content=”I have 5 or 6 books that keep selling for many years, but Who Killed Virginia Woolf”>I have 5 or 6 books that keep selling for many years, but Who Killed
A PMA ROUNDTABLE
Books with Long Lives
books from independent publishers run like the hare. More characteristically,
they follow the tortoise pattern. With sustained marketing, many of them
outsell comparable books from large houses, often by a lot.
asked for reports on books that have racked up sales over time, we got dozens
of responses the tortoise would applaud. Selections from some of them appear
below. More will be published next month. Thanks to everyone who shared their
experiences with steady sellers.
Tackling a Perennial Problem
Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies: A Book That Takes the Nuisance Out
of Name Calling and Other Nonsense
by Kate Cohen-Posey is a parent–child resource for elementary-school
students. The first printing was 2,000 copies in 1995, and it got a favorable <span
review. We are now in our 12th printing on this title and do print runs of
5,000. Since 1995, we have sold more than 60,000 copies.
The unfortunate events at Columbine
High School in Colorado stimulated a national spike of interest in the topic of
bullies and what victims can do about them. I have sent out literally hundreds
of review copies since 1995, and I continue to do so.
A Google search on “<span
class=95StoneSerifIt>How to Handle Bullies,
Teasers” (to search it as a book title, you must use the
quotation marks) results in 10,200 listings of the book, which I feel drives
sales, even though steadily increasing numbers of bully books are published by
others every year. In 1995 only a handful of titles on bullies existed, and now
a search for them at Amazon.com yields 5,531 results.
I’m proud to report that our book
is the second listing, even with widely varied reader reviews (some very
negative, some very positive). The book’s Amazon overall ranking has been as
high as 5,000 when news accounts of school bully rampages are covered in the
I continue to send out review
copies to reviewers and others, and I send a cover (we always get cover
overruns on each reprint) with book/distribution details and the Google search
info to brick-and-mortar stores (including nonbook stores) to show that steady,
reliable demand has been created. As all publishers should know, being able to
prove demand for a title is the key to getting a book regularly stocked on
I have just received a query on
the Japanese translation rights from an agent representing Japanese educational
publishers, and I forwarded the request to our rights agent (Hans Bender of
Hagenbach-Bender in Switzerland) with hopes that a deal can soon be made.
Bulk Sales Help <span
Find Your Balance, by Lynn
Osterkamp and me, was originally published in 1983 by a new Denver publishing
company that printed 10,000 copies but did no marketing. At around that time,
we developed a computerized stress assessment that we were selling to medical
centers, hospitals, and businesses, and that referenced the book. When we had
the opportunity to sell books in bulk to the purchasers of the stress
assessment, we bought the 10,000 books and the publication rights back, sold
those 10,000 copies, and then revised the book in 1988.
To date, we have sold 50,000-plus
copies of Stress?
Find Your Balance in this country, and we sold the rights to an
Australian edition to Queensland Teacher’s Health Society in 1994.
Although it took us four years to
sell the first 10,000 copies, the revised edition sold 10,000 copies in six
months because of a large contract we had with an insurance company. The next
printing of 10,000 copies sold out in a year and a half, and the printing after
that (also 10,000 copies) sold out in three years. All this time, we were
heavily marketing our Computerized Stress Inventory. The next printing of
10,000 copies sold very slowly over 12 years because we were involved in other
projects and doing almost no marketing of the book or stress assessment.
We have never tried to sell the
book through bookstores, although we have received and filled special orders
Our latest revised edition was
printed through Lightning Source. Even though the printing costs are higher
with POD, we are delighted to have found a way to keep the book available
without having to print and store another 10,000 copies.
The Book Trade/Gun Trade Total
Concealed Handgun Manual, which
has been in print for almost a decade, has sold about 43,000 copies and is
selling better now than ever before. It offers advice for the more than 3
million Americans who hold concealed weapons licenses and for those considering
acquiring such permits. Since the laws of the states that make it relatively
easy for law-abiding residents to get licenses and the reciprocity agreements
among states are constantly changing, I have a built-in reason for updating the
book. It is now in its fourth edition.
I was lucky to get a distribution
contract with Independent Publishers Group through PMA. IPG, which has been
responsible for a little more than half my sales, looks after the book trade
while I look after the gun trade. My best customer is the National Rifle
Association, which orders in lots of 500. I sell to individuals, small
gun-stores, shooting ranges, gun organizations, and shooting instructors.
