WHAT WRITERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARKETING Pt 1. (By Jerry D. Simmons)
Copyright 2015 Jerry D. Simmons & WritersReaders.com
The Insiders Guide to Publishing
WHAT WRITERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARKETING
Three forces driving the book-selling market.
Marketing is critical to the sale of your book and can be your key to becoming a successful author. Whether you’re self-published, with a small press, or under contract with a big New York publisher, marketing to the reading public is competitive. If you don’t learn how to market and make decisions about marketing, you’re limiting your chances of being successful. Your book is the accumulation of years of hard work that’s finally being packaged and offered for sale to the consumer. It’s crucial you understand your competition and how you can improve your chances of selling copies. The most talented writers in the world won’t be successful unless the marketing for their book is focused to a specific, targeted market.
This eBook gives you an inside look into the business of big publishers and explains how they market books. With this inside look, you’ll learn the areas where you can influence the book publishing and marketing business—from publisher to bookseller to reader—to your advantage.
When you begin developing your marketing plan, you need to consider three forces driving today’s book-selling market: (1) guaranteed sales, (2) bookseller real estate, and (3) over-distribution. Despite the fact that what really determines a book’s success or failure hinges on the consumer—the reading public—these three forces guide, if not dominate, marketing strategies and outcomes within the book-publishing context.
(1) Guaranteed sales. Publishers “guarantee” the sale of their books to booksellers. In other words, publishers guarantee their customers (whether they’re a retailer, wholesaler, jobber, or distributor) that the books they buy can be returned for full credit if they don’t sell within a specified time period.
What this means to you. For authors, it’s important that their publishers sell the right number of copies to the right assortment of booksellers so these returned books are minimized (or the end sale is maximized). It may seem obvious that a “net sale” at retail is what a book needs to be successful. What’s less obvious is what that means. This net sale is called sell-through or percent of sale and represents the number of copies sold at retail compared to the number printed, shipped, or distributed to the bookseller. For example, suppose the publisher ships 10,000 copies of your book to a big retailer. The retailer sells 6,000 copies and returns 4,000. That’s a 60% sell-through, and that’s what you want. Any new title selling less than 60% over the course of a few weeks, and in some cases even a few days, will be returned to the publisher.
Booksellers want books that sell through at a minimum of 60% and so do the publishers. A higher sell-through percent means lower handling costs for booksellers and quicker inventory turnover, which both result in better and faster cash flow. Retailers can’t afford to allow books to sit on their shelves unsold. An unsold book means retailers must find other titles that will sell so they can maximize their return on investment. The less time their employees spend dealing with returns, more time is available to spend with customers (like the reading public) and re-order titles selling through at a higher percentage, which increases the retailers’ overall sales.
(2) Bookseller real estate. When you walk into any retail bookseller, you’ll notice attractive floor and table displays where books are nicely stacked with scores of various titles. None of this is random. When browsing shelves, you’ll notice that some books are placed face out and others spine out. This isn’t by chance. All of these displays are designed to catch the consumers’ eye and direct them to certain titles or categories. Welcome to book merchandising, where virtually every inch of the retailer’s store is considered real estate that it essentially rents to publishers for big bucks.
Publishers pay dearly for the right to place their titles in those floor displays, on those tabletops, and in those shelf displays. Depending on the time of year and the type of promotion in which publishers want to participate, retailers charge a premium. So the next time you visit your local book retailer, the titles you see first and in the largest displays are occupying space bought and paid for.
What this means to you. This is where and how the major publishers dominate the marketplace. They pay prices that most small publishers can’t afford, regardless of a book’s potential strength or an author’s reputation. As a self-published author, for example, you should review the sample marketing plans at the end of this book to help you determine when and whether you want to supply your local bookseller with a display.
(3) Over-distribution. The focus of all publishers and the goal of their entire marketing effort is to generate revenue by increased billing. Here’s what happens. First, publishers over-ship, which means shipping more copies into the marketplace than it can reasonably absorb and sell. Publishers do this by selling and shipping as many copies of their seasonal publication list to as many booksellers as they possibly can. Result: Too many unsold books. This creates over-distribution. It’s the model for all publishers in today’s environment.
What it means to you. If you sense that over-distribution doesn’t make business sense, don’t worry. The key is that you understand the single biggest problem with publishing today. This over-sold, over-distribution problem is prevalent throughout the industry and won’t be going away anytime soon. The guaranteed sale and bookseller real estate forces driving the publishing industry aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, either. That’s why it’s crucial for writers to understand that the publishing/bookselling market is dominated by these three driving forces.