Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Strategies for Selling to Retail Bookstores

Every year, more than 400,000 new books find their way into print. What those who venture into the self-publishing arena are learning very quickly is that it is even harder to get your book on the shelf of  the few remaining large bookstore chains.
If a buyer at a major bookstore takes the time to look at your labor of love, he will ask: Who is going to buy this book? If he believes your book has a good shot in the marketplace, he will get into the details of where it might sell best and how many he might take a risk on.
So what can you do to improve your chances of being selected and improve the buyer’s chances of having backed a winner?
Before you get too far along into your new publishing venture, take the time to create a marketing plan for your book. Pay attention to the following:

1. Who Is the Target Audience for the Book?

What other books have succeeded/failed in your genre? What can you learn from the successes/failures of the other books? Know your target audience intimately.

2. Timing of Your Book’s Release

Is there a national or global event that could make your book launch more timely? Is there a certain month, season or holiday that offers a platform for your book release? 
Go into the bookstores in which you want your books sold and look at the books displayed during the year. Figure out where your book would fit in the product mix. In other words, understand the selling strategy of retailers you hope to do business with someday.

3. Promotion Hooks 

There will be hundreds of thousands of books competing for the same shelf space as yours. What are the angles that give your book an edge? 
Look at articles that have been written about books like yours. Identify journalists or bloggers that you feel will connect with your book. Then write up six or seven stories about your book or the making of your book that you think will be of interest to those writers. Being equipped with story ideas of your own may well inspire more and better articles.

4. Design of Your Book

I once worked for a very successful publishing mogul who never read a book in his life. He didn’t believe in PR or promotion either. All he cared about was what was on the cover. As much as I hated his lack of attention to the content, he taught me a lesson I have never forgotten: A cover can make or break a book.
I read a study once that showed it takes browsers 10 to 20 seconds on average to decide whether to purchase or re-shelve a book. That’s not a lot of time to grab a reader’s attention. Bottom line: You will never regret the time you invested designing your book and its cover.

5. What’s the Sell? 

The biggest difference between publishing and self-publishing is that the job of selling the book becomes the author’s job. And why not? No one’s voice is more passionate and inspiring than yours when it comes to your book. You dreamt it. You nurtured it. Now it’s time to sell it to the world. 
Imagine you are going into a sales meeting. Create a PowerPointTM presentation of no more than five or six pages that can be attached as a PDF to an e-mail. Your presentation should highlight the key selling points of your book in a powerful and memorable way. People have less time than ever these days, so make your points clearly and quickly. Practice your presentation until you can perform it perfectly.

6. Getting to the Buyer

There are a number of ways to identify the actual buyers for your book, either through the Internet or via the marketing department in your self-publishing houses. It’s important to start with a retail test market. Select bookstores in your neighborhood which you know friends and family will support. 
Once you have some sales, and hopefully re-orders, under your belt, you can start to build and expand your retail penetration further.
If you give serious consideration to the above process, I believe it will help you a great deal in laying the groundwork for a successful promotion and selling campaign.

Good Luck!

By C.M. Rubin, author of The Real Alice in Wonderland

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