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Director’s Desk: Retailers’ Measuring Rods for Books

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Last week I met with two gentlemen who have joined forces
to offer consulting services to publishers. I had known both of these men for
several years and first encountered them when they were employees elsewhere. Tom
Jourdane was formerly of Advanced Marketing Services, and John Morris, formerly
of Fisher Books. We were discussing the nontraditional and also the traditional
retail market.

During our discussion, it occurred to me that many
publishers’ views of the retail market are completely different from retailers’.
Perhaps if publishers could understand the retailer’s point of view, inroads
could be made both in getting titles into this retail market … and, more
important, in getting them out of it and into the hands of customers!

Dollar per square foot (in the case of a storefront) or per
square inch (in the case of catalogs) are how retailers look at a product. In
many retail establishments that deal with books and other products, the book
really needs to perform at least as well as the other things sold there—or
actually better. If it doesn’t, the book will be replaced with another product
that does measure up. It’s that simple.

Look at it this way. Let’s say you have a book on how to do
tune-ups on cars, and you manage to get it into a chain of car repair places
like Pep Boys. Well, sales for your title will be compared with those for motor
oil, inside-the-car air freshener, and even cigarette lighters to determine
which are bringing in more dollars per square foot. If your title doesn’t
perform, it’ll be replaced by a product that does.

The same is true for catalogs, both the ones that carry
only book product and the others that carry a variety of items. This marketplace
is even more dollar-conscious than retail establishments. The catalog owners
look to see how many dollars are generated per square inch. They know the
average they want to hit, and if your title can perform to that average or even
better, you’ll be romanced by the catalog house.

PMA Publisher Mark Chutick of CCC Publishers of Chatsworth,
California, has made a great success of his humor books via catalog sales, which
then led into foreign rights sales. But than again, let’s say this time that you
have a cookbook that you manage to get into a catalog that deals with all
aspects of cooking—utensils, small appliances, books, etc. In this competitive
world, you must perform up to a certain standard, or you could be replaced by an
egg timer or a frying pan!

Yes, we all think that our books will definitely fly off
the shelves or the catalog pages because they’re that good. If you don’t think
this way, you shouldn’t publish. But think a different way the next time you try
to develop new markets for your title. Think and ask, ”What does the retailer
want to achieve, and how can I go about helping him or her achieve this goal?”

Publishing today is much more than just printing a book.
You must have a strategy. And this strategy must be developed before you
publish—not after. So publish with your heart, but think and strategize with
your financial mind, and, who knows, you may find that you have a success on
your hands!

 Welcome to a New Affiliate

PMA has affiliated with a new group, the Electronic
Publishers Coalition (EPC)
, and we hope that they can keep us up-to-date on
the current trends and happenings in this arena. We also hope to assist our
current members, who may be considering this new publishing option, in obtaining
information about electronic publishing through the EPC so that they can make
intelligent decisions for their titles.

The Electronic Publishers Coalition is an organization of
publishing professionals who are committed to the development of a healthy
marketplace for digital content. Their missions are to forge strategic
partnerships with each other as well as like-minded organizations; to establish
and administer award programs that honor excellence in writing, publishing, and
market strategies; and to take a leadership role in setting minimum standards in
order to encourage ongoing quality within our industry.

For further information, please contactConstance Foster at speak@epccentral.org, or visit the
EPC Web site at www.epccentral.org.

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