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Selling Your Books to Corporations: Part 1. Target and Prepare Your Pitch

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Companies buy books. What’s more, they frequently purchase books in large quantities, pay in 30 days, and don’t require you to have a distributor. This market can be lucrative if you understand that a company buys books to motivate its sales force, educate its employees, improve its image, or use as sales incentives to sell more of its products.

The buyers to target, therefore, may be a human resources manager, a sales manager, or a brand manager rather than the purchasing agent in charge of normal supplies. The content of your book determines the prospective decision maker. Bear in mind that the person you will be negotiating with is probably a professional who is used to dealing with knowledgeable, competent sales representatives but may never have thought about using books as promotional tools. So present yourself as a consultant with ideas that will help the company sell more of its products or services.

Some suggestions for planning a variety of pitches:

Training and motivation. According to Frank Fochetta (VP, director of special sales and custom publishing at Simon & Schuster), “Companies such as Herbalife and Amway buy motivational and business books to resell to their distributors.” In many other businesses as well, managers regularly seek new ways to train and motivate their employees. Your titles on leadership, motivation, self-help, selling techniques, or new business topics could be useful to these executives.

Gifts to customers. Eitherfiction or nonfiction titles may be the perfect gift for customers or employees or the perfect giveaway for unusual events or special marketing periods. Mark Resnick (partner in FRW Company) tells us, “Some cruise ship lines give passengers a thank-you gift when they depart from the ship. Sometimes they use a book about one of the destination ports as the souvenir.”

Sales to employees. Companies that have stores for employees, either on the premises or online, may purchase books for resale.

Some company stores are run by Majors Internet Company, which provides The Company Bookstore, a business-to-business solution for selling books to employees of corporations. In effect, Majors puts a bookstore inside the corporation. Purchasing managers, corporate library professionals, and information service managers can link to this customized bookstore to offer employees access to a comprehensive database of titles. (For more information, contact J. A. Majors Company, 4004 Tradeport Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30354; 404/608-2660, 800/241-6551; fax 404/608-2656; www.majors.com/corporations/corporations.htm.)

Another useful intermediary is Books Are Fun, Ltd. (A Reader’s Digest Company). Its book fairs and displays offer hardcover books, gifts, and educational products at savings of up to 80 percent off retail prices to more than 12,000 corporations, as well as to schools, hospitals, early learning centers, universities, government offices, and nonprofit organizations throughout the United States and Canada. The Books Are Fun formula is simple. They buy huge, nonreturnable quantities directly from publishers and manufacturers, and sell those products at deep discounts directly to end users through display marketing events. Typically, they donate a percentage of the proceeds in books or cash to the sponsoring organization or to a designated charity. Book submissions–which will not be returned–can be sent to: Books Are Fun, Attn: Submissions Department, 1680 Hwy. 1 North, Fairfield, IA 52556. If you have questions about submissions, e-mail baf_submissions@booksarefun.com.

Employee benefits. If your book can help employees plan for their retirement, suggest that human resources managers buy it to use in retirement-planning programs. The human resources department might also consider buying titles that would help the company implement other parts of its benefit program.

Public relations. Companies may use books to establish, repair, or improve their reputation. Many hospitals burnish their image by giving a package of products to the parents of babies delivered there; if your title has information that is important to the first years of a baby’s life, it might be included. Charlene Costanzo sold The Twelve Gifts of Birth, her book on the early years,to children’s shelters for use as a fundraiser that would create positive word-of-mouth. Sometimes companies buy books to give to volunteer groups or to donate to a worthy cause. Companies celebrating an anniversary may also use related books to help promote and celebrate the event.

Library collections. Some businesses have internal libraries. If your title is about a topic relevant to their needs–such as selling, industry information, motivation, or marketing–you might convince the librarian to acquire it.

Marketing campaigns. Laws and do-not-call lists that limit the activities of telemarketers are likely to increase the use of direct mail. Because businesses conducting direct-mail campaigns want recipients to open the envelopes immediately, they often put a teaser on the envelope announcing a “Free gift inside,” or “Offer for a free gift inside.” Statistics show that this is an excellent way to increase response rates. Perhaps your book or booklet could be the gift.

Sales promotion. Brand managers have bottom-line responsibility for their product lines and are interested in increasing their sales. Show a brand manager how to use your title to make this happen, and you will find an interested prospect.

Sales promotion mechanisms include:

Coupons. Manufacturers may offer dollars-off in-pack, on-pack, or near-pack coupons entitling the bearer to a discount on your book. For example, a pet-food company might include a coupon in a bag of dog food (in-pack) offering a discount on your video about dog care. Alternatively, the manufacturer might offer the same coupon on-pack, printed on the exterior of the package and visible to the consumer. Near-pack coupons are provided at the point of sale (perhaps as peel-offs or in a “Take one” container). A coupon for a book containing holiday recipes could, for instance, be placed near a display of Pfaltzgraff plates with Christmas décor. (When a coupon requires the customer to send you information, it also helps you build your database, which can offset the costs of a special offer.)

Premiums. When used as a premium to attract, retain, or reward customers or to motivate employees, a product may be offered at a relatively low cost or free. If the pet-food manufacturer mentioned above included your dog-care video inside the package–instead of a coupon for it–your product would be a premium. Appropriate trade shows and the Incentive Show (held in New York annually, www.piexpo.com) are excellent places to display products for use as premiums. You may also find rep groups there willing to carry your titles.

Prizes. A book with a high price and/or high value can be a good prize in a contest or sweepstakes.


Businesses may give books to customers or the general public at no charge to build goodwill and traffic. Hammermill Paper Company used more than 5,000 copies of Paulette Ensign’s booklet 110 Ideas for Organizing Your Business Life (specially printed on their paper) as a premium for their reps to leave behind with prospects after a sales call.

Self-liquidators. When a book is sold at a price low enough to entice buyers, but high enough to cover its cost, it is being used as a self-liquidator. A company might place a sample chapter of your book on its Web site, offering the complete version as a self-liquidator. Many supermarkets try to entice shoppers to buy more by offering a product at a discounted price with a minimum purchase or a continuity series at a reduced price.

Once you have identified prospective corporate customers and figured out how they might benefit from using your titles, the next steps are making contact and negotiating. Part 2 of this series will tell you how to do that.

Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant, the creator of the Book Market Map directories for special sales, and the author of Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers Weekly Book) and The Marketing Planning CD. Contact Brian at P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; call 800/562-4357; e-mail brianjud@bookmarketingworks.com; or visit www.bookmarketingworks.com.

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