Would you believe sales of 150,000 copies for a self-published cookbook? How about 205,000 for a ghost-story collection? Or nearly 300,000 for a guide to keeping your employees? PMA members responded by the dozens when we asked about evergreen books, sending reports of sales reaching upward into the millions as well as reports featuring numbers that are more modest–so far.
As the reports that follow show, many moves go into creating steady sellers. More examples of what works for backlist will appear in future issues of the Newsletter.
— Judith Appelbaum
Give Them the Best
Over the years, readers of our Best of the Best State Cookbook Series have asked us, “Which is the best of the Best of the Best?” Countless letters, calls, and e-mails from our customers mentioned the same favorite dishes, which were often our own favorites too. These recipes were clearly classics, a cut above all others, and timeless. We realized these recipes deserved some greater recognition, and what better way to reach our goal of Preserving America’s Food Heritage than to honor the creators of these recipes with their own Hall of Fame?
We published The Recipe Hall of Fame Cookbook in lay-flat paper binding in 1999 and in a ring-bound edition in 2003. It premiered on QVC–the electronic retail channel–and sold more than 30,000 copies in less than 22 minutes! Now in its eighth printing, with over 200,000 copies sold, it is available in bookstores and retail shops all over the United States.
We revive backlist sales every year by resending cookbook information to media outlets, especially newspapers. Many times, they need to fill a space and will use our press release to do it. And even though most magazines won’t cover a book unless it is new, radio and television stations are always looking for free giveaways and will usually talk to our authors. We also show the backlist in the company catalog and on our website.
The books in our Best of the Best series, by the way, have sold over 1.5 million copies. We now have 38 volumes that cover 47 states. Volumes for the final three states will be published in 2004.
Sheila Williams, Quail Ridge Press
Legends that Live
Back in 1966, John F. Blair, Publisher, released Legends of the Outer Banks and Tar Heel Tidewater by Charles H. Whedbee. Thirty-seven years later, Blair has sold more than 111,000 copies of this collection of 18 ghost stories set along North Carolina’s coast. Before his death, Whedbee went on to publish four additional ghost-story collections, which altogether have sold more than 205,000 copies.
An estimated 4.4 million people visit North Carolina’s Outer Banks a year, and all of Whedbee’s reasonably priced hardcover books have become the perfect souvenirs to be featured in the area’s many gift shops. Legends is now reaching its third generation of readers, with today’s parents (who remember their parents reading ghost stories to them while at the beach) now buying the book to share with their own children.
In 2004, as part of a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary, Blair will publish a new volume featuring the best stories from each of the five Whedbee collections. We anticipate that this will prompt local people in the media to reflect on their own introduction to Whedbee’s classic stories, thus creating a whole new market for all of these books.
Carolyn Sakowski, President, John F. Blair
Building from a Local Base
When I printed my first self-published cookbook, A Trim & Terrific Louisiana Kitchen: Southern Cuisine, in 1993, my goal was just to sell those initial 5,000 copies. I didn’t know about backlist, Ingram, or bookstore sales, and the Internet market had not yet developed. Ten years later, I have sold over 150,000 copies, and the book continues to sell in all the national bookstore chains.
What made the book succeed? One reason is that I knocked on plenty of doors to persuade the chains and Ingram to pick it up. (With borrowed money, I was determined not to lose my investment.) I also knew that I had to create the demand so there would not be returns. I was fortunate enough to appear on the NBC Weekend Today Show in 1993 and then regularly for six years, learning the benefit of network television. Appearances on other programs, from Phil Donahue to cable shows, helped generate sales, as did feature coverage in Cooking Light Magazine and Shape. The Cooking Light food editor will tell you today that I was persistent–pushy with a smile.
Is it all about national media? Well, network television and national print coverage help books hit the big numbers, but people identify with their local market. Don’t ever underestimate the value of your local market and the media in the surrounding cities. Start locally and then spread your wings. I created a Trim & Terrific foundation with my first book that has made me a brand today.
I have also self-published other books, Trim & Terrific Meals On The Move: Rush Hour Recipes (February 2000) and Eating Well Through Cancer (April 2001). Each title is equally important, and I think of them not as backlist but as promotional opportunities. I look for incentive programs or bulk sales and I’ve worked with all types of companies, even casinos. Whether your book is six months old or 10 years old, there must be constant marketing to insure a place on that bookstore shelf in this competitive market.
Cross marketing is another great opportunity to generate exposure. As a national spokesperson for Louisiana Sweet Potatoes, I do projects, interviews with print publications, and other media work throughout the country. By talking about our delicious Louisiana Yams, I can promote my book as I promote their product.
