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How to Create Great Book Brochures
Part 1: Planning and Pre-Press

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Every good book needs a good brochure. These versatile promo pieces can sell your book in many ways. They also reduce your workload and save you money by substituting for sample copies. A good brochure will sell your book to people who have never seen it. They will assume that a publisher who produces a superior brochure also produces superior books.

Unfortunately the opposite is also true. Too many publishers–small and large–try to sell their books with amateurish materials. That can only harm the credibility of the publisher–and the rest of us. And it’s so unnecessary. Good brochures are easy to produce.

Last month, PMA announced its new Corporate and Institutional Mailing (see the “Direct Mail Programs” section of each PMA Newsletter). This cooperative mailing opens up a vast new market for your books. But to participate, you need a brochure.

This month, I’ll share what we’ve learned about creating a great brochure for our press’s flagship publication. In a future issue, you’ll read about how to exploit modern printing services to get the top quality at the lowest price.

Brochures Belong in Your Marketing Mix

Brochures compete for your marketing dollars with other ways of spreading your sales message, including ads, a Web site, trade show displays, book-signings, radio and television interviews, news releases, and sample copies. We use most of these, but our brochures produce the largest number of sales. In addition, they have, by far, the lowest average cost per sale.

For the potential buyer, your brochure has staying power. Unlike the transient images that flood our world, a brochure can be kept as a reminder to order. It can be passed around. It provides the information that a prospective buyer wants, including how to order. Your brochure is the most effective way of showing your book when you can’t display the book itself.

For the publisher, brochures are an exceptionally versatile marketing tool. You can use them to:

  • Get pre-publication publicity from reviewers
  • Announce your book to wholesalers and booksellers
  • Promote your book in cooperative mailings
  • Send individual mailings to concentrated markets
  • Serve as handouts at book and trade shows
  • Stock freestanding dispensers
  • Give your dealers material to distribute
  • Offer an inducement to other organizations to sell you books
  • Send advance material for your media interviews
  • Send in response to requests for review copies
  • Leave on tables at conferences
  • Serve as handouts at presentations you make
  • Enclose with business letters
  • Respond to requests for information about your book
  • Reinforce contacts with individuals you meet
  • Include with books you sell or send as review copies
  • Provide different headlines and/or lead paragraphs for different markets.

The disadvantages? The cost of brochures is concentrated up front. Designing and printing a good brochure costs several thousand dollars. Also, you have to learn a few new techniques.

Ultimately, the question is this… After all the effort and money that you invested in your book, can you afford not to have a brochure?

If you’re not sure of the answer, consider a few success stories. For example, Amy Vickers of WaterPlow Press reports that she owes the phenomenal success of her Handbook of Water Use and Conservation largely to the brochures that she distributes to the American Waterworks Association, both through its mailing list and at their conventions. Walter Scheider of Cavendish Science sells his celebrated book about relativity, Maxwell’s Conundrum, through brochures he distributes at meetings of amateur astronomers. And Celeste Baine of Bonamy Publishing sells The Fantastical Engineer (her book about designing theme-park rides) via brochures at science-museum shows.

Many other success stories come from PMA’s brochure-mailing programs, which have generated sales to public, college and university, and K-12 libraries for years, and which will now also facilitate sales to the vast corporate and institutional market. (See the announcement of the new PMA Corporate and Institutions Brochure Mailing in the May PMA Newsletter.)


[subhead] Content, Design & Layout

After you have decided where you’ll try to sell your book, design your brochure specifically for those markets.

What does an effective brochure look like? Study the brochures of successful publishers when you go to a trade or library show. The most powerful design elements are:


  • Powerful

headline copy.


      Why should a person spend perfectly good money to buy your book?


  • Your book cover.


      When you design your cover, consider how it will look at reduced scale in flyers and catalogs.


  • Endorsements.


      Heed Dan Poynter’s advice to solicit endorsements from the top people in your field. Write the endorsements yourself, and ask for approval.


  • Reviews & awards.


      Update your brochure as more of these arrive.


  • Illustrations


      that draw the potential buyer to the book’s theme. In an upcoming issue, you’ll learn how to create powerful illustrations easily.


  • Author biography & photo
  • Q&A


      that explains what your book is about


  • How to order



Your brochure should be a tool for closing the sale. Tailor the ordering information to the buyer’s environment. For example, our library brochure suggests ordering from library wholesalers, because that’s how most libraries order. But we also offer a discount to libraries that order from us directly. For direct sales, we give contact information for our fulfillment center, including our toll-free telephone, Web site, fax, and mail addresses. We do not list our office, because that would be irrelevant and confusing.

The most common format is a single 8_”x11″ sheet, commonly called a “flyer” or “catalog sheet.” Make it your goal to tell your book’s story effectively in this limited space. It will sharpen your focus and lower production costs. You will use this format both flat (for coop mailings and handouts) and folded (for individual mailings and envelope stuffers).

Work with a good graphic designer. Don’t try to do your graphics alone unless you’re very sure of your skills. You are a publisher, not an artist. Besides, hiring someone else gives you a chance to be more objective about the result.

If you anticipate deals with independent booksellers, trade associations, or other special sales, consider a version of your brochure that leaves the ordering space blank. Customized ordering information can be a potent inducement for others to sell your book. A laser printer does a nice job of filling it in.


Our First Brochure

Our first brochure saved production time by using the book’s cover art as the front and back of the brochure. The book’s back cover uses the formula given in Dan Poynter’s indispensable The Self-Publishing Manual. So, without further effort, we had a punchy description of the book, endorsements, and the author bio.

Our brochure had to meet a major challenge. At 1,536 pages and eight pounds, the Energy Efficiency Manual is one of the largest books in print. We wanted to convey its size and heft to show why it is worth its price. The solution was a photograph of me, as the author, holding the book. We paid a portrait photographer to take this picture and have used it ever since. It now functions as a trademark.

We planned to use the PMA library mailings as our primary distribution channel, so we targeted the brochure to the library market. It was a resounding success! In addition to jump-starting our sales to libraries, the brochure proved to be a powerful tool for expanding our distribution and for selling at book shows.

The penalty for using full-size cover art was that our first brochure had to be 11″x17″ folded. Two inside pages were needed for a headline, ordering information, Q&A, and the author photo. Also, our book cover uses solid colors, which proved expensive to print.


Refining the Design

Our second brochure was redesigned to use the much less expensive four-color process (to be covered in my next article). We went to a single-sheet format to save both printing and mailing costs. The graphics were revised to achieve a more cheerful and personal look. We added the great reviews and the Ben Franklin Awards that we received after printing the first brochure. The book cover still appears in the picture of the author holding the book. The Q&A on the back side explains the book’s unique qualities, how much money it will save, how it protects the environment, and how easy it is to use.

Our third brochure–which we will distribute in PMA’s new Corporate and Institutional mailings–targets individual book buyers who design and manage buildings and industrial facilities, along with homebuilders and homeowners. This version added a dozen small photographs to illustrate the book’s wide range of subject matter. We compressed the Q&A on the back side to make room for our heavyweight endorsements.

Our fourth brochure uses the previous layout to target libraries, which remain our largest market. At Publishing University, Don A. Tubesing, Publisher of Pfeifer-Hamilton, told me, “You never saturate a market.” That convinced me that libraries deserve a brochure that incorporates the best features that we developed along the way.

Donald Wulfinghoff is the Founder of Energy Institute Press. Its flagship publication, the “Energy Efficiency Manual,” is the world’s leading guide to energy conservation in buildings and industry. It is a winner of two silver Ben Franklin Awards. For more info, visit http://www.energybooks.com.

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