Several instructors in New Mexico have made the manual a textbook for the
Interviews on mainly conservative
radio talk shows drive sales, and so do reviews in gun magazines and gun
organization newsletters. Reviews in <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>American Rifleman magazine were
particularly effective (as one of the NRA magazines, it has a circulation of
more than a million).
I will be updating the book for a
fifth edition in 2007. And this year I finally took Dan Poynter’s advice and published
another book in the same genre—<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Thank God I Had a Gun: True Accounts of Self-Defense.
Fiction That Sells on the
Don’t Live Here (regional pub
date, 10/05; national pub date, 7/06) is my first title. It’s a work of
urban/contemporary fiction about two young women who become single mothers
striving to raise their sons to become productive men while seeking to put
their social lives back together. Although the characters are mostly African
American, the subject matter crosses race and social boundaries and brings
attention to an American problem.
The first print run was 3,500;
sales thus far have reached a little over 9,000. Since I did not receive much
support from the African-American market with regard to distribution, I decided
to push the book myself. And since I’m from New York, I realized that I had
access to a vast street market. I reached out to street vendors in the boroughs
and started setting up book signings at various street locations and in
African-American bookstores in the northeastern states. For the first three
months I did signings five or six days a week. I also signed on with Baker
& Taylor wholesalers, so the title could be distributed to libraries and I
could set up book signings at chain stores (Borders/Barnes & Noble, etc).
Within four months, 5,000 books had been sold.
Once I started doing book signings
in chain stores, I realized that most of my readers lived in middle- and
upper-class communities, where many people have had some form of higher
education. That’s because the novel has come to be considered a reference work
on urban education in relation to single parenting/single mothers.
With this in mind, and the lack of
distribution in the African-American market, I decided to concentrate my
efforts on street vendor sales/signings, special markets/libraries, and the
chains. After I signed a distribution agreement with Biblio Distribution, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Love Don’t Live Here
was released nationally.
I’ve done many online interviews
with book clubs. I’m always blogging on different book-club sites, promoting
the story, and I keep doing book signings. Most important, I am always
networking and looking for other avenues to sell the title. For instance, I
have started to speak at schools and universities.
Eye Publishing, Inc.
When Local Means L.A.
Ultimate Hollywood Tour Book,
originally published in 1992, is now in its third edition and 20th printing.
The fourth edition will be available in June.
The first printing was 3,000
copies, and sales have averaged roughly 3,100 over the past 14 years, for a
total of more than 43,000.
Targeted readers include the 23
million people who visit L.A. every year and locals interested in
entertainment, which is a big plus (the industry employs tens of thousands of
Barnes & Noble has been
especially important. Its West Coast buyer grew up in Hollywood and instantly
placed ample quantities at its West Coast stores. (My timing was good, since
the only competitive book had just gone out of print.)
Most of the sales to independent
bookstores, hotels, studios, and gift and souvenir shops were a direct result
of my hitting the pavement. Warner Bros. is one of my best customers.
I think my never-ending
determination to get the book in the public eye—and be
successful—helped sales considerably. I did 330 radio interviews and 30
TV appearances to promote it. Except at one or two bookstores, I do not think
my talks or slide shows were all that helpful.
I am, however, at my wits’ end on
what to do about Borders. Their buyers modeled way too low, and I’ve discovered
that it takes five weeks between the time I get an order from Sunbelt until
that book actually gets into a bookstore. I can walk into a Barnes & Noble
and find an ample supply of books, but at Borders, half the time I go in they
are either sold out or have only one copy.
A Coordinated Approach to a
I am a physician, and I
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Solution on January 1, 2006. I wrote
this book to share what I’ve learned over the years and published it at the
same time that I founded the IBS Treatment Center. I see the book as part of a
long-term project and expect sales to increase gradually over time. So far,
that has been the case. I first printed 500 copies and then another 750 copies
after about six months, and I am now preparing for another printing.
As the book and the IBS Treatment
Center have gained exposure and press, sales have risen from about 10 a month
to at least 2 per day, and the book’s rank at Amazon.com has risen steadily
too. It’s now in the top five for its category.
Quality Books has been
distributing the book for a few months and is demonstrating a similar slow
growth curve. Recently, I also signed on with Biblio/NBN for national
In the coming year I plan to
increase my marketing and advertising efforts, mostly through PMA and my
clinic, and do a better job of tapping into the library and bookstore markets.