My newest book, The Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook: More Than 500 Fast, Easy and Healthy Recipes (Running Press 2002) is successful because of my Trim & Terrific foundation with my self-published books. I have been on a national book tour, and after my last NBC Weekend Today Show appearance in January, this book went to #4 on Amazon and BN.com. Most important, my self-published books are also having a great year.
Is there a time limit on books? I personally think the author is the only person who creates the timeline. Sell, sell, sell is what it’s about. Believe in your book and promote with your heart creating a foundation that you can build on for years.
Holly Clegg. Holly B. Clegg, Inc.
Publishing Pieces of History
The Cato Institute’s best-selling “evergreen” title is a 58-page pocket-sized book (3_” x 5″) that pairs the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution of the United States. We’ve sold more than 200,000 copies of this book to trade outlets since it was released in 2000.
Because the Constitution is at the heart of the work we do at the Cato Institute, there was a strong desire to make the documents more accessible. In 2000, we produced a bookstore version, which has sold extremely well. Sales really took off after we partnered with Restoration Hardware and Borders last summer to position the book as a stocking stuffer for the holiday season.
Since then, Cato has received attention from The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, news commentator Bill O’Reilly, and FOX & Friends. We have also had great success with viral, non-trade sales. Each book includes the Cato phone number and Internet address. Today, schools, drugstores, gift shops, businesses, and associations are contacting us to purchase copies of the book. For only $4.95, everyone wants one!
Not only does Cato intend to continue selling this pocket edition of the founding documents, but this month we will also release a Spanish/English version.
We continue to be amazed and excited by the degree to which Americans still cherish the founding documents.
Amy Mitchell, Cato Institute
The Natural World as a Neglected Niche
In the spring of 1988, Paisley Publishing produced our first book, Alaska Wildlife–a coloring book. I wrote it, my sister Betsy illustrated it, and my sister Anne Marie published it. She had just started a desktop publishing business in Homer, Alaska, and creating a book was her idea.
has sold over 90,000 copies since then. Why does it sell year after year? To start, we got into the book business for love–that’s gotta count. And then, our idea was a good one. Alaska is famous for its wilderness, truly astonishing natural beauty, and thriving wildlife. There were only about three other books for children in the Alaska market, so there wasn’t much competition. I was an aspiring writer and am a nature lover, and Betsy is a top-notch wildlife artist. Our cover design is eye-catching and says “quality.” And our market–mainly tourists, home-schoolers, and those buying our books as gifts for children–is constantly renewed.
We had the first run of 1,500 copies printed right in Homer. Then the three of us went wherever we could on Alaska’s road system with the books in our cars, and we met with hundreds of enthusiastic store owners from the Kenai Peninsula to Fairbanks to Valdez. One-on-one contact with store owners is the BEST marketing tool we have as publishers of Alaskan titles. We also sent copies of the book and promotional materials to those outlets off the road system.
When we sold out that summer, we reprinted at A.T. Printers in Anchorage, and our company has used them ever since. A.T.’s costs are reasonable and we don’t have to pay for shipping from the lower 48.
I guess there are now about 100 books for children on the Alaskan market–maybe more. But Alaska Wildlife still stands out as one of a handful of high-quality natural history books that is not condescending either to the animals it’s about, or to children. I love the book business!
Susan Holen Roebuck, Paisley Publishing
Branding the Book & the Author
Although it is a very local book, Smart Shopping Montreal has sold well over 100,000 copies since its publication in 1986. The birth of the book was serendipitous. I had hired a speaker, Nes Welham, to talk about Montreal’s
clothing manufacturing area to a women’s group I was chairing. Nes had put out a stapled booklet on the subject, and I asked her if she needed some help. The next thing I knew, I was buying the rights to her pamphlet and setting out to research it accompanied by a 2_-year-old who was in a stroller.
An initial appearance on a local phone-in radio show was so successful that I have now appeared on that show for 17 years. I’ve filled guest spots on other shows as well. Eventually I badgered the local newspaper into giving me my own column (my signature mentions my book), and I’ve became the city’s expert on shopping. I now appear on the nightly news and morning news shows whenever there is a breaking story about consumerism. I insist that they either run a photo of the book cover or list my name as author of Smart Shopping Montreal on the screen.
Since the beginning, I’ve contacted as many local libraries and women’s groups as I could find and asked if I could speak at their meetings. Most of those volunteers were overjoyed to be handed such an interesting speaker, so I got paid to speak and sold books at the back of the room. Eventually I offered myself as a convention lecturer and shopping-tour leader, which has led to more and larger sales.
The delivery of all of the books to the bookstores is done by… me. That way, I have had a chance to become friendly with the front-line salespeople who are the ones who sell my book. They are thrilled to meet a “real live author,” and over the years have placed my book on counters, at the front of the store, and in displays without me asking or ever paying a cent.
