Do PMA members boost sales of their books–and income for their companies–by selling other products and services? Do they ever! We’re sure about that now, thanks to the flood of responses to the e-mail asking, “What do you sell besides books?” During the coming months, we’ll run excerpts from as many of your reports as we can so that everyone can benefit from strategies that work. Here’s a first installment.
– Judith Appelbaum
Closely Coupled Products
Blue Gecko Press publishes business, technology, and financial books
designed to help readers increase their creativity, productivity, and profitability.
In addition to our books, we publish/produce manuals, special reports, and audio programs (on both cassette tape & CD Rom). We also conduct public seminars on topics related to some of our books.
We started selling these other products last year in response to reader/site visitor inquiries and perceived market demand.
Sales of these other products have positively affected our book sales. And, very often, a book buyer will return to buy a related audio program or special report.Many of our manual and special report buyers eventually also buy one or more books on a similar topic or topics. We aggressively promote these items through opt-in e-mail to our book buyers and back-of-book promotional pages (a trick we learned from Robert Kiyosaki of “Rich Dad” fame).
From selling non-book products, we have learned to create/acquire products on subjects closely coupled to our books, so they can be sold and used in many ways–e.g., promotional items (we sell a lot of our manuals, special reports, and audio programs on eBay), and as cross-sell/upsell items.
We have also licensed our manuals, special reports, and audio programs to speakers, trainers, etc., for back-of-the-room sales–which often leads to sales of our books, which we promote in the manuals, special reports, and audio programs we license.
Robert Brents, Blue Gecko Press
Web site: http://www.BlueGeckoPress.com
[subhead] Tying into Tours
Thistle Press publishes guidebooks to the Seattle area designed for local residents as much as visitors. The company started in 1989 with my first Pocket Guide to Seattle, which is now in its seventh edition. We have subsequently published four other books about the area by different authors.
I have developed a sideline that has been very effective in promoting our Seattle guidebooks. For several years, I have been a tour guide for tour companies coming into the area. This means I step on the bus, grab the microphone, and point out the sights along the way for a city tour that lasts three or four hours.
A few years ago, I started doing walking tours. My goals were to acquire some local press coverage, to get locals as well as tourists to buy books, and to add to my image as an expert. The local press coverage has worked well. Usually, in the spring, a magazine or newspaper does an article about ways to see the city and I’m often selected for an interview.
With our new book, Urban Walks, 23 Walks through Seattle’s Parks and Neighborhoods, co-author Joan Burton and I have scheduled walks from the book the first weekend of every month. Both major Seattle papers have weekend events sections, and they’ve been wonderful about running notices of our walks, which, of course, include the title of our book. For our walks, we have had as few as five people show up and as many as 50! And we always sell a few books. This, in turn, has led to requests for slide show presentations and history talks for organizations. Best of all, it keeps our book in the public’s mind, hits the target audience, and is free.
One other thing I do: I give free, out-of-date Pocket Guides to Seattle to people on my bus tours. It gets the books out of Seattle so they won’t be remaindered and hurt sales of the new book, makes the tourists and tour companies who use my services happy, and generates larger tips. Since I’m the only tour guide who has written a book, it also ensures that I’ll be booked for their next tour.
Lessons learned: It’s difficult to get continuing coverage for a book, so do something else that will. That something else should be in the same field. Learn how to speak to the public–know lots about your subject so you can tackle anything. Be willing to do things outside your comfort zone. And always, always, write “thank you” notes.
Duse McLean, Thistle Press
Gifts for Geography Buffs
Yes, I do sell other products and services besides books. I started with geography books but soon realized that the people who bought these books were willing to buy additional items in the same field.
Having had early success at opening up and penetrating the emerging geography-in-education market, we expanded slowly to take on non-book products in the same field. First came some very sharp crystal globes–high-ticket items with a better margin than books and no returns. It made good business sense. I positioned them as the perfect graduation gift for the geographer. Next was the by-product of one of our best-sellers. The story of naming America in the book Terra Incognita involved a legendary map made in 1507. By coincidence, the only surviving copy was bought by the Library of Congress for $10 million. I picked up digital rights to this “Birth Certificate of America,” and my geography customers love this collector’s item.
