AN IBPA ROUNDTABLE
What Worked, Part 2
How do you help your publishing company thrive in tough times? Answers from several IBPA members appeared in the March Independent, and answers from several more appear below. Thanks to all who shared the wealth of their experiences.—Judith Appelbaum
Going Farther, Still Focused
Here’s what we’ve done that has worked for us during the last two turbulent years in publishing.
Explore and expand our niche. Since small publishers can’t compete across the board in all areas, we’ve tried to become competitive as the go-to source in special areas by concentrating on extending our reach, and thus our reputation, in true crime and on psychological issues.
Develop other markets. Recent film sales include Execution Eve, by William J. Buchanan, to Funbunch, Inc.; How Far Do You Wanna Go, by Ramon “Tru” Dixon and Dave Aromatorio, to Nash Entertainment; Secret Weapons, by Cheryl and Lynn Hersha with Dale Griffis and Ted Schwarz, to 26 Films, Inc.; and Chameleon, by Dorothy Proctor and Fred Rosen, to MUSE Entertainment.
Other New Horizon Press titles are under consideration for films. We have sold foreign rights to several of our books, and we’ve also sold mass market rights, to St. Martin’s for Wicked Intentions: The Sheila LaBarre Murders—A True Story by Kevin Flynn; and to Berkley for Murder in Mayberry: Greed, Death and Mayhem in a Small Town by Mary Kinney Branson and Jack Branson.
Find new publicity arenas. By hooking onto subjects in the news, we usually get good radio and TV exposure. But with talk shows diminishing and too many newspapers failing, we’ve searched for and luckily found some new outlets as well, including blogs, associations, newsletters, new syndicates, and prizes.
Venture into special markets. With books such as Healing Suicidal Veterans, we’ve developed money-producing arenas like veterans’ groups and self-help organizations.
Increase library sales. We’re concentrating on library shows and advertising, because they produce actual sales for books with good reviews in library media. And librarians generate book buzz as well as buying books.
Explore digital opportunities. Print is still what we’re primarily selling, but adding arenas for selling is a plus.
Joan S. Dunphy
New Horizon Press
If anything, these poor economic times have helped us a little. When you are honest and up front with your authors and let them know that (1) times are tough in this business; (2) they cannot expect the bookstores and online sales to be the only source for orders; and (3) they might have to get out and find other ways to sell their books, then they know what to expect and will be more motivated to work harder at promoting and selling.
In terms of production, I have noticed some bright spots traceable to the economy. We are finding that the major publishers don’t have all the printers in this country tied up, and we can get better prices for printing and binding. We have also been able to make better deals on editing, proofing, and graphics, and we get an influx of calls for employment in these fields. As this levels the playing field for independent publishers, it has made us more financially attractive than the print-on-demand and vanity presses.
JEC Publishing Company
Patience Is Part of the Program
Our how-to books and children’s books, specifically Craig Townsend’s Mind Training for Swimmers, which has been a consistent seller since publication, and Penelope Dyan’s For Boys Only, No Girls Allowed, are working well for us. I think these two books represent and fill specific needs in the book market.
We are also experimenting with a children’s travel series by Penelope Dyan and photographer John D. Weigand, and that is doing well both here and in the U.K.
We produce something different to put in the market, and we patiently wait for that special book to really click. Right now patience is the key along with sales efforts. But then, we are a small house and we are just beginning to find our way, so patience, for us, is mandatory.
Penny D. Weigand
Bellissima Publishing, LLC
In the Military Market
As a one-book self-publisher, I found the large, complex book business interesting, but not especially friendly. The volume of new offers explains part of this, as does the reluctance to set up a vendor that would not supply a continuing stream of frontlist products. These factors mitigate against my World War II/B-24/8th Air Force/anthologies/personalities, with 149 stories.
Forty-four air museums carry this book—both Smithsonians, Wright Patterson, and The Collings Foundation, which ordered 10, then 48, then, “They’re all gone, send 96.” (The Collings Foundation is devoted to supporting living history events. Its restored B-24 and B-17 tour the United States and offer inspection and flights in these relics.)
I continue to pursue distributors to military bases worldwide, so far unsuccessfully. I am attempting to locate a publisher who supplies the military to carry my book. I trust that continued determination, effort—and most important, a proven product—will reward this 90-year-old combat pilot veteran. Wish me luck!
During the past difficult financial year, we in the eye-care business have seen patients make hard health decisions based on insurance and finances, not necessarily on what’s best for their eyes and health. My office has made a great effort to support our patients in any way we can. We have been blessed to continue serving our patients and staff well, while not having to make huge financial cuts in salaries or services. I believe this is because of our attitudes, visualizations, and declarations.
During the same year, I published my first book, See It. Say It. Do It! The book has sparked interest in the eye-care field and in education and parenting circles, and its launch has provided an opportunity for me to offer more courses for parents and teachers on visualization strategies to improve academic performance and create confident kids. In addition, a media marketing plan, culminating with a series of Webinars for parents and educators, has been planned.
It’s been a great exciting year, in a very tenuous environment.
Lynn Fishman Hellerstein
Hellerstein & Brenner Vision Center, P.C.
Here’s what worked well for us:
• direct sales (up to 41 percent of revenue from 20 percent)
• Twitter marketing (same clicks as Google AdWords, no out-of-pocket cost)
• series books
W. F. Zimmerman
The Extra-Value Approach
Especially in this tough economy, the key is to keep the customers happy. Essentially, this means deliver extra value. We were pleased with the results of:
•Offering a bonus with purchase, something a little special and unexpected. In the
spring, we gave our customers two books for the price of one by teaming up with
Author Marketing Experts, Inc., to bundle our Book Promotion Made Easywith their
Red Hot Internet Publicity[see “Boost Sales by Bundling,” February]. This helped us
increase our premium sales, reach new customers, and move more inventory.
•Cross-selling. Each book in this bundle included a sticker with our tagline about our
back-cover copywriting service, which increased its business.
•Taking advantage of market gaps and new opportunities. Because it seemed likely
that small businesses would be trimming staff to cut costs and interested in
outsourcing bookkeeping, we expanded our Small Business Advisor bookkeeping
service. As a result, we got new clients.
• Selling complimentary products and services.
•Offering a money-back guarantee. We let readers know that they can return a book
for a refund if they’re not satisfied with it. This helps reduce the risk customers
perceive and is likely to make more people comfortable with buying.
Small Business Advisors, Inc.
As a relatively new audiobook publishing company, we recently upgraded our Web site and added a tab for videos of author interviews because we believe that readers want to connect with authors. They want to see the person who brought them such joy with a book, or who helped them see a different world, or who maybe challenged some long-held belief.
From the authors’ perspective, being able to talk about their books, in their own words, allows them to promote their art in as direct a way as possible outside of face to face.
As I write, we have posted a video of one author, and that author’s book has enjoyed a marked uptick in sales. Soon we will sign up for Facebook to let more people know we are here, and we already participate in several Internet forums where we can post new releases and receive immediate feedback.
When we send emails to inform customers about a new title, I address each person by name, mention a particular detail in the person’s life, and generally try to connect on a personal level. Our response rate is over 80 percent with these emails.
In short, we are passionate about where we are headed and see many good things on the horizon.
Dog Ear Audio