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How to Sell Books to Corporations
Part 2. Making the Deal

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In the March PMA Newsletter, I covered various ways that companies can use books, giving publishers two significant benefits. First, you can make more money selling directly. And second, there are no returns. The tradeoff is that you have to do the selling activities, since your distributor’s salespeople are not calling on these accounts for you.

The good news is that you don’t have to use the old-fashioned hard sell. All you have to do is (a) understand your prospect’s business and its relevant product line or lines, and (b) present creative ideas for solving its problems with your books. In other words, success in sales begins with identifying a need–your prospect’s need. If you can show the buyer that your book can satisfy that need, you are likely to make the sale. You become a consultant to potential buyers, a marketing partner who has their best interests in mind.

And there’s more good news: Independent publishers may have an edge over larger publishers when it comes to selling books to corporations because companies may not want bestsellers as premiums. If “everybody” already has a book, it’s less desirable as a sales-promotional tool.

Books have certain advantages over other possible premiums for many different kinds of companies.

Books don’t involve liability risks that may be inherent in other products. For instance, products for children may come apart or be swallowed, leading to negative publicity and legal problems.

Books are tasteful. “Their high perceived value does not demean the sender or recipient. In a way, a book defines the taste of the giver,” says Mark Resnick, partner in FRW Company, a premium-rep group. “People like a premium that flatters their intelligence, and books do that.”

A book can enhance seasonal or holiday campaigns. For example, Nestles, Betty Crocker, or Pillsbury might seek a title as a premium offering recipes for Christmas cookies.

Sales Strategies and Tactics

As Frank Fochetta (VP, director of special sales and custom publishing at Simon & Schuster) points out, the way to sell to the commercial-sales segment is to “understand the business first, then provide content.” Before calling on a potential buyer, learn as much as you can about the company and about the person you will meet with. Review the company’s Web site. If the company is nearby, go to its offices to pick up its literature. If you can afford the time and the money, go to trade shows, talk with its salespeople, and try to make an appointment to meet with your particular prospect, who is likely to be the “product manager” or, if you’re dealing with a consumer products company, the “brand manager.”

Since product and brand managers have profit-and-loss responsibility for particular lines of products, it is obviously in their best interests to maximize the unit sales and profitability for their product lines. Begin the sales process by asking questions to find out how you can help. Show your prospect that you understand the importance of brand association–a book’s image should fit with the company’s image, which means that a title provided as a premium for cut-rate cosmetics isn’t likely to work for a $200 suede coat.


Then show how your content can be repurposed as a premium, a fundraiser, or something else that will help the company increase its sales. A company that makes cribs may be open to using your children’s bedtime-storybook as a premium. Or perhaps the character in your book could be licensed for use on a line of children’s sleepwear. Your travel book might help a luggage company sell more suitcases.

During the course of your sales call, demonstrate that the information in your titles will help the company educate or entertain its customers or otherwise improve their lives. If your prospect decides that your content has value, then settle on the form in which it will be disseminated. Perhaps the prospect will want a booklet or a DVD instead of a book. And even when prospects want the book, they may want it in a customized form–smaller, to fit inside a box of cereal; printed on lighter paper to lower shipping cost; in softcover if the existing edition is casebound, or vice versa.

Some companies may even want you to change the content, perhaps by incorporating the client’s product in the story, and most will want an exclusive on your title.

After your initial negotiations, create a prototype of the final product. Work with the company to design the theme, cover, layout style, and physical attributes of the product. Make the company part of the solution, and it is more likely to buy the book.

Hiring Help

Sales-promotional agencies and premium-rep groups exist to help you reach buyers who may purchase your titles. Promotional reps might include your titles as part of their line, and so might other publishers with premium divisions, such as Workman, Penguin/Putnam, or Simon & Schuster.

For information about people who buy books as premiums, and about agents who sell them, contact Karen Renk at the Incentive Marketing Association, karen@incentivemarketing.org, 630/369-7780, or visit The Incentive Show site, www.piexpo.com.

Other sources of information and assistance include:

Corporate Events, a full-service, convention, and trade-show management firm that plans and executes trade shows, special events, and incentive programs worldwide (7431 114th Ave. North, Suite 102, Largo, FL 33773; 727/548-7200; fax 727/546-1956; CorporateEvents@worldnet.att.net; www.corporate-events.com).

Lifestyle Vacation Incentives, the largest leisure-travel agency in the country and one of the nation’s top sales-promotion and fulfillment companies specializing in consumer incentives (220 Congress Park Dr., Delray Beach, FL 33445; 800/ 881-1900; fax 561/ 330-3369; www.lifestylevacations.com).


Maritz, Inc., a source of integrated performance-improvement services with six operating units dedicated to improving their clients’ measurable business results (1375 N. Highway Dr., Fenton, MO 63099; 636/827- 4000; www.maritz.com; you can find vendor information at www.maritz.com/maritz-contact-us-vendor-inquiry.asp).

Working with experts can help you reach your prospects and get results.

Brian Jud is the author of Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers Weekly book) and The Marketing Planning CD. You can reach him at P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 800/562-4357; or via brianjud@bookmarketingworks.com or http://www.bookmarketingworks.com.

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