Sales from my catalog include books, globes, and maps today. The cost of doing direct mail is infinitely more agreeable since the average order is higher. And I’m now firmly convinced that selected products, gift items, and collectibles in the related field encourage book sales.
Kieran O’Mahony, Educare Press
[subhead]Soaring CD Sales
Craftsman Book Company is a Carlsbad, California publisher of construction references; we’ve achieved $6 million in sales.
Most Craftsman’s construction estimating reference manuals are bundled with a CD that is a digital version of the printed book. Craftsman CD-only products are available in Staples, CompUSA, Circuit City, and 1,400 Home Depot locations in North America.
Our company has been publishing CDs since 1995 and currently sells about 100,000 CDs a month. Publishing on disk and on the Web is a growth industry, replacing publication on paper for many purposes. In 1990, Craftsman disk sales were nil. By 2002, disk and Web download sales had grown to 70% of Craftsman revenue.
Gary Moselle, Craftsman Book Company
Web site: http://costbook.com
Services & Shopping Carts
Our publishing program is a traditional one, concentrating on literary/serious nonfiction and poetry. (We dropped our fiction line after discovering that we could not compete economically with the large NYC publishers in this area.)
We offer two all book-related services that spin out of our publishing operation. These are:
1. Book editing, interior design, cover design, promotional material design, and overall book production for other small presses and independent authors. Our specialty here is developing book projects using state-of-the-art XML-based technology. This means preparing the book once and then using those basic electronic files to output to a traditional press, POD, e-book, Web, or handheld device–all without further conversion and associated expense.
We began this operation more than four years ago as a means of keeping our design shop active instead of laying people off and outsourcing our own design work. Because we don’t want this to expand to the point that it overwhelms our own publishing program, we do not aggressively pursue this side of our business, and its impact on sales of our own books seems negligible.
2. We also operate an online, shopping cart-based bookstore at
www.archer-books.com. With this site, we supplement the sales of our titles through Midpoint Trade Books to bookstores everywhere, and we have opened it up to other publishers seeking additional online sales opportunities. We charge nothing for the setup of client publishers’ titles, but do retain 10% of each sale.
Again, the primary motivation here was to be able to afford to retain staff, in this case staff with Web experience. Secondarily, without attempting to sound noble, we thought that this service was a worthwhile contribution to other independent presses that might not otherwise be able to afford a Web presence. At present, five outside presses use the service and this increases the traffic to the site, which benefits all of us, although the impact on sales of our own books is hard to measure.
Aside from generating enough income to keep our operation intact and more consistent than it might otherwise be, we have, in effect, developed a community of serious but diverse publishers who generously share ideas, contacts, approaches, methods, thoughts, etc., giving us traits one would enjoy in a much larger, more diverse publishing organization.
John Taylor-Convery, Archer Books
I am a self-publisher of children’s books, the latest one being Connie the Three-Legged Turtle. I usually print 3,000 copies and do mail campaigns. I also appear at local fairs, appropriate conventions (recently I did two handicapped conventions), Barnes & Noble book-signings, etc., as I like the person-to-person contact.
I usually also purchase a toy item for the children to use with the book and then give the toys away. For Connie, I’m working with the local state school for the handicapped and they’re making small ceramic three-legged turtles. My cost is 50 cents each, and when I sell them, I charge $1 apiece. At a recent Fall Festival, I sold 37 books, each with a free turtle, and 40 turtles by themselves. They’re a wonderful draw to my booth and usually get a potential buyer to look at the book, which they then purchase in most cases.
I started putting a toy item with each of my books after working with Head Start and seeing that children can’t just sit there and listen to a story. They have to have something to fiddle with.
Nancy Northrop, LNR Publications
Distribution for the Dedicated
Beagle Bay Books handles historical adventure fiction for women and nonfiction that empowers and informs (mostly geared to women). Our Creative Minds Press imprint was created for other nonfiction titles but seems to be developing into our travel title line.
