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Special Sales: The Buck Starts Here

Brian Jud


The term special sales is commonly used to describe revenue opportunities outside of bookstores. Tales of corporations buying hundreds of thousands of books whet our appetites and generate visions of grandeur. However, after spending fruitless months or years contacting corporations, most independent publishers learn that these visions can be mirages.


This doesn’t have to be so. Non-bookstore marketing is made easier if you view it as consisting of three segments. The first is Special Distribution. This utilizes a network of distributors and wholesalers similar to that serving the bookstores. Second is the Commercial Sales sector encompassing sales to corporations and others using books as sales-promotional devices. And third are Niche Markets, comprised of groups of people sharing an identifiable need for the information in your book.


1. Special Distribution is similar to the way most independent publishers currently market books, i.e., distribution partner Ž retailer Ž consumer. Examples of this network are having Advanced Marketing Services sell your book to warehouse-buying clubs, or Anderson Merchandisers reselling to Wal-Mart or Baker & Taylor to libraries.


Advanced Marketing Services is a leading distributor of general interest, computer and business books and books on tape to the membership warehouse club industry and other specialty retailers.

5880 Oberlin Drive, #400, San Diego, CA  92122-9653; (858) 457-2500, Fax (858) 452-2167


Anderson Merchandisers, 421 East 34th Street, Amarillo, TX  79103; Contact Ms. Debra McKirdy; Book Purchasing Department at (806) 376-6251, x4489


Baker & Taylor is the largest library wholesaler. Contact Sally Neher, Director, Publisher Relations;, 908 541-7460; P. O. Box 6885; Bridgewater, NJ  08807-0885;


     Book clubs also fit in this category. Not only the major clubs, but the many niche clubs, too. These can offer increased revenue, credibility and exposure for appropriate titles. There are book clubs that focus on children, religion, foreign languages, teaching and more. Or, think of mail-order catalogs that can move large quantities of books. Catalogs can also be segmented demographically (for children, pet owners, lovers of individual sports, people of different religions), psychographically (health, New Age and alternative) and geographically. Examples include:


The Baby Catalog of America and The Baby Club of America 721 Campbell Avenue, West Haven, CT 06516-3711.Call 1-800-752-9736


Catalog for books on religion and spirituality: Ave Marie Press, 800-282-1865, P.O. Box 428 Notre Dame, IN 46556 Address submissions to the Editorial Coordinator: Karen Shannon


    There are other similarities to the traditional bookstore distribution channels, such as the fact that returns are common, the distributors’ discounts may reach 70%, and payment terms may exceed 90 days. On the other hand, the rewards of immediate national distribution can be significant. 


2. Commercial sales. Corporations, associations, foundations, government agencies and network-marketing organizations buy books directly from publishers for use as premiums, incentives, sales promotions or for educational purposes. They may also purchase books for resale. The factor differentiating this segment from special distribution is that you contact, negotiate with, ship directly to and bill the people representing these firms. There are no distributors to deal with, you bargain for the terms, returns are rare and payment is generally made in 30 days.


To target this segment, search online for the names of companies that might purchase your books. Locate prospects according to their NAICS code (formerly SIC code). For example, if you had a book of interest to toy or hobby stores, you could download a list of prospective customers found in NAICS code 451120, and then contact each to use your book as a promotional item or instructional tool.


For a list of NAICS codes, go to If you searched NAICS code 411120, the top company is Toys "R" Us Inc., 461 From Rd., Paramus, New Jersey, 07652; Tel: (201) 262-7800, Fax: (201)845-0973; Warren F. Kornblum - Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, James Feldt - Executive Vice President, Merchandising


For a source of people who buy books as premiums (and for agents selling them), contact Karen Renk at the Incentive Marketing Association,, 630-369-7780. The Incentive Show (, another source of premium companies, is held in the early Spring in New York every year.


Buyers for these organizations are generally aware of the value of books as sales-promotional tools, but the sales process still requires an understanding of successful selling techniques, numerous cold calls and the ability to accept rejection. The selling period is long – sometimes a year or more -- but the payback can be enormous when one customer buys tens of thousands of non-returnable books.


The Encyclopedia of Associations is a comprehensive source of 144,000 detailed entries for organizations all over the world including 23,000 U.S. national associations, 19,000 international associations, and 112,000 U.S. regional, state and local associations. It will provide you with a list of prospects to contact about using your book as a fundraising item (1-800-347-GALE, E-mail: 


3. Niche marketing entails selling to defined groups of people that share a need for the information in your book. For example, you could sell your book about healthy eating to beauty shops, doctors’ offices, fitness centers and stores that sell clothing, cookware, gourmet foods, groceries and health foods. A children’s book could be sold to daycare centers, toy stores, pediatricians’ offices and children’s hospitals.


        Niche marketing results in relatively small orders from many customers. However, a key to profitability is to find clusters of prospective customers, such as a chain of daycare centers. In this case, you would reach the headquarters for KinderCare’s 1250 Learning Centers at 650 NE Holladay Street, Suite 1400, Portland, OR 97232; 800-633-1488


        Museums and national parks also constitute a lucrative market. If you want to find out the contact information for bookstores at many national parks, go to


If you are proficient at public speaking you could sell your books at the back of the room (or have other speakers sell your books) following a presentation, at full list price. For extensive listings containing information about experts, spokespersons and consultants in all fields, go to


The Internet also provides opportunities for niche sales, vastly reducing your time and expense per sales call. For instance, when selling your children’s book, you could contact online gift-registry agencies for babies to have them use your book as a gift item or premium ( ) and submit to  and online niche bookstores such as You could also offer your book as a sales-promotional item for companies that provide baby-shower services such as that found at Some sites may not sell books. Do not let that deter you. Seize that situation as an opportunity to have your title the first selected for their site.


Online bookstores are considered a traditional sales outlet, but independent publishers typically limit these sales to, or  In fact, there are many other niche stores online, some of which may serve your needs. Examples of these include,,,,  and  On each site, go to the “About Us” or “Contact Us” page for the means to contact the appropriate person.


Special sales for fiction

     Special-sales marketing is not just for non-fiction titles. There are many opportunities for fiction too. For example, if you are marketing mystery titles, search Deadly Serious Press whose primary product is the annual Deadly Directory, a comprehensive international listing of businesses, bookstores, awards, reviewers, publications, and organizations related to mystery, detective, and crime fiction. They also sell mailing labels with the Deadly Directory addresses, for use in direct mail book promotion. Search the Directory online at Similar sites exist for other fiction genres.


     Instead of being intimidated by the nebulous market of special sales, divide it into its three component parts. Then you can more easily find and contact hundreds, if not thousands of prospective customers for your titles. 


Brian Jud is an author, seminar leader, book-marketing consultant and creator of Book Market-Mapä directories for special sales. Contact Brian at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT  06001; (800) 562-4357; fax (203) 729-5335,,