Mixing It Up: What IBPA Members Sell Besides Books, Part 2
Like the publishers whose reports appeared in “Meeting Readers’ Needs: What IBPA Members Sell Besides Books” (May), most of those represented this month profit by offering services and nonbook products along with their books. As you’ll see, a few have found the strategy problematic, and some note that their books are the tail wagging a pretty sizable dog. Other members will be sharing the wealth of their experience with mixes of products and services in upcoming issues.—Judith Appelbaum
Book + Consulting + Software = $52 Million and Counting
I published my first book, The One Page Business Plan for the Creative Entrepreneur, waaaaay back in 1997. We have now sold over 50,000 copies of this edition. Subsequently, we went on to create books for nonprofits, professional consultants, and the financial services industry, and we have sold over 10,000 of these books.
Back in June 2000, we came to market with the Web-based One Page Planning and Performance Management software system because corporate America came to us and said, We want to write business plans the way entrepreneurs do . . . quick, fast, to the point, no excessive verbiage.
In 2002 we contracted with an e-learning company to create an e-learning product called Point, Click, Plan! Designed to help everyone write a stress-free first draft in about 90 minutes, this product has been a great success.
When we came to market with our Web system, we created a licensing agreement so that other consultants, business advisors, and coaches could be trained in the One Page methodology and products. Each consultant pays about $5,000 to be in our program, and almost 450 are now enrolled. They sell One Page Plan consulting engagements for prices ranging from $750 to $600,000.
When I speak at publishers’ associations, I encourage other authors and self-publishers to do what I have done, which is to pay attention to what your readers want in addition to your book . . . and then give it to them.
The One Page Business Plan has become a global cottage industry. To date, we have sold over $2 million in books (at retail) and over $50 million in consulting and software. It all started with a simple idea.
P.S. I got kicked out of corporate America in the middle of the 1990 recession. Turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
P.P.S. I could never have self-published a book without the loving support, counsel, and advice from my friends at BAIPA and IBPA.
The One Page Business Plan Company
Ways to Aid Educators
Origins publishes books to guide educators towards successful implementation of our Developmental Designs for Middle School approach, integrating social and academic learning. This work continues the mission of our organization to promote an equitable and humane multicultural democracy through quality education for all. We published the first Developmental Designs book in 2008 and have one on proactive discipline and behavior management set for publication this year. A third, now in the works, is about initiating classroom conversations on culture and difference.
Although we don’t sell any written material other than books, we publish free newsletters aimed at helping middle- and elementary-school educators implement Developmental Designs and Responsive Classroom approaches. We also meet the high demand for these approaches by offering one-day and week-long workshop training as well as consulting services.
We’re thrilled to continue to offer effective services and books to educators.
Now for Playing, Once for Printing
We publish in two niches, nature (natural history) and Native American, and we publish six different nature card games, on stars, seashells, butterflies, and the like.
We used to sell book-printing services, since we printed all our own books with our own equipment, but we quit because I felt I had grown too old to manage machinery (I was 75 at that time) in addition to publishing.
I’m sorry we sold our printing equipment, because I miss that income.
Coaching Through a Club
A Storied Life Publishing specializes in books and ancillaries related to personal stories, memoir, and the oral tradition. When we published Alyson Mead’s Wake Up to Your Weight Loss, we wanted to use an ancillary product to boost sales of the book (and vice versa). So we partnered with the author to create the Write It Off Club, which takes some of the philosophies shared in Alyson’s work and extends them into an online coaching program.
As a result, we have a very targeted list of people we can sell to again and again. The author has a Web site, and so does the coaching program.
A Storied Life Publishing
Print Promotes Small-Business Services
My dad, Joe Gelb, is a CPA and tax attorney, specializing in small business. I am a CPA and MBA. We publish our own how-to books, including Tax Accounting for Small Business and Book Promotion Made Easy, as perfect-bound paperbacks; our flagship publication is our monthly 16-page saddle-stitched newsletter, The Small Business Advisor (article submissions are welcome).
Publishing generates approximately 10 percent of our revenue directly right now, but we use our publications to brand us, draw clients, and promote our services, which center on small-business incorporation, back-office operations, and business consulting. We also provide credit card processing, especially for e-commerce.
In the mid-’90s, I was focused on publishing, largely about personal finance. But since I was a full-time banker at Citigroup, I was unable to devote adequate time to marketing myself and my books. I’m sorry now that I didn’t devise our current publications/services approach earlier, but I guess everything has its time and place, and the skills, experience, and network I gained by working at Citi are still tremendously valuable.
Small Business Advisors, Inc.
Fashioned for Profitability
Along with our fashion Feng Shui books, we sell a Fashion Feng Shui Elemental Design Portfolio (archetype cards, body colors wands, and texture swatches) and Quint~Essence 5 Element Vibrational Aromatherapy. Also, we sell Fashion Feng Shui consulting and professional training services.
I am very happy with our product mix. My $25 book sells $3,000 programs.
Fashion Feng Shui International LLC
Side Effects of a Survival Strategy
Under two imprints, we publish a variety of fiction and nonfiction books, but mostly crime fiction. As a means to survival, we now sell editing and promotional services, including the creation of book-teaser videos, and I’m of two minds about that.