Recently we started distributing other small press titles. We are very fortunate to have gotten into Ingram during the narrow time slot in which they accepted small presses with fewer than 10 books, and we’ve been able to keep a successful working relationship with them as we have grown (300% in just one year!). Now we use Baker & Taylor and Brodart as well as Ingram. By being choosy about the books we carry (those we distribute are from publishers with just one or two titles who have done quite a lot of successful marketing on their own), we enhance our own line as well as help them. We are also starting to offer other publishing services like book designing.
We’ve discovered that working with other publishers is a great joy. Our publisher partners are as dedicated as we are, and we’re not so huge that we have forgotten the thrill and terror of that first book and how much we hoped for it to succeed.
Jacqueline Church Simonds, Beagle Bay Books
Telling It Like It Is
We at Magnolia Mansions Press specialize in things Southern. Like most publishers, large and small, we are overwhelmed with wannabes who want their manuscripts considered. After our seventh book, we began to see that there might be an opportunity for editing services.
Everybody has a story to tell, we believe, but not all of them are worth a read or listen. When writers approach us now wanting us to read their manuscripts, we tell them we’ll be glad to do so, but our editing fee is $50 an hour with a minimum of $200.
We thought that would run them away, but it hasn’t, and the resulting income helps. We offer no guarantee of publication and state up front that we will “tell it like it is”–meaning that if there seems to be no hope of publication or no foreseeable marketing outlet, that’s what we’ll say. Of course, we suggest ways to improve the writing, and sometimes, we find a jewel that needs very little polishing.
We also offer a speaking service with a talk called “How to get your foot in the publishing door–you don’t, you build a new doorway.” This includes information about large and small publishers, their requirements, self-publishing, e-books, and Print on Demand. The talk is about 30 minutes, then there’s Q&A. We offer this to clubs, writing groups, classes, conferences, bookstores, anyone who wishes to sponsor it. Sometimes we charge; sometimes we don’t. However we always insist that we be allowed to sell books at the end of the talk.
Only serious writers now approach us with manuscripts and a lot of people learn how publishing has changed over the years. This makes for a happier situation for everyone and a few more dollars for us.
Margaret B. Ellis, Publisher, Magnolia Mansions Press
Building a Multi-Product Brand
Wildlife Education Ltd. is the publisher of the Zoobooks series, which includes 60 titles–all on a specific animal or animal groups. Our target audience is children, grades K through six. The books are sold in both paperback and library-bound hardcover formats. Our distribution is through a subscriber base, public and school libraries, most major wholesalers and distributors, educational dealers and various retailers, and our Web site.
Along with our books, we sell value-added merchandise such as videos, bookmarks, posters, stuffed animals, stickers, lunch boxes, point-of-purchase materials, thematic curriculum, etc. The list continues to grow. Each product is an extension of the Zoobooks line.
Within the last year, we’ve begun to sell these other Zoobooks-branded products aggressively. We figured, why not enhance our market presence and strengthen our brand by riding the wave of positive association that people have with the Zoobooks name? We’ve found that products that mirror the quality and educational value of our books not only enhance the name, but also help to establish it as a multi-product brand with books at its core.
The sales of these products positively affect the sales of our books. The products we sell often come along with books to form a thematic package. For example, we sell five “All About Animals Sets.” These sets include a 40-minute video and two paperback Zoobooks. The whole package is placed on an attractive header board and shrink-wrapped.
Another effective strategy has been to add sales copy to the supplemental products. For instance, we print a list of ALL other products we offer (including book titles) on the back of the All About Animals sets
’ header boards. So when customers turn the package over, they see everything else we have. This strategy actually “pulls” sales by piquing the interest of the customer, who then asks the retailer for more information. Retailers who don’t have what the customer is asking about in their stores will be more apt to stock it in the future. We make sure our supplemental products support our main goal, and that’s to sell more Zoobooks.
From the positive and immediate response I’ve seen, I would highly recommend developing synergistic products that help enhance the image of your books. One warning, however: Make sure you know what your book’s or brand’s “image” is. Producing products that stray from that image will not only dilute it but also inevitably hurt your long-term growth.
Marshall Westfall, Wildlife Education, LTD