Eventually I expect to sell several thousand copies per year.
Special Sales Fuel Cookbook
Cook’s Guide to Spices: How to Introduce New Flavors to Everyday Meals<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> by Linda Murdock was published in 2001. It has a
niche in the spice market, because it has an alphabetical list of all the foods
that we eat and lists the spices that go with each of those foods, all on the
same page. Each food page also has recipes, so instead of having to change your
grocery-buying habits, all you need to do is buy a few spices, look up the food
you want to cook (meat, vegetable, or starch) and see what spices go well with
Year to year, the sales curve is a
direct reflection of how much effort we put into selling. Sales so far are
about 8,000 copies. Independent bookstores account for just 2 percent; chain
stores approach us. Once in a while I go to a craft show to market and get
ideas from craft people, who are generous with sales advice. We contact our
main customers periodically through a tickler system, estimating when they will
need to reorder and then calling them. We estimate our fifth printing will be
necessary in February 2007.
Two large catalog companies
accounted for 27 percent of sales through 2005. Retail shops that specifically
sell spices account for 16 percent. We can see that both of these areas will
increase this year. Amazon sells about 10 percent, and cooking schools account
for 4 percent. We try to thank and promote our retailers by listing them on our
Web site map for those who prefer to buy locally.
I think the more we sell, the more
we sell. That is, word of mouth generates sales. Advertising for us is useless
and expensive. We did a new Web site for the company this year, and it’s time
to go online again and check for new retail stores specializing in spices. It’s
also time to see if there are any catalog companies we have not yet contacted.
We still have not contacted all the cooking schools in the country, nor have we
hit all the gourmet shops. So we haven’t saturated the market by any means.
Like the tortoise, our sales are slow, but steady.
Bad Break, Good Break
When Rodney Broome’s <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Terra Incognita: The True
Story of How America Got Its Name was launched in June 2001, it
was wildly and widely reviewed. It got attention from radio, TV, and print
media, as well as an option for a movie. We sold hardback rights in the U.K.
and had a very exciting launch in Bristol (the center of the historic story).
Soon after, we sold hardback rights to a New York publisher. Then we set a
national tour in motion and prepared to ride the wave. But not so . . .
The national tour was well under
way. We were scheduled on NPR at prime time. But that coincided sadly with 9/11
and the ensuing foreign wars. Sales, which had reached 2,000 in a few weeks,
suddenly stopped. We lost the momentum, and returns buried us for the next six
But other things began to work for
us in the background. Bear with me.
A famous map crafted by Martin
Waldseemuller in 1507 (with information that Columbus brought back from his
first and second voyages) figured in Rodney’s book. The word <span
showed up on this map for the first time—across Brazil—and was
erroneously ascribed to Vespucci (who captained one of Columbus’s three ships).
Broome’s book told the true story of how that name came to be on the map.
When the Library of Congress found
the only surviving copy of the Waldseemuller map and purchased it in 2001 for
$10 million, there was a new interest in the story of how America got its name.
(It was actually named after a 1498 mayor of Bristol who sponsored Johan
Cabot’s voyages to the New World. <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>America comes from the Welsh name Ap
Meryc, which means “son of Meryc.”)
We brought out a 24″ ×
36″ poster of Waldseemuller’s map together with a short booklet describing
it and its interesting history. <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Terra Incognita began to sell steadily
again. To date, more than 6,000 copies have been printed, and we are finally
beginning to penetrate the school market via reps to social studies teachers,
who treasure primary source materials.
The poster is selling well, and so
is the booklet. It conveys a true national narrative slightly more informed
than the one we learned at school (remember?): “In fourteen hundred and ninety
two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue . . . “
For Soon-to-Be B&Bs
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>I’m Living Your Dream Life: The Story of a Northwoods
Resort Owner. Author: Michele VanOrt Cozzens. Pub date: June
2002. Summary: Newspaper columnist and stockbroker husband sell their home in
California and move to Wisconsin, where they have purchased a lakefront resort
and established the state’s first disc golf resort.
First printing (5,000) sold out in
six months due to rave reviews in B&B newsletters and disc-golf magazines.
This title continues to sell in the strong five figures each year as we keep
targeting the B&B investor market. Resort gift shop sales are strong;
Amazon is okay; Ingram so-so; our Web site is very strong.