Should You Redefine Your Business Model?
Based on my 25 years as a participant in, and consultant to, the publishing industry, I estimate that more than 90% of independent publishers seek sales only through retail buyers (primarily bookstores), both bricks and clicks. If you are in that category, you are significantly reducing your ability to reach and sustain profitable growth.
But what can you do? Look for sales in a larger, more profitable arena - non-retail markets. Examples are buyers in corporations, associations, schools and the military. Re-allocate your publishing company's resources by focusing on buyers who will purchase your books not for resale, but to give away. Create a new business model to focus on this untapped opportunity, and there are several from which to choose.
1. Dual distribution. Selling only through retail stores is not necessarily bad, just limiting. It should not be your sole source of revenue. Seek additional sales to non-retail buyers who could use your content by purchasing your books in large, non-returnable quantities.
2. Low cost. Non-retail buyers are looking for promotional items that will help them reach their company's (or association's or school's) objectives, yet be within their budgets. In this model your emphasis is driving down your unit costs - without sacrificing quality - so you can compete against coffee mugs, thermos bottles and similar items. You could do this by printing in larger quantities, eliminating unnecessary embossing or other frills, or publishing books in a more economical size.
3. High price. There are times when you might choose to be the high-priced entrant in your category. But there are other reasons, including creating an image of high quality, publishing content that is quickly outdated with short-term profit potential, marketing through a relatively complex distribution channel, experiencing high unit costs, seeking selective market coverage with a goal of attaining a small share, and if your book is in a declining market or life-cycle stage.
3. Customization. Instead of selling only printed books, you might produce content in the form desired by your prospect. This might be an ebook, a booklet, a DVD, an audio book or even through personal presentations.
4. International sales. You could seek additional revenue from sales outside our borders. This could be through selling the foreign rights to your books, having your content translated into other languages or entering into other cooperative arrangements. In this case you might restructure your business to have a separate unit for international sales.
5. Vertical integration. There is no formal distribution channel that reaches most non-retail buyers. However, there are thousands of independent sales people who call on them. Find groups or individuals to represent your books to corporate buyers. Or, you can sell directly to them.
6. Sales in vertical markets. If your content is suited for a particular industry (banking, pharmaceutical, healthcare), focus on building relationships in it. Here your objective is to becoming knowledgeable about their industry and businesses, and creating long-term relationships with buyers. Attend their trade shows and read their magazines, becoming conversant with their terminology.
7. Sales horizontally. If your content is suited for a particular function across industry lines (health, motivation, profitability, communication) organize your business around selling to prospects who might be Human Resources Managers, Marketing Managers, Safety Directors, teachers or Executive Directors of Associations.
You may have multiple prospective customers or markets. If so, organize your business to focus on the needs of your primary customers and seek experts in other areas to extend your reach without extending your resources.
The key question is to ask yourself, "Does my current way of running my business optimize my revenue opportunities?" If the answer is no, look into other ways to generate more profitable sales. This does not mean abandoning that with which you are familiar, but re-organizing to create a new dimension for long-term growth.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS - www.bookapss.org - formerly SPAN). He is also the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books. Brian offers commission-based sales of books to buyers in non-bookstore markets. Contact Brian at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; (860) 675-1344; firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com twitter.com/bookmarketing
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."