Four Keys for Creating Successful Distribution to Retailers (Not Just Bookstores)
Every publisher wants to increase book sales through bookstores. However, sales through other retail outlets can also increase the volume and velocity of your revenue. These include discount stores, airport stores, supermarkets, gift shops, specialty stores, pharmacies and many others. Each of these segments has a pre-ordained distribution network, and you must work within that structure to get your book on the stores’ shelves.
Finding the proper distributor is not difficult, although you will have to work with different companies in various segments. But once you have distribution in place, will you be just another one of their clients, or will you make your titles stand out and be sold? Getting its representatives to actively sell your books instead of others requires special effort. Perform properly in four areas and you can increase the number and speed of your books moving through the pipeline.
1) Choose the best distribution partners
A successful distribution partnership is a two-way street. They must choose books that fit with their product line, competitive titles and retail customers. You must provide quality content, priced properly and supported by targeted and frequent promotion.
2) Utilize their expertise
Once you make the mutual decision to join forces, create a relationship. Ask their opinions about the cover design, page layout, pricing and your promotion plans. Listen to them and adapt your marketing strategies to reflect their experience. If you intend to sell your children’s book through supermarkets, should the cover look more like a box of kid’s cereal? Will the retailers discount your book heavily (as a warehouse club might do) or sell it at list price (such as in airport stores or museums). What are the best promotional techniques to reach each segment?
The channel members know retail distribution better than you do. But you know your content, unique buyers and competitors better than they do. Help them become more successful by educating them on what you know best.
- Describe your target audience. Define your prospective readers in objective terms such as age, income and education. It is not necessary to describe them as between the ages of 25–45 with income of $50,000 or more. While that is helpful, it may be more useful to define them in general terms.
- Describe potential buyers in subjective terms. If your book is about increasing wealth, readers may have a variety of objectives. You could sell it to a younger adult audience saving to buy a new home or saving money for their children’s college fund. Use a different appeal to empty nesters saving to buy a boat, a second home or an exotic vacation
- Describe your content. Consumers do not buy 320 perfect-bound pages of words. They purchase what the content of those pages does for them..
- Describe your competition. Some authors maintain the unlikely perception that they have no competition. Conduct a search on Amazon to find your top competitive titles and discover your book’s unique point of difference.
4) Target your promotion to each rung of the distribution ladder
The unique value you bring to the supply chain is defined and promoted differently at each level. Distributors want quality books that are supported with a creative and well-implemented marketing plan. Retailers want a product that will increase store traffic and move off the shelf quickly and profitably. Consumers want information that will help them in some way. Your job is to make each level aware of your book’s unique value and how it will help them.
Providing value does not require a huge investment. It is simply a matter of knowing what your distribution partners want and showing them how you can provide it. Provide your channel members with current, practical solutions to their problems, and that will elevate you from the mass of average suppliers to the level of trusted partner. Then watch your sales increase.
Brian Jud is an author, book-marketing consultant, seminar leader, television host and president of Premium Book Company, which sells books to non-bookstore buyers on a non-returnable, commission-only basis and conducts on-site training for publishers' sales forces.
Brian is the author of "How to Make Real Money Selling Books (Without Worrying About Returns)," a do-it-yourself guide to selling books to non-bookstore buyers in large quantities, with no returns. He has written many articles about book publishing and marketing, is the author of the eight e-booklets with "Proven Tips for Publishing Success," and creator of the series of "Book Marketing Wizards." He is also the editor of the bi-weekly newsletter, "Book Marketing Matters."
Brian is the host of the television series "The Book Authority" and has aired over 650 shows. In addition, he is the author, narrator and producer of the media-training video program "You're On The Air."