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Posts Tagged ‘book distribution’

Are your branding and marketing message cohesive?

A client recently forwarded me information about a relatively new book distribution company he was thinking about checking out. I did a cursory scan of the website and noticed an odd thing right off the bat: its use of this decorative font that, while pretty, is very difficult to read.

Coupled with the busy picture backdrop and the text that gets lost in that picture, it makes for a pretty unsuccessful sales page. That seems to be a preferred headline font throughout the site. Red Flag No. 1.

With that, I send this response to my client:

This may sound really peculiar, but I would doubt this company’s ability to deliver, just based on that crazy font they used for their headlines. It may be pretty, but it’s really difficult to read, which means it’s impractical. If that’s the choice for their own marketing, it causes me to question the rest of their planning and strategies.

That was when I decided to write this post. But first, I went back and delved a little deeper into IndieReader.

Among other things, it offers a service that promises to get books “in front of [as many as] 37,000 industry professionals.” Yes – that’s what that tiny line in the super curly fancy font says. No word on who the professionals are. Truly, the gal who answers the phone or the intern who reads the slush pile could be classified as an industry professional. Red Flag No. 2.

The third line on their service description page smartly plays to the author’s ego: Sure your friend may have downloaded the Kindle version of your book, but you know what you really want is to see your book in bookstores!

If you know anything about what it takes to get into a bookstore, one of your first questions should be about the return policy. When you sell books to a bookstore, they are essentially bought on consignment. That is, most bookstores require authors to accept the return of unsold books – meaning the authors have to buy them back from the store. Imagine how careful you’d be when sending your books off to the store – or how nicely they’d be packaged if they were being drop-shipped straight from the printer. The idea being that they’d arrive in pristine shape, ready to go on the shelf.

Now imagine a $10/hour college student pulling your unsold books off the same shelf – assuming they ever actually made it onto the shelf in the first place – and throwing them, willy-nilly, into a box that gets shipped back to you. Covers bent, pages torn – do they care? Not a whit. This is what is often involved in agreeing to a store’s return policy.

But when I clicked the link to See IR In-Store FAQs to learn more about how IndieReader deals with stores’ return policies, I was greeted with the following 404 error screen. Red Flag No. 3.

Now I don’t know anything more about this company than what I’ve written here. But based on what I’ve seen, I would not advise my client – or anyone, for that matter – to use them. At least not without a huge amount of due diligence, including insisting on talking to a half-dozen of their previous clients.

Most people think of branding as a logo – but it goes much further than that. Branding does involve your logo, but it also involves your tagline, your color scheme, the look and feel of your website, blog, social media, and marketing collateral. And most importantly, it is comprised of your promised deliverables – and then how you execute on that promise.

Are your branding decisions cohesive? Are they communicating the message you want them to convey to your readers, fans, visitors, and prospective buyers? If you’re known for writing paranormal thrillers today, but you direct people to an old website designed to sell your erotic poetry, they won’t stick around long enough to dig through and find the new books. If you’re promising to deliver excellent info about helping folks overcome addictions, you need to make sure nothing in your branding gives prospective readers/clients a reason to doubt you.

Whatever you’re writing, make sure that all of your marketing materials – both on- and offline – are coherent and represent you as well as possible.

Happy marketing!

Laura

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A LESSON for authors from a trip to the HEALTH FOOD store

The other day I found myself in a local health food store, doing some recon on a potential (non-publishing) client. This vitamin/supplement company is looking for help to refine their brand and marketing message, so I went to the store to see what I could find out about them by the way their products were stocked and displayed. Come to find out, of the dozen+ products the company makes, this store carried only 3 of them – and I had to remind the store manager that one of the 3 was this company’s product. Whew – we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us!

I was fortunate to get a few minutes with the store manager, who reminded me of a few things I want to pass on to you, my fellow SBMs*, because they are quite easily translatable to your books.

  1. A phone call isn’t going to do it. In order to jump the huge hurdle of getting your book into a reputable INDIE shop, you (or someone acting as your rep) have to go to that shop and build a one-on-one relationship. “I get as many as 3 dozen calls a week, asking me if they can send samples or e-mail me a brochure,” Christine, the health food store manager, told me. “They almost never make it to the shelves.”
  2. Customer requests significantly influence the store’s decision to stock a product. If no one ever asks for your book, a bookstore has no incentive to give up valuable shelf space for it. On the other hand, if people regularly call to request your book – and/or go to that shop to purchase it – the store now has a reason to make sure they keep copies on their shelves.
  3. In-store demos are a huge boon for many products. Translate “in-store demos” to “book signings.” Sure, some bookstores charge for that book signing, just as this store charges for the supplement company to set up a table, but if you do it at a high-volume time and promote your visit beforehand, you can attract additional interest in your book.
  4. Use the store’s existing marketing channels. This particular store runs a M-F radio show on a local station; suppliers can purchase commercials or pay to be featured guests on the show. What a great credibility builder! Most indie bookstores have a newsletter – see about getting your signing (or even an ad or review for your book) into their newsletter.
  5. Show good faith by marketing the store as part of your own promotions. How happy would that indie bookshop be to have you put a note at the bottom of each article, blog post, FB announcement, or ad that says, “Available at XYZ Indie Bookstore”? If you promote them, they’re going to be a lot more willing to extend the reciprocal favor to you.

Bookstore sales aren’t for everyone. It takes a LOT of work for an indie publisher to get in, even to an indie bookstore. The Passive Voice blog shares these points about two indie books that succeeded in an indie bookshop:

  • The books were actually good.
  • Both authors were relentless at getting excellent press about their books. They didn’t just get press once, they got it repeatedly.
  • The authors were good about checking in about stock levels. Self-published authors can get a little overly aggressive about checking stock, but with these two books at the holidays, it was enormously helpful.
  • Both authors were very meticulous about record-keeping.

And it is the RAREST of indie authors who make the jump to the last big chain, B&N. However, Barnes & Noble does offer the following tips for getting into their distribution channels:

  1. Does your book have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN)?
  2. Does your book have a bar code?
  3. What sort of binding (saddle stitch, staple, perfect, plastic comb, ring) does your book have?
  4. Is your book available through a wholesaler?
  5. Is your book priced competitively with other titles of a similar topic and quality?
  6. Has your book met compliance certification?
  7. Why should Barnes & Noble place your title on its shelves?
  8. Where can you find more information on the topic of book writing, publishing, and marketing?

While it’s no longer a requirement that your book be in bookstores to sell lots of copies, it is possible for a small/self-published/indie author to succeed in brick-and-mortar shops. If you want to get your book into bookstores, make sure you do your research first. Cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s. Follow the store’s protocol. Whenever possible, walk in and talk to the purchasing manager. Follow up diligently and keep good records.

Remember, your attitude and focus will go a long way toward influencing your success. If you believe you can do it, you will.

Happy promoting!

Laura

*Savvy Book Marketer

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