It takes me (aided by an assistant) about one hour to call all the bookstores and
another three hours to deliver the books. I do this twice a month. In the warmer months, I wear a T-shirt that has a picture of my book on it, and my car has magnetic signs on the sides showing my book.
Smart Shopping Montreal is updated every year and it will sell as long as I keep rewriting and promoting it. Of course, the fact that the subject of the book helps
consumers save time and money when shopping makes it easier to sell.
Each time we publish a new edition, I send about 100 letters to the media in
town with a new and different hook. As a result, many of them write about the book over and over again. At Christmas, I send a gift to anyone who has had me on their show or has written about me.
My book and I are now branded together. Someone once wrote in an article
about me: “Sandra will stop at any red light and sell you a book.”
Sandra Phillips, Travelsmart
Websites: www.smartshoppingmontreal.com; www.drivei95.com
In Response to a Widespread Need
Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Getting Good People to Stay
by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans came out at the perfect time–the fall of 1999, at the height of the dotcom era. Through May of this year, it had sold 250,000 copies, plus 30,645 copies in foreign language editions in 16 different languages. We’ve sold video rights too.
Since the book is about employee retention, you can imagine why the demand was so high. Its 26 strategies (one for each letter of the alphabet) for keeping
talented employees were a big hit with managers in all types of companies. The authors’ marketing efforts were relentless, especially through speaking engagements. Plus our own sales force and several key publicity hits helped to push the book through the trade and direct sales channels. Additionally, an ad in The Wall Street Journal, an ad that we placed through 800/CEO-READ, and promotions through Amazon.com and W.H. Smith’s airport stores helped get exposure for the book. Also, we had a lot of luck selling to events where the authors were speaking, as well as to key special sales customers.
Many of these factors contributed to making this book a Wall Street Journal
best-seller and the best-selling book on employee retention in the world.
To continue building momentum for this title, we came out with a second edition. And we expect to see more sales after Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work comes out this month. A second book on a similar topic but aimed at employees, Love It, Don’t Leave It provides a further way to leverage the sales of the first title.
Marina Cook, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Tourists Keep It Going
Indigo Press is a small publishing company in South Florida that I decided to form in 1999. I made this decision after enduring the usual shoebox full of rejections slips for a short novel I wrote based on my experiences as a realtor on Sanibel Island. I had seen any number of clients and friends making decisions that ruined their lives and I wanted to share their stories.
The book was originally titled Six Mornings; however, at the suggestion of Steve Beck, a local bookstore owner, I changed it to Six Mornings on Sanibel. My publishing firm initially printed 3,000 copies and we sold them all within four months. Immediately we printed an additional 5,400 copies. These sold within the first year. We then printed another 5,400 copies and they, too, have now sold through. A little over three years from its initial publication, Six Mornings on Sanibel is on its fourth printing with over 15,000 copies sold and only a slight decrease in demand.
The amazing thing is that most of these sales have taken place in only three small counties in Southwest Florida. The book has been a huge success within the island’s tourist business, which in turn has helped it spread across the world. We sell it at island resorts, gift shops, island bookstores, and our Internet site. One book often ends up selling four. Time and word of mouth are our biggest allies.
What I’ve learned about publishing is this. If you want a book to sell, write it well. The success of any long-term seller lies in the fact that it is well crafted and that, most important, it searches for a common truth in the human situation.
Charles Sobczak, Indigo Press
When Librarians and Reprinters Respond to Fiction
I wanted my daughter, who was Generation X, to know that the world had become a much more dangerous place since we Baby Boomers had come along. So I invented Susan Chase, lifeguard and runaway finder whose major opponent is a detective for the state of South Carolina and a Baby Boomer. The first Susan Chase novel I wrote,Color Her Dead (1999), has so far sold just over 10,000 copies, thanks in part to positive reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, and the sixth book, another Susan Chase mystery called Sanctuary of Evil, has just been published.
All six books are set along South Carolina’s Grand Strand, or in Myrtle Beach, and feature modern threats to women, such as molesters, serial killers, blitz attackers, and child kidnappers.
I havebeen invited to speak at libraries and schools. Sales through Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, Borders, and Books-A-Million have been particularly strong becauseI amwilling to spend Saturday afternoons signing books.
I expect to sell these books as long as people want to read a good mystery set in an interesting locale and as long as parents need someone besides mom and dad to “preach” to their children about personal safety.
The fifth book in the series, Hurricane Party, sold out its initial print run of 3,000 copies in less than nine months. And now, because an editor at Simon & Schuster saw a review of Hurricane in Library Journal, Susan’s stories will be reprinted by S&S beginning next year.
