AN IBPA ROUNDTABLE
Even in tough times, IBPA members find and create ways to make their businesses work better. Here’s a sampling of reports on moves that worked well during the past year. More stories of success will be coming your way in the next issue of the Independent.
Thanks to all who shared their experiences, and thanks in advance to any of you who’d now like to report on what you’ve done that succeeded (just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).—Judith Appelbaum
Special Sales Centered on a Store
Our company’s sales growth this past year was 19 percent, with a significant portion of that growth coming from continued aggressive sales and marketing of alternative-health titles, along with a steady pursuit of special-sales opportunities.
One special-sales scenario is worth explaining in some depth. At the beginning of 2009, we sent advance bound galleys of a brand-new book on the history of the Macy’s department store empire—Macy’s: The Store. The Star. The Story—to stimulate advance reviews in the book trade. We even went the extra step of sending full-color galleys, since much of the book’s appeal stems from its beautiful color layout and design.
Since 2009 began with one of the worst national economies in 80 years, we had our work cut out for us with a single title about a single (though world-famous) department store empire.
By March, however, we had received a very positive review of the book from Publishers Weekly and a much-coveted starred review from Booklist. As a result, we had advance orders for more than 1,000 copies (mostly from libraries) by the time spring came.
Since we were told at the outset that Macy’s had not (and has not) sold books in its stores for years, Rudy Shur (our publisher) and I knew we would have to work patiently with Macy’s to set up a special-sales category for our book. By the time of BEA 2009, we had the category firmly in place, and Macy’s began to carry our book in its flagship stores.
As we had hoped, sales were brisk. Macy’s soon sold through its initial orders and placed more orders. As spring shifted to summer, we had the honor of having our book featured in one of the key Macy’s store windows along West 34th Street in New York City. A story and photo appeared in PW Daily as a result.
By early fall, we had another meeting with the corporate division at Macy’s in New York. In cooperation and collaboration with Square One, Macy’s made our book available at a special discounted price to its entire employee base —188,000 people. The offer was an instant hit, and we arranged with Macy’s to extend the employee discount offer beyond the holiday season and into the end of February 2010.
Now we are working closely with Macy’s to have our book sold and distributed into the more than 800 Macy’s department stores nationwide this spring.
Square One Publishers
One of my biggest successes in 2009 was getting an SBA loan to finance the second printing of my eighth book, Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts. Getting financing wasn’t easy, as I was applying directly in the middle of the bank and mortgage meltdown, but I did it with help from a Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) advisor.
I approached the retired executives who volunteer for the Small Business Administration after I had been turned down for a loan at my hometown bank, and I found that SCORE has a mentoring program. You can ask a question online and be connected with someone in your area with the answer. That’s how I met my SCORE advisor.
He told me about Innovative Bank and its SOHO (Single Owner Home Office) loans, which are low-interest loans for small business entrepreneurs who work out of their homes. I completed all the paperwork and met with the advisor in person so he could review everything. When the bank’s loan process stalled, he was able to get the process rolling again.
Getting approval took more than three months, but in a business with such challenging cash flow, it was essential to be persistent.
I published my first book, The Cave of Storms, in 2009. The best thing I did for it was to have given birth to five daughters who not only bought tons, but proudly urged all their friends to do the same. They are some of my best publicists.
Mistakes? Not having more daughters!
Rubythroat Press, L.L.C.
Workshops Keep Fueling Sales
Bright Ring Publishing, Inc., is celebrating its 25th year. Imagine!
After 25 years of publishing, all our books are still in print and selling, and I think our most effective marketing tactic is offering hands-on workshops, keynotes, and presentations around the country. These face-to-face encounters encourage our customers—teachers, parents, and librarians—to purchase Bright Ring’s books. Of course, books are always for sale at these events, and sometimes one or two are included in the admission price.
MaryAnn F. Kohl
Bright Ring Publishing, Inc.
What Professional Publicity Sparked
It helped immensely to hire a publicist for three months. It wasn’t cheap, but I was able do interviews on more than 50 radio and television stations including Fox News (TV), the Joey Reynolds Show, and Coast to Coast AM (both radio).
Initially, I tried really hard to get interviews on my own, but it didn’t work out nearly so well. After more than 20 phone calls, I got just two bookings on small radio stations.
Having had the publicist on board for three months, starting just prior to my book’s 10/1/09 publication date, I’ve sold more than 2,000 books to date, which means I have just about broken even. I consider that a success.
More important, I have been offered contracts by three reputable publishers—two midsized, one large—to republish the same book! Because I spent the money for the publicity to get my book out there, these publishers came to me; similarly, a legitimate filmmaking company expressed interest in making my book the basis for a television series after someone there heard me on the radio.
I wish fellow independent publishers all the luck in the world. It is a tough business out there.
Ingrid P. Dean
Spirit of the Badge
Two to Hang Onto
The only two things that have worked for me this past year are Amazon.com and a catalog mailing that I created. I will be using my own mailing lists to send out the catalog that I put together and will be continuing to work with Amazon.
Barbara J. Olexer
Spurring Backlist Sales
I was able to move quite a few copies of a title whose shelf life was drawing to a close with a combination of bonuses (extra e-books), discounts, really deep discounts on whole cases, and extra promotion. And I did this by reaching out to my own newsletter subscribers and people whose stuff I had promoted (not, in other words, by spending money).
New Ways to Cope with Cash Needs
Massive returns from major accounts (B&N, Border’s, Ingram, B&T) over the summer—even of new releases that had barely been unpacked—were our biggest challenge in 2009. It took a while to figure out what exactly was happening (everybody pushing their cash problems back up the line, and the buck stops with publishers) and to cope with, in effect, the sudden loud sucking sound in our cash flow department.
Once we got stabilized again, we could pay attention to figuring out new approaches, and although I can’t report results yet, I can say that I’m feeling that we have new ideas and that they’re pleasantly collaborative and exciting.
We have slowed way down on editing and production. We have a lineup of great projects, we’re working on them, and we’ll get them out, but we are focusing on selling what we’ve got to reconstitute the cash situation.
• developing an e-newsletter to retailers in our niche market (rather than retailers in
the book trade), with the intention of driving backlist sales through our distributors
(trade and niche) and wholesalers
• collaborative Web and online advertising with compatible independent businesses
• much networking and development of new ideas among micropublishers in our niche
• some intensive work with selected social media sites, especially Twitter and Facebook
We’re also considering ways to combine electronic and print delivery for future titles. We are solidly print-based, and will remain so, but the lag time to market and the proliferation of electronic delivery systems (as well as that unprecedented disaster of returns) strongly suggest creative attention to alternative channels.