiral binding.)
Knitter’s Companion should sell forever. Other publishers have tried to knock it off, but it is too well positioned as the “alpha” title in its category. It’s packed with fundamental information in the form of lists, charts, techniques, diagrams, etc.–and it fits into a knitting bag.
This title has been the keystone for a whole series: Weaver’s Companion, Needleworker’s Companion, Crocheter’s Companion, Spinner’s Companion, Beader’s Companion, etc. They’ve all done extremely well, and we’re still rolling them out. At some point, we will probably update the look.
Linda Ligon, Interweave Press
Web site: www.interweave.com
Getting a Job; Getting Bookings
How to Get the Job You Really Want and Get Employers to Call You, originally published in 1988, has sold 23,750 copies so far–all at full retail, 95 percent on radio talk shows. That’s $376,500 worth of books.
My then-wife and I wrote and published the book because it dawned on me–after I had conducted seminars on this subject throughout the Rocky Mountain region for several years–that there’s no way to reach 285 million Americans via the seminar route.
In 1996, we seesawed over selling the rights to E.P. Dutton for $25,000. We finally said yes, thinking that they would put the book in all the libraries and bookstores. Bad move. In the three years they had the rights tied up, they sold only 7,100 copies.
We now have the rights back, and radio talk shows are again our primary market, although we’ve sold about 900 copies through libraries, and another 900 through the Tattered Cover Bookstore.
Drawing on experiences with the job book, I did my next book, How to Get On Radio Talk Shows All Across America Without Leaving Your Home or Office, which includes a 19-chapter book, a 60-minute seminar on audiotape, and a diskette for either PC or Mac; its database includes 930 radio shows that interview guests by phone. First published in 1989, it has sold more than 2,580 copies at $198. That’s $510,840 in retail sales.
My main marketing activities have been:
_ speaking at regional/state publishing associations
● speaking at chapters of the National Speakers Association
● direct mail, using the ISBN recipient list from R.R. Bowker
Joe Sabah, Pacesetter Publications
Web site: www.JoeSabah.com
Hooray for Hollywood
I self-published The Ultimate Hollywood Tour Book in 1992 because even though New York publishers repeatedly told my agent that there was no market for the book, I knew damn well there was–lots of people like me who enjoy seeing where entertainment history was made. I’ve sold 37,000 copies over a period of 11 years and am now on my third edition and 18th printing.
The larger publishers might have been right in the sense that the sales would have been insufficient for them, but the book has been my professional anchor. I made enough money on it to devote my full time to my other books and now my list of radio shows that interview authors. The book freed me to be my own boss. It launched me professionally; self-publishing it was the smartest career move I’ve ever made.
Initially I marketed the book by sending review copies to the media, visiting every bookstore in the metro L.A. area and doing slide show lectures. I promote it year in and year out, taking advantage of the fact that 23 million people visit L.A. annually.
B. Dalton/Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks/Borders ordered books immediately. (The buyer for Barnes & Noble had grown up in Hollywood, and she told me she had not seen a good book on it in years, so I reached the right person at just the right time). I also sold books through the Movie/Entertainment Book Club, most of the souvenir shops on Hollywood Boulevard, quite a few hotel, studio, and network gift shops, and outlets like the travel store of the Automobile Club of Southern California. Those out-of-bookstore sales really make the difference.
Surprisingly, I am getting almost as much exposure now as I did when the book came out. Sometimes I even get calls from reporters right out of the blue. A couple of weeks ago BBC’s travel show tracked me down, and I took them on a little tour of Hollywood. The segment will air internationally later this month.
One thing I’ve learned about marketing backlist is that you have to promote constantly and never take anything for granted. For example, my book is on automatic reorder in all the Borders and Barnes & Nobles stores on the West Coast, but I still have to stop in stores on a regular basis because that automatic reorder sometimes breaks down. Also, it pays to walk into stores to see if damaged copies are sitting there (if so, they could sit there forever). I always keep a box of books in my trunk and just exchange damaged books for new ones.
William A. Gordon, North Ridge Books
Web site: www.nrbooks.com
Fern Reiss’s The Infertility Diet: Get Pregnant and Prevent Miscarriage has been our evergreen for the past four years. We’ve sold more than 22,000 copies, and it’s still selling strongly.
Rather than spend a lot of money on advertising (which we couldn’t really afford), we did a lot of magazine and newspaper service pieces on this topic, and sent a lot of (unpaid) editorial submissions to forums such as the Resolve Infertility newsletters (one in each state). Fern also answers a ton of questions on this topic from newspaper and magazine editors and writers (through ProfNet, www.profnet.com, and PR Leads, www.prleads.com) and has been quoted in publications ranging from the Sunday New York Times to Inc magazine to Glamour.
We have found that this emphasis on editorial coverage (rather than advertising) works for all our titles, and is certainly a more cost-effective way of generating buzz.
Alyza Harris, Peanut Butter and Jelly Press
Web site: www.PublishingGame.com
Been There, Done That
Our first book, published in 1997, was Secrets of Building a Million-Dollar Network Marketing Organization from a Guy Who’s Been There Done That and Shows You How You Can Do It, Too. Yes, the title is long and strange, and we have found that it drives demand. After a first printing of 10,000 copies, we went back to print four times to fill book club and special market orders.
Perhaps the most effective marketing tactic was excerpting articles from the book and submitting them to publications serving the networking industry. Each magazine, newsletter, or e-zine that ran one of the articles included a byline with ordering instructions. Many also offered a quarter page of ad space as a courtesy. Usually, a distributor would read one of the articles, buy the book, and then talk about it to colleagues. This often resulted in orders of 500, 1,000, even 10,000 books. Combined with articles and ads, word of mouth continues to generate brisk sales along with foreign rights contracts.
Joe Rubino, Vision Works Publishing
Web site: www.VisionWorksPublishing.com
In 1988, guests at our homestead in the Oregon mountains would ask how we could run a mostly electric home and shop with no power lines nearby. When we replied that we make our own electricity and for less money than the power company could charge, they were always surprised and intrigued, and some even suggested we write a how-to manual. More Power to You! and Oregon Wordworks were born!
We prepared the camera-ready covers and pages of text, diagrams, and photos on our (then) primitive computer, had them printed at a local print shop, and collated and comb-bound them ourselves. We placed ads and got great reviews in several “homestead” periodicals and sold the first printing of 1,000 in a matter of months.
Then we figured out that with a printing of 3,000, we could have the 90-page books bound and delivered for less than the per-copy price of the first run! To make a long story short, about 13 years later we are now nearly sold out of our fifth printing.
In 1990, the second year of production, we developed a business relationship with the manufacturer of the major piece of equipment used in our power system, and that has sold a lot of books over the years. At first, that manufacturer inserted our fliers with each info pack he sent out to potential customers, and they ordered the books from us. After a few years he decided to buy books from us to sell in his catalog. His latest order was for fifteen cases!
Skip Thomsen, Oregon Wordworks
Web site: www.mailbooks.com