Why do publishers make
licensing deals and sell advertising, T-shirts, teddy bears, tattoos, and a
variety of other nonbook items?
Better margins. Better terms.
Better cash flow—and more marketing buzz for their books. Two earlier articles
this year discussed generating revenue with audiobooks, software, trainings,
and speeches (see “Companion Products: Creating CDs, DVDs, and Software,” June;
and “Nonbook Products That Boost Revenue,” August). Here are even more ways to
improve cash flow.
Although many PMA members add
income and round out their product lines by distributing related titles from
other publishers, only a few report using advertising as a money-maker. One
publisher that does is the California-based Gurze, which specializes in books
about eating disorders. Gurze runs ads for treatment facilities in the print
edition of its consumer catalog. “These ad sales account for about 30 percent
of our gross revenue, and the profit margin is much higher,” publisher Leigh
Cohn points out.
Banner ads on Web sites are a
related source of income for Gurze and such publishers as Israel’s Limelight
Media and Pennsylvania’s Bookhaven. Like many other firms, Bookhaven also
generates income from Google.com ads.
Rhythmo Productions, which
promotes itself as Manhattan’s Parking Expert, sells ads in its books to
parking garages, which paid much of the printing costs for its first two
parking guides. Similarly, Haven Books of North Hollywood sold full-page ads in
its novels about a fictitious California Central Coast town to lodges and a
performing arts center in the area. “We discovered that people who get hooked
on the series want to travel to the Central Coast. So we approached local
tourist businesses about advertising that extends their reach beyond what
traditional print ads offer,” explains Reya Patton, who promises advertisers a
minimum print run of 1,000.
Patton is also selling ads for the
forthcoming Act Right,
nonfiction about the entertainment business, that promote some of the resources
listed in the book. “It would be exciting if this became an industry-wide
practice,” she says. “However, we’re aware of how cluttered a book can become
unless the ads are both synergistically focused and limited in number.”
Jeff Compton and Celeste Simmons
at Third Dimension Publishing had another advertising idea. They issue <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>The Grapevine Advertiser,
a monthly full of coupon-style ads for local businesses that’s distributed via
direct mail. “Getting into the publishing business takes money. Staying in the
publishing business takes more money,” says Compton, whose company opened its
doors in September 2004. “The <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Grapevine operation brings in the cash
to finance our dreams.”
A similar project is being
considered at Interfaith Resources in Indiana. In fact, publisher Justice St.
Rain has already priced a publication with ads and excerpts from books by
publishers who want to reach the 10,000 potential buyers on Interfaith’s
niche-market mailing list. “It costs about $7,000 to print and mail a 48-page
catalog, either four-color both sides or four-color one side and black on the
reverse,” he noted, “and if I can charge $500 to $1,000 per page, it would more
than pay for itself.” The projected advertising rates are competitive, St. Rain
believes, because direct mail to his list would cost $3,000.
Interfaith Resources and the YMAA
Publication Center in Massachusetts are among the few publishers that report
selling their mailing lists, usually on a one-time basis and only to other
publishers. Most PMA members responding to a recent survey opposed the idea.
One publisher who said she’d never
sell her list is Barbara Brown of Naturegraph Publishers, in Happy Camp, CA.
Instead, Naturegraph supplements revenue from sales of its books on natural
history with revenue from a line of educational Nature Games, which are sold
primarily through school-supply catalogs.
T-shirts are common
tie-ins—sometimes for a different market than the publisher’s books.
“We stumbled into lucrative
nonbook sales at the suggestion of a local gift store,” says Jim Salisbury of
Tabby House in Mineral, Virginia. Although all its fiction is for children, its
best-selling T-shirts are for adults. They’re tied to Linda Salisbury’s <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>The Wild Women of Lake
Anna: A Bailey Fish Adventure, which is set in the area.
The local gift store makes up the
shirts, one for women that says “I’m a Wild Woman of Lake Anna” and one for men
that says “My Wife Is a Wild Woman of Lake Anna.” It sells them for $15 apiece
and pays Tabby House a royalty of $5 on each, and it also sells them to Tabby
House for $6 apiece. By retailing them alone and in a book/T-shirt package, “we
make more on the shirts than on our children’s books, which are priced between
$7.95 and $8.95,” Jim Salisbury reports.