Selling services does help keep us afloat. But by accepting money from any authors (not just our own) for any services, we have managed to lock ourselves out of the Mystery Writers of America’s list of approved publishers, thus making it difficult for some of my authors to get the recognition they deserve. It bothers me, but if the company doesn’t survive, we can’t publish anything at all. So, we do what we must to maintain solvency. I’m hoping that will change over time.
What Didn’t Work
With about 140 titles in print on dog and horse care and training, we tried adding calendars, note cards, and dog-training supplies. We had hoped they would draw people to our booth at dog or horse shows or other nonbook events and also increase direct orders from consumers, but we didn’t have much success. Now the only nonbook products we offer are DVDs.
Because the products we tried were not very effective, they tied up money we might have put to better use, and sometimes we ended up giving them away as charitable donations.
Betty J. McKinney
Nonbook Products Build a Brand
Early in our company’s history we tried selling editorial services, but we quickly discovered that authors were labeling us basically a vanity press, so we stopped.
Today, we sell DVDs (usually in support of our books, which include genre fiction along with biography, religion, self-help, humor, and juvenile titles) as well as teddy bears under our own brand, and we distribute music CDs and games for other vendors. Distribution has its challenges, but we had the necessary warehouse space, retailer contacts, and infrastructure.
We sell both nationally and regionally, and the nonbook products we sell support our regional market, which is small and well defined. Because we have come to know all the booksellers and retailers within that market, it’s easy to judge the marketability of multiple product types.
The DVDs we sell are high-profit-margin products that complement our books and increase sales of both. The teddy bears complement one of our regional children’s titles. Nonbook products help define and expand our brand, and the diversification mitigates risk.
Adding Other Companies’ Offerings
My company sells 20-plus books and DVDs, only some of which are published by us.
I figure that if I have an audience that would buy items related to the books I publish, why not offer those items? Why miss that business opportunity? My printed 20-page catalog, which I send out with all orders, includes all these products, and so does my online catalog.
BioMed Publishing Group
Object: Information Destination
We sell not only the books we have published for the adoption market, but several others that might be hard to find but are really great books. Also, we sell tools for adoptive parents, tools for adoptees aged 2 to 20 years and beyond, and a piece of personalized adoption jewelry.
Our site has a ton of information for adoptive families, social workers, and therapists that visitors can download free. We made it a destination for information and resources, and the fact that we offer a number of products often means we get a bigger order.
Cards Attract Attention
Parenting Press sells card decks and posters, Self-Calming Cards, Feeling Elf Cards, and a Feeling Elf poster as well as its children’s problem-solving and parenting titles. The Self-Calming cards illustrate different calming strategies (e.g., bubble bath, kneading bread, telling jokes) on one side, and explain each on the reverse. The elf cards and poster have less text; they show characters expressing an emotion and the related word below in English, Spanish, and Japanese.
Company founder Elizabeth Crary, who created all the cards with the help of illustrators, believes that cards are easier to use in some situations than books would be.
Some catalogs carry the card decks, but libraries don’t buy them, and book wholesalers don’t sell them. The posters require expensive packaging. All these products attract attention at conferences and can economically be sold there.
What Still Works; What Doesn’t
In addition to books on parachutes and skydiving and books on writing and publishing, we sell book-promotion mailing lists, e-reports, and consulting services.
We used to resell books on publishing, which we bought from their publishers’ special-sales departments. Over the years, those sales declined; our potential customers would click over to Amazon and buy the books for less. So we dropped that profit center.
Since the industry is changing rapidly, a fruitful question might be: What are you not selling anymore?
Along with our lines of classic titles, gift books, art books, personal finance titles, and phonics readers, we sell greeting cards and art prints, and we will soon be adding music CDs.
Although we don’t sell services, we do help budding authors gratis. Sometimes people call here asking for help or direction, and we are all too happy to give them advice and contacts and to refer them to those who can help them most in this industry—IBPA, John Kremer, and Dan Poynter, for example.
Our ancillary activities fit in with our purpose and even with our company name, Richer Resources Publications. We provide rich resources designed to enhance the lives of people everywhere.
We are happy to have added a great line of art products to our book lines. Beautiful art takes the breath away and soothes the soul.
Richer Resources Publications
Small Items Serve Several Purposes
Before the end of its first year, Beach Chair Diaries: Summer Tales from Maine to Maui sold more than 2,000 copies. I did 20 events, and I had more than 2,200 hits on my Web site. My full-time job is selling women’s accessories to stores throughout New England, and all the boutiques and gift shops I am selling the book to are reordering it. Recently, after I attended a chamber of commerce event at the Marblehead Arts Association, they ordered six copies and asked me to do a workshop, Sales Boot Camp for Artists and Authors. And I’m continuing to set up book signings.
I’ve had small tote bags and diaries produced to sell to my clients along with my book —items that don’t take up a lot of space, cost the same as or less than the book does, and are easy to ship. Each item has the Beach Chair logo that’s featured on the book cover. I’ve also had pens, bumper stickers, and lip balm made up, mainly as promotional items to give away at book events and to people on the beach.
Although the tote bags and diaries haven’t sold as well as the book, I’m glad I had them produced. They were relatively inexpensive, and my publicist is now sending them to magazines and other venues along with my book, to help it stand out.
Falmouth Heights Books