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Map Your Course to Greater Profits

Map Your Course to Greater Profits

By Brian Jud

Independent publishers can become more profitable more quickly by marketing their titles to non-bookstore markets. These sales are usually non-returnable, are paid in 30 days and require smaller discounts. The questions is, "Where do I find these markets?"

A system called market mapping will help you do this. It is a two-step process that helps you discover these lucrative, nontraditional markets. The first step is to discover the new markets and the second step is to map how you are going to market to them.

Conducting a market-mapping session can be as much fun as it is productive, and is best performed in a group of two or more people. Begin by asking and answering questions among yourselves and recording your answers. Four rules will help your creative sessions become more productive.

1) Ask questions properly. Do not say, "Where else can we sell this title?" The first response may answer the question but it might not be the best answer. Instead, ask, "In how many ways can we..." thereby generating additional possibilities. You can always eliminate impractical ideas later.

2) Stimulate as many responses as possible. Think quantity, not quality at this point. Do not judge any idea at the time it is offered, so people feel free to contribute. This also encourages far-fetched responses, many of which will not be practical. However, an implausible idea may lead to a more realistic one.

3) Create a graphic marketing plan. Use a flip chart, chalkboard or some other means of recording all the responses that is visible to everyone.

4) Discard unusable ideas at the end of the session. Once the idea-generating portion of the meeting is finished, go back and decide which of the responses is not applicable at this time.

Step One

Begin your market-mapping session by trying to think of all the possible markets in which a particular title could be sold. The key word is could. Do not limit your thinking to markets in which you traditionally sell books. Given no restrictions, how many different people could be interested in this title? You might come up with a chart that looks similar to that below.

 

Instead of writing the word bookstores in one circle, write the word retail. This is a larger niche in which bookstores compose only one segment. Given this broader definition, you might add new categories including gift stores, mass-merchandise clubs and specialty shops related to the title. For instance, a book about golfing might be sold through pro shops. A book on bicycling could be sold in country inns, an art book in craft stores and a book about dinosaurs in museums. Continue thinking of other retail venues. Could your title sell through book clubs or catalogs? What about home-shopping networks, public television or the Internet?

Make a category for special sales. Businesses use books as premiums, gifts for clients and incentives for salespeople. and foundations might consider your title as a candidate for an educational fund raiser. Perhaps it could be sold to organizations or associations. What about sales to federal, state or local government agencies? Is it suitable for translation into other languages?

Always consider selling directly to consumers. This could be done in conjunctions with personal presentations or media appearances. You may have your own web site or be able to link with others. Direct mail is always a possibility, particularly with nonfiction titles.

The academic category leads to many subsets. Could your title be sold to elementary schools? What about high schools, colleges, special-education or vocational schools? If you think it might sell to colleges, draw a line from the circle and write the word Colleges on it. Then think of all the places in which you could sell this title at colleges. For instance, most have their own bookstores and libraries. Could it be sold as a text or reference book? If it is sold as a textbook, is a teacher's manual required? Apply this thinking to each category until its map looks like this:

Have fun. Be creative and outlandish. Once you discover a market, dig deeper to find ways to develop it more fully. You will be surprised at the opportunities you uncover. Once you feel you have listed as many choices as possible, begin to apply judgment and eliminate those in which you have neither the desire nor the means to exploit.

Step Two

Once you decide where you are going to sell your books, it is time to map how you are going to market them. Using the same rules and techniques you employed in step one, investigate possible forms the product could take and how it will be priced, distributed and promoted.

 

1. Product development. There are many forms in which the information in your book could be disseminated. Could you publish the same information in a booklet, an audio series or video program? Would a CD or software package meet the needs of this particular market more effectively and efficiently than a book? Or could you bundle one or more of these in a package including a book?

If you decide a book is the best way to reach this market, there are still many decisions to be made if it has not yet been published. For example, what about the binding? If you expect to sell directly to consumers while conducting seminars or workshops, a spiral-bound book might excel. Perhaps a saddle-stitched booklet might suffice. Obviously these bindings would not go over well with bookstore buyers.

2. Distribution. There are three general distribution channels available to you: indirect, direct and a combination of the two. Indirect distribution uses one or more companies to help you bring your books to the ultimate readers. These could be distributors, wholesalers, bookstores, sales representatives or book clubs, and they perform one or more functions that make it easier for you to distribute your books. However, the exact a fee for their services that could approach 70%.

Direct distribution is the process of marketing your books directly to the consumers. This is accomplished through direct mail, direct-response advertising, via the Internet or during personal presentations. You may choose to fulfill the orders yourself or use a fulfillment service.

