You are familiar with the process of selling books through bookstores, bricks and clicks. But there is another way to sell books, and it could be more profitable for you. That is special-sales marketing — also called non-bookstore marketing or non-traditional marketing. It is the process of selling books to buyers other than through bookstores.
Special-sales marketing is divided into two areas: retail and non-retail. Examples of special retail markets are discount stores, warehouse clubs, airport stores, gift shops, supermarkets, etc. Non-retail opportunities may be found among buyers in corporations, associations, schools, and the military.
Regardless of what you call it, selling books to non-bookstore buyers is not only a different way of doing business, it is a new way of doing business. It requires a new perspective on the sales process, a new business model for most publishers. In many cases the chain of events unfolds differently from that of selling books through bookstores.
For example, in trade marketing the publisher produces a book, prices it, creates bookstore distribution and then promotes it. That is a logical sequence of events for that purpose. Sales are pulled through the distribution network, and the quantity of books sold is a function of the quantity and quality of the author’s promotion.
But in non-retail marketing the author/publisher must follow a different course. The process begins with promotion to establish awareness of, and need for the content that is offered. Since there is no distributor, the author/publisher finds and makes sales calls on prospective buyers, discusses the content of the book, plans the form in which the content will be delivered (book, booklet, ebook), decides on the number of units to be purchased, and only then negotiates the price and delivery. The quantity of books sold is a function of the ability of the author to act as a consultant, working with one buyer to find unique ways to use the content of the book to solve a company’s problem.
Special-sales marketing is not instead of, but parallel to bookstore marketing. For example, What if you had a book on dog care. You could sell it through bookstores or pet shops. In addition, you could contact a pet-food producer and get them to place a coupon for a free copy of your book on (or in) every 20-pound bag of their dog food. That company would purchase a large, non-returnable quantity of your books in advance, and also do the fulfillment.
In the example above, the promotion you do to communicate your message to the corporate buyer also reaches consumers and may entice them to go to a bookstore. This is not an either/or proposition. It is not separate from, but coincidental to trade marketing.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS) and the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books.