Steve Brown, Chick Springs Publishing
To Make the Melody Linger On
In 1996, after I’d done interviews with people like Perry Como, Benny Goodman, Margaret Whiting, Billy Eckstine, Tony Bennett, and Count Basie, I realized that the subjects, obviously world famous in music, were slowly passing and that little had been written about them in recent years. So I self-published The Best Damn Trumpet Player and worked hard to place it with Baker & Taylor, Bookworld, Ingram, Quality, Unique, and Gazelle (in England). The book, about the musical personalities involved in Big Band music (those individuals I mentioned and more), features a foreword by Frankie Laine.
After selling 3,000 copies fairly easily, I ordered 3,000 more. Then with help from PMA and others, I completed other books about Big Band singers and about Jerry Vale, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby. I always tried to obtain strong forewords from notable people in the industry for each book.
Now The Best Damn Trumpet Player has become a sort of cult book. It’s selling well above its cover price because the participants are almost all gone, plus there’s a resurgence of this kind of music. My other books also continue to sell.
I feel strongly that the services offered by PMA are vital for a small press, allowing even the most modest book a chance to succeed. Plus, when reviewers respond, I send books out at once with accompanying materials to boost the book’s sales. This works and is worth the investment and time. Without PMA and the reviews, where would us small guys be? Book-signings are worthless, unless you have a celebrity with you. The big distributors are squeezing us, but they sell copies.
Having sold over 25,000 books, I’ve made a modest profit and I just keep going. By the way, I do everything myself, except for some editing and the printing.
Richard Grudens, Celebrity Profiles Publishing Company
The E.B. White Bonanza
Tilbury House has a long-lived and active backlist. Here’s one of our success stories.
About six years ago, E.B. White’s son Joel called me, asking if I’d like to pick up the rights to One Man’s Meat, his father’s essays about living on a farm in Maine. The book was originally published by Harper & Row in the 1940s. Joel was a friend from the years when I had worked at WoodenBoat Magazine.
HarperCollins had kept the book in print, most recently in one of their Perennial Library editions, with a plain cover and a list price of $17.95. They had been selling about 2,000 copies a year, according to Joel, and were letting it go out
of print. To give the book new life, I asked Roger Angell, E.B. White’s stepson and an editor at The New Yorker, to write a new introduction, and contacted Jill Kremetz for permission to use one of her wonderful photographs of E.B. White for the cover. The photographic image shows Mr. White working at his typewriter in a little shed he kept down by the Maine shore, with the horizon of Herrick Bay visible out the propped-open window.
I also reduced the cover price to $14.95. This gave the book much more appeal, and with just our usual regional marketing, we sold over 8,000 copies the first year. Even last year, we sold almost 5,000 copies. In terms of retail sales, the book has benefited from having a regional publisher that can capitalize on the Maine flavor of this classic. Maine bookstores reorder it consistently, as do L.L. Bean and a number of “gift” stores up and down the coast. We’ve also sold the book to a few specialty catalogs such as Common Reader and Bas Bleu, and there have been some college course adoptions.
The real moneymaker, however, turned out to be reprint rights to one of the essays, “Once More to the Lake,” which many college writing textbooks want
to use, once more and once more and once more!
Jennifer Bunting, Tilbury House Publishers
Make Sales, Not War
Our oldest publication is The Art of War plus The Art of Sales. Half of the book, The Art of War, was written 2,500 years ago by Sun Tzu. However, the other half–the adaptation for salespeople by Gary Gagliardi called The Art of Sales–was first published in 1990, has been in print since then, and has grown in popularity every year.
Much of the reason for this title’s continued popularity is that it doesn’t just offer another sales theory from an expert of the month. Sun Tzu’s text is followed line by line, with the military terminology simply being changed into terms that salespeople can easily understand.
Originally created for salespeople at FourGen Software (Gary Gagliardi’s company),The Art of Salestook on a life of its own as FourGen’s salespeople began passing out copies to their distributors and corporate customers. FourGen’s corporate clients–companies such as AT&T, Motorola, and GE–began ordering additional printings of this title for their salespeople and inviting Gagliardi to speak at their conferences.
When Gagliardi sold his software company in 1997, the only asset he kept was the rights to his book, The Art of Sales. Gagliardi wanted to get into a business in which the products were not outdated so quickly, and he saw the title asthe kind of product that would never be outdated. Corporate customers almost immediately began asking for new adaptations and we soon had a complete line of business adaptations of Sun Tzu’s works. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War now accompanies these adaptations. Over the last 13 years, tens of thousands of copies of The Art of War plus The Art of Sales have been sold into the corporate marketplace. It has even been translated into other languages including Korean and Russian.
As bookstores began to request more and more of our books, we felt that it was important to have the look of the books reflect the high quality of the contents. So this year we redesigned our whole Art of War Plus line. We admit that we don’t know much about the retail book trade, but thus far retailers don’t seem opposed to carrying books that continue to sell year after year.
Becky Wilson, Clearbridge Publishing