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Special Sales: Book Sales Beyond the Bookstore

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The term "special sales" is commonly used to describe sales opportunities outside of bookstores. Also referred to as non-bookstore (or non-traditional) marketing, it can be a profitable source of new revenue.

The best way to exploit this opportunity is to divide it into two segments and sell to buyers in each. One is the retail segment, where you reach buyers using a network of middlemen. The other segment consists of direct sales to non-retailers that use books as marketing tools to sell more of their products or help their employees, members, or students.

Selling to Retailers

You are already familiar with this sector. You find distributors or wholesalers to get your books into retail outlets where they are sold off the shelf to consumers. Payments are made in two or three months, and unsold books are returned. Retailers display products that 1) will build store traffic, 2) maximize profitability per square foot, and 3) generate more inventory turns. Prove your title can do those things better than competitors’ titles, and you can get your books on the shelves of the below retailers:

Discount stores and warehouse clubs. Stores in this category include Walmart, Target, Costco, and Sam's Club. Books at these stores are discounted heavily and do not offer the same margins as some larger-ticket products. Therefore, these retailers limit shelf space to the “brand-name” authors and top-selling books. 

Airport stores. Books on management, investment, economics, business biography, personal finance, and health sell well among business travelers. Books for children also tend to do well in these outlets, especially children’s “activity books.” Popular fiction also achieves book sales in this environment. Consider selling to other airport stores, not just bookstores. 

Supermarkets and pharmacies. Cookbooks, travel books, and regional titles move in supermarkets, but health-related topics sell better in drugstores. Children’s titles also seem to do well in supermarkets, but fiction remains the mainstay there.

Museums, zoos, and national parks. Most of these have a gift shop, and to get into them, you must demonstrate how your books can educate and entertain their guests. Get your books on these shelves using third-party management firms that acquire books for the gift shops. Event Network operates gift shops at zoos, museums, aquariums, science centers, and botanical gardens, and Eastern National serves the national park system.

Gift shops. This category includes large chains such as Pottery Barn, Yankee Candle, Bath and Body Works, Pier One and Crate & Barrel, Hallmark Stores, and Spencer Gifts. It also includes hotel and hospital gift shops. Reach these outlets through direct marketing, sales-representative groups, and by attending trade shows and gift marts.

Specialty stores. You could achieve book sales by selling your books in home-improvement centers, pet shops, auto-supply stores, camera shops, toy stores, or business-supply storesretailers that serve identifiable groups of people with a common interest in your content. 

Non-Retail Sales

Corporations, associations, foundations, government agencies, and the armed services buy books directly from publishers for use as premiums, incentives, sales promotions, educational purposes, and sometimes for resale. The factor differentiating this segment from the retail sector is that you sell directly to buyers in these organizations. Book sales are typically made in large quantities, returns are rare, and payment is received more quickly.

Content is king in this sector. Buyers want to use the information in your books to help them solve a business problem. They use your content as a tool to increase their sales, introduce new products, educate students, or motivate members or employees.

Businesses. There are two areas of opportunity in the corporate setting. One is Human Resources, whose managers may seek books on retirement-planning programs or how to save money on insurance premiums by showing employees how to improve their health. Employee recognition and motivation is also a growing trend.

Associations. There are over 135,000 nonprofit membership organizations worldwide. Consider two major ways to sell to associations. The first is termed “cause marketing” where you donate a percentage of each book sale to a charitable, non-profit organization to help finance their cause. The other approach is to sell books directly to the association, to be used as a premium to increase membership, or to re-sell in their bookstores.

Schools. The academic marketplace is an opportune segment for publishers, one using books as a foundation for its existence. It impacts people of all ages, from pre-school through graduate school and adult education courses. Regardless of the grade, age of the student, major in college, or choice of home, public or private education, the need for books is ubiquitous.

Government. How would you like to sell to a customer who needs your content, has virtually unlimited funds, and does not return your books? There is such a customerand it is your own federal government. And don’t ignore state and local agencies.

Military. You can sell books domestically or overseas, to military exchanges and libraries, Department of Defense Dependent Schools, onboard ships, retired military personnel, and to the families of military personnel. Do this online and through commissaries and direct book marketing.

Special sales book marketing is not a separate way of doing business. It is not even a new way of doing business. It is an integral part of your overall book marketing strategy. Simply divide non-bookstore marketing into its two components and you may find hundreds, if not thousands, of prospective customers for your titles. 


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Brian Jud

Brian Jud is the author of the book, How to Make Real Money Selling Books, the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales, and the administrator of Book Selling University. Contact Brian at brianJud@bookmarketing.com or www.premiumbookcompany.com.