Small Markets Add Up to Large Profits
Some people looked at Goliath and thought he was too big to hit. David looked at him and thought he was too big to miss. You might look at the non-bookstore market for books and think, “Is that market big enough to approach, or is it too big?” The answer is yes. A special-sales market of $14 - $16 billion is too big to pass up, but it is too big a market in which to compete profitably -- if you look at it as one goliath market.
The essence of special-sales marketing is the concept of segmentation, the act of breaking the mass market down into smaller pieces, each more relevant to your particular title. The total non-bookstore market is actually made up of hundreds of “mini-markets,” each with varying degrees of suitability for your title. These could be defined in a variety of ways.
Perhaps the most popular means of dividing a market is by quantifiable, demographic characteristics such as age, income or gender. For example, consider the market for selling job-search books to unemployed people. Not everyone in that total market has the same career needs, skills or aspirations. There are college students seeking their first position. There are 50+ year-old people with families and greater financial obligations. Women, minorities, blue-collar workers and Hispanic people all have different needs, require different information and may look for job-search assistance in diverse places. A title describing the basic functions of how to get a job could – and should -- be marketed differently to each segment.
You might segment your titles by the time of year. Graduating college seniors represent an annual source of recurring revenue regardless of the economic conditions that might impact your sales to the general public. Marketing titles during specific celebratory periods could be included here. For example, September is Read-A-New Book Month and June is National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Month.
The title Skiing in
Another form of segmentation was described in the article, It’s About Timing, published in the April 2006 issue of The Independent. Categorizing customers as first-time buyers, or those who purchase frequently or in large quantities enhances customer dialogue and repeat sales. This permits reaching prospective buyers with the appropriate message at the right time.
Segmentation also applies to your marketing actions, too. You might seek a review of your novel on the Fantastic fiction website (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/), your recently published books in education at http://edrev.asu.edu/index.html or your technical book on the Computer and Technical Book Reviews website (http://victoria.tc.ca/int-grps/books/techrev/mnbk.htm) instead of submitting them to the New York Times Book Review. For a directory of book reviews on the Web go to http://acqweb.library.vanderbilt.edu/bookrev.html
Award competitions are also segmented. The Publishing Marketing Association’s (PMA’s) Ben Franklin Awards competition has many different categories for fiction and non-fiction titles. You may also enter your science fiction book for The Nebula Award (http://www.awardweb.info), or your mystery for the Dagger Award presented by the Crime Writers Association or the Edgar Awards presented by the Mystery Writers of America (http://www.mysterynet.com/edgars/). For al listing of over 200 literary awards, go to http://www.literature-awards.com/bookawards.htm .
Segmentation by Profit Potential
Segmentation by potential profit points to an alternative marketing strategy. Assume your book is priced at $15. You would have to sell 1000 books to airport stores (where returns are possible), through a wholesaler taking a 60% discount in order to net $6000. On the other hand, you would net the same amount by selling only 400 of the same title at list price following your personal presentations.
Segmentation helps you market your book where interested, prospective buyers congregate in special markets. This may save you from wasting time, effort and money – all valuable commodities to the independent publisher. To visualize this concept, draw a large circle, representing the total non-bookstore market for your book. Inside that circle draw other circles for each of the markets segments in which you could compete. The size of each should depict the relative opportunity for that segment (the larger the circle the greater its potential for sales).
The circles below depict the special-sales opportunities for a title suited to children. By varying the size of the segments, this publisher feels there is a greater likelihood of selling more books to schools than to toy stores or airport stores. This also serves as a means for prioritizing your marketing strategies. This publisher will probably spend more time marketing to schools, mom’s groups, daycare centers and government agencies than to the other segments. It also points out the need to find wholesalers to help you reach children’s libraries and hospitals.
You may ask, “Why go through all this?” As a general statement, it will help make your marketing actions more effective, efficient and profitable. It helps you target your promotional copy to the needs of the buyers. For example, buyers in government agencies will purchase your books for reasons different from those at a children’s library or airport store. This gives you more control over your business in the following ways:
Pricing control. A strategy of pricing your titles based upon the value they offer the customer can be more profitable. It also yields more pricing flexibility and leeway to offer price incentives, discounts, two-for-ones or coupons.
Product control. In special-sales marketing you are not necessarily selling books, you are selling the intangible content of your books. Buyers are concerned with the relevancy of your content to the solution of their problems. The format in which it is delivered, while relevant, is not mandated as a book.
Promotion control. Each segment may demand its own promotional approach with a different mix of publicity, advertising, sales promotion, direct mail and personal selling.
Distribution Control. In non-bookstore marketing you can devise your own sales channels to various segments. You might sell your business books through airline magazines or associations; your book about dogs, in Petco; or your book about car safety to driver-training companies. You might choose to sell your romance novel in supermarkets, negotiate with Godiva Chocolate Company to use it as a premium, or have cruise ships and limousine services purchase it as a gift for their passengers.
The bottom line is an improved bottom line, since these benefits translate into greater profitability for your business. So take some time to identify individual market segments that may be particularly receptive to your product category. Your marketing actions will be more on target, and the special-sales market will be too big to miss.
Brian Jud is the host of the Book Marketing Weekly™
teleseminars, co-host of the Masters of Book Marketing™ series of
seminars and author of Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers Weekly
book) and The Marketing Planning CD-ROM describing new ways to sell more
books profitably to special-sales buyers. He is also the author of the new
series of printed booklets published by R. R. Bowker with Proven Tips for
Publishing Success. Brian is editor of the Book Marketing Matters
special-sales newsletter, and creator of the Special-Sales Profit Center
used by R. R. Bowker to sell other publishers’ books to special markets.
Contact Brian at