DIRECT SALES: Never Mind the Big Etailers?
While no publisher can realistically abstain from the online retail behemoths when it comes to book selling, there is no reason why selling directly to consumers cannot be a viable option, especially if publishers work to build relationships with readers. In the tips below from five different publishers on how they have found success with direct selling, certain themes recur: building trust with readers, smart audience targeting and cultivating an overarching brand sensibility.
Chief Operating Officer
Since its beginnings as a bookshop in Berkeley, Calif., some 40 years ago, Shambhala has built a loyal following of readers who trust the publisher to release quality books on spirituality, health and psychology.
Knowing the customer is about more than sales data. "Shambhala actually was a bookseller before it was a book publisher, so it both had a sense of who consumers were that were buying books, as well as what books consumers were willing to buy," Jacobs says. Targeted marketing efforts are based on actual buying patterns, he says, rather than surveys or other types of market research.
Put options in front of consumers. From the beginning, Shambhala put insert cards into each book sold, inviting customers to sign up for a catalogue mailing. "The mailing provided two benefits. It did sell books direct, and it was a very effective target marketing [vehicle]," Jacobs says, facilitating bookstore placements when subscribers would ask for titles at their local store. Seem old fashioned? Shambhala still publishes a successful print catalogue; they mailed 850,000 of them in 2011. "Catalogue advertising is the best targeted marketing to introduce a new book to audiences that might be interested," Jacobs says.
Shambhala also engages in extensive and successful email prospecting efforts. A digital version of the company's catalog allows readers to "look inside" books and add items directly to a shopping cart for easy purchase, as they would on Amazon.com. Shambhala has built an email list of more than 200,000 addresses. "Everyone on our list gets at least one email a week," Jacobs says.