Although most tie-in attire is
designed to function as a walking billboard, some publishers sell clothing to
be used in the activities their books cover. YMAA, which has published martial
arts books for 22 years, also manufactures and sells raw silk tai chi uniforms
that are sized for Americans and designed to be more functional, easier to care
for, and more reasonably priced than the uniforms sold elsewhere. “Since we
publish books and videos on tai chi, it’s a no-brainer to provide additional
products that meet customers’ needs,” says David Ripianzi.
Other publishers have tie-ins that
relate to food. Dutch ovens are a high-ticket item whose sales generate as much
as 30 percent of the gross income for Colorado’s Elizabeth Yarnell—and help
promote her cookbook, Glorious
One-Pot Meals. In Phoenix, Nourish Publishing sells the Fit Kit—a
gym bag with such home-exercise equipment as a yoga mat, stability ball, and
pedometer—to complement its books, CDs, DVDs, presentations, and facilitators’
manuals on nondiet weight management. And Isadore Press at the Tattoo Museum in
Fort Bragg, CA, sells tattoos, tattoo-healing ointments, and T-shirts along
with three books about tattoos. “It’s all-important, and it has a domino
effect,” says the publisher, who identifies herself as Madame Chinchilla.
Linda Delgado at Muslim Writers
Publishing near Phoenix puts illustrations from her youth-book series on mugs,
tote bags, buttons, and other merchandise. “I use the tote bag whenever I go
out and always carry copies of the books in case people ask me about the
illustrations,” she explains. Although revenues from product sales are lower
than she expected, they cover the costs of her Internet storefront and the
items she often gives away. The buttons work well for advertising a book
signing, says Delgado, who also created a comic strip using her characters and
sold it to three print magazines. “The strips increase traffic to my Web site,
and this increases book and merchandise sales,” she notes.
Tie-ins at Hammersmark Books in
Iowa link to specific titles and include T-shirts and cell-phone ringtones. The
ringtone for its finance book? “Cha-CHING, of course,” notes publisher Katie
Foreign, Reprint, Film,
and Book Club Rights
Foreign rights sales add income
for publishers of every size and books of many sorts. North Star Books, in the
Los Angeles area, has sold German, Korean, Spanish, and Slovenian rights for
two of its three titles. Combined with an audio library edition, these sales
now raise sales volume by 10 percent, reports Brenda Avadian.
Although some publishers view an
option for movie rights as a potential jackpot, Margaret Bartley at Otis
Mountain Press is realistic about what any film deal might provide. “We just
had the film rights optioned for one of our books,” she says, “and we hope
that—if the film is made—it’ll push the sales to a new level.”
Dar Hosta, at New Jersey’s Brown
Dog Books, also talks in terms of awareness, not windfalls, when she describes
her deal with the Doubleday Children’s Book of the Month Club for two
titles—14,000 copies each at press time. “This contract feels like 28,000
little calling cards out there at work for me,” she says.
Selling or licensing content for
special needs can also generate revenue. Parenting Press, in Seattle, has
licensed the use of a children’s picture book, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Way I Feel, in book/tape packages
for special-needs children and for inclusion in school literacy collections.
Pinata Publishing in Georgia sold the Braille rights to one title and the
rights to a chapter of another title for use in the Florida Comprehensive
Assessment Test (FCAT).
Back to the Basic
Despite the wealth of
possibilities for sales of related products, some publishers decide to sell
books and only books. “I’ve been oil painting and started to sell my prints.
But when I went to an event, instead of talking to people about my books, I was
talking about paintings,” explains Art Rodriguez, of DreamHouse Press in
Coyote, CA, which publishes his young adult titles. “I decided to just sell
books, and I feel much better,” he declares.
Linda Carlson is a Seattle
marketing consultant who writes regularly for <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Independent. Her own recent book, <span
class=8StoneSans>Company Towns of the Pacific
Northwest (University of Washington Press), generates nonbook
revenue from speaking.