A combination of indirect and direct distribution may be appropriate. For example, a fiction title may be sold via the traditional distributor wholesaler retailer channel. It could also be sold through wholesalers to libraries, or to the general public through your web site, media appearances, personal presentations and booksignings.

3. Pricing. There are many theories on how to best price your products. The major factor influencing your retail price is the distribution system you choose. If you utilize an indirect distribution network, your retail price must cover their discounts, your production and administrative costs and yield a reasonable profit.

Pricing is affected by your promotion plans, too. For instance, there are promotional-pricing techniques to consider, such as dollar-off coupons. These could be distributed via direct mail, your website, at trade shows or even printed in your books to be applied to other, similar titles in your product line.

5) Promotion. There are virtually thousands of ways in which you could promote your titles, limited only by your budget and your imagination. Direct your thinking to the most practical opportunities by categorizing promotion into four general areas: sales promotion, publicity, advertising and personal selling.

A) Sales promotion includes useful items that serve as a constant, favorable reminder of your company and title. Typical examples are bookmarks, giveaways (key chains, pens, etc.), brochures, games, point-of-purchase displays and coupons for generating awareness and stimulating demand through short-term price campaigns.

Sales promotion techniques can be adapted to a variety of marketing objectives and can easily be tied in with other promotional tools. Conversely, they usually have short-term impact, overuse of price-related offers may hurt your profits and competitors can easily copy effective promotions. Think strategically while creating sales-promotional items, and plan ways in which they can augment other marketing strategies. For instance, if your objective is to introduce a new title you might consider sampling (a sample chapter on your web site) couponing, bundling with another proven item or offering a money-back guarantee to consumers. If your objective is to encourage repurchase you might consider bonus packs, contests, sweepstakes, coupons good on the next purchase or multiple-proof free premiums.

B) Publicity is perhaps the most economical element of the promotional mix. It increases awareness and credibility through a third-party testimonial. On the other hand, you have no control over what is printed in a review or article about your book.

Most publishers define publicity as press releases and reviews. While these are important pieces of publicity, there is more to it. Good publicity positions your firm and titles appropriately. It creates positive awareness, informs, instructs, announces and corrects a mistaken perception. This can be accomplished through the use of endorsements, letters to the editor, backgrounders, case histories, newsletters, bill stuffers and all the elements of effective brandstanding.

C) Advertising can reach many consumers simultaneously with the same message, with a relatively low cost per exposure. It can increase awareness of your titles and educate people about the benefits of buying them. In general, the return on your advertising expenditure is not immediate. One ad will not pay for itself, since the benefits of advertising accrue over time as readers are reminded repeatedly about your titles.

There are different types of advertising to consider. Awareness advertising alerts consumers that your title is available and directs them to bookstores to purchase it. Direct-response advertising provides a means to purchase your books directly. Cooperative advertising can reduce your costs, but it usually reduces your exposure, too. For example, you may participate with other publishers, advertising your titles in a special insert in Publishers Weekly. While this is less expensive than advertising on your own, your title may be lost among all the others.

Also included in this category is direct mail. This is a highly targeted form of advertising and is most efficient when you choose the right list, create compelling copy and mail your letters at the proper time.

Advertising can be a strategic, supportive part of your promotional mix if it is implemented properly. The headline must be provocative and the layout attractive. Each promotional piece must be written with the needs of potential customers in mind, informing and reminding them of the benefits your title offers. Remember to create copy that is applicable for each target market to which you are communicating. Librarians, bookstore buyers, distributors and ultimate readers all buy a book for different reasons.

D) Personal selling occurs during person-to-person interaction. It is a persuasive selling tool because it allows two-way communication, giving you the ability to answer questions, overcome objections and close the sale at the same meeting. The major disadvantage is its high cost per contact.

Personal selling does not necessarily mean that you go out and call individually on all the retail outlets in the country. It means that you set yourself up to have some personal contact with prospective buyers. This could occur at trade shows and booksignings, during media events, through personal presentations, networking at BEA or other association meetings and by participating in an online discussion group. Use your market-mapping sessions to think about how each of these may or may not become part of your strategic plan for each market segment.

Use all these examples to stimulate your market mapping sessions and you will find them to be an enjoyable yet strategic way to kindle your creativity and plan your marketing efforts for each of your titles. At the end of each session you will have flip chart pages full of circles and lines that define the markets in which you will participate and the ways you will distribute, price and promote your products in each. You can use this information to write your formal marketing plan, but keep the visuals posted as a reminder of actions you can take every day to increase your sales and profitability.