Think Inside "The Box"
An interesting article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, "As Big Boxes Shrink, They Also Rethink," described how the major discount stores and warehouse clubs are rethinking their business models and downsizing as people are buying more products online. Two examples are the Best Buy Mobile stores with a focus on smartphones, and the smaller stores that Wal-Mart is rolling out (40,000 square feet versus its 185,000-square-feet superstores).
There is an opportunity here for book publishers, and that is in the way in which you submit your books to them. Discount stores and warehouse clubs have three major criteria for selecting the products they will accept. They want products that will 1) attract more people to their stores, 2) stimulate maximum profitability per square foot, and 3) generate more frequent inventory turns.
How do you exploit this as an opportunity? When you submit your proposal to them, include a summary of your marketing plan that places heavy emphasis on how your authors' aggressive promotion activities will drive people to their stores.
Your plan should be 50 percent what you plan to do and 50 percent about what you have done. Describe the TV and radio shows you have scheduled for your authors, in addition to their personal presentations, publicity, library tours, trade shows, advertising, and include samples of your sales literature and your sales promotional items (for examples, see http://www.premiumbookcompany.com/shopcart/default.php). Prove that you have done something similar in the past and your plans will be more believable. Your previous actions give your statements credibility and demonstrate that you are an experienced marketer.
Pros and cons of selling to "the boxes"
Getting into the "big box" and club stores (Sam's, Costco, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, etc.) may or may not be a good idea for you. Independent publishers imagine quick, national celebrity as tens of thousands of their books fly off the shelves and tables of these outlets. However, there are several reasons why sales to this segment may not be the place to start your special-sales activities.
In order to sell tens of thousands of books in retail outlets, you first must get them in the stores. This means you have to arrange distribution (Levy or Anderson Merchandisers), then print tens of thousands of books. And, since they are returnable, a few chains require you to maintain an escrow in the amount of potential returns. Some require expensive product-liability insurance coverage. If buyers agree to put your book into a planogram for their stores, then you are expected to keep enough books in stock, ready to ship, during the promotion month(s). That can place significant pressure on your cash flow.
That is the bad news. The good news is that if you have a good book, an established platform and consistent publicity exposure, you can sell a lot of books through these outlets. They will not purchase your books if they do not think they can sell them.
You may be able to get some of the rewards without as much risk by starting locally. Go to your nearby stores and contact the department managers. Describe how the content of your book is appropriate for the stores' customers. Tell of your plans to create local publicity to build store traffic. Demonstrate your ability and willingness to conduct in-store events to further attract attention, store traffic and increased sales.
Sell your content to a warehouse club
There may be a side door to marketing to warehouse clubs, and that is to sell them your content. Let's say you published a cookbook and were unable to locate a distributor willing to carry it. Try this technique to get your recipes to consumers: Cooperate with the manufacturers of ingredients in your recipes, and get Costco to be your publisher.
This is not as far-fetched as it may first appear. Costco entered the publishing business by printing 100,000 copies of its cookbook, "Entertaining the Costco Way." Costco controlled every aspect of production, acting as publisher, distributor, packager and retailer. Manufacturers funded the production of the book, and in return for sponsor payments, products from those manufacturers were included in the recipes.
How to contact them
Wal-Mart. Send your proposal to Book Buyer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, 702 SW Eighth St., Bentonville, Arkansas 72716; Phone: (501) 273-4000, Fax: (501) 273-1917. Publishers are encouraged to contact local stores with regional titles. If you want to complete the process online, go to (https://retaillink.wal-mart.com/publicsite/product_submission/)
Target Corporation. Category buyers at Target are more "book friendly" than most discounters due to a corporate commitment to reading and learning. The mailing address is 777 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402; Phone: (612) 304-6073 http://www.targetcorp.com. The Partners Online web site http://www.partnersonline.com/web-app/pol/home/entryHome.jsp
Costco Wholesale Corporation. Costco carries books in its stores and on its website. The major categories are best sellers, non-fiction, juvenile, mystery & crime, health & fitness, reference, self improvement, relationships and cookbooks. Contact the Book Buyer, 999 Lake Drive, Issaquah, WA 98027
BJ's Wholesale Club. Submit your books and aggressive promotional plan to the Book Buyer at P.O. Box 9601, Natick, MA 01760; its website is http://www.bjs.com/.
Best Buy Co. has over 500 stores and buys books primarily from Levy Home Entertainment. The products sold through Best Buy stores attract more of a male than female audience. Corporate Headquarters is located at 7601 Penn Avenue South, Richfield MN 55423; Tel: 612-291-1000; http://www.bestbuy.com/.
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."