The New Way to Market Books

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The traditional path for selling books is changing. There are more books available to fewer readers every year. Bookstore shelves are crowded with undifferentiated books viewed as commodity items, and shoppers increasingly base their purchasing decisions on price. Yet prices are increasing, not because of greater value to the reader, but because of increased costs partially due to shorter print runs.

Unfortunately, publishers continue to produce more books to sell through bookstores even though competing in this environment is increasingly less profitable. However, there is a real opportunity to create new sales in uncontested market space among non-retail buyers in corporations, associations, schools and the military.

In this enormous segment demand is created, books become specialty items and sales can be more profitable. There is ample opportunity for growth that is both large and rapid for those who overcome outmoded boundaries. Here are three reasons most publishers do not exploit this opportunity.

1.      Traditional book marketing assumes that the structural conditions are a given, and people prefer to compete within their comfort zones.

2.      Some believe that producing ebooks or audiobooks is a solution, but this creates a false sense of progress. These products do not increase the size of the opportunity pie, but change the number of pieces that compete for the same consumer.

3.      Publishers think that large budgets or reputations are the key to market expansion. To the contrary, small publishers can compete against the largest publishers in non-bookstore segments where value is based on the applicability of content to buyers’ needs.

The answer is in making the right strategic moves, understanding that boundaries, product form, and budgets are fluid concepts because they change over time and are unique to each publisher, title and market segment. An example of recognizing and responding strategically to this fluidity is Amazon Prime. In 2005 it was initially focused on reducing costs and saving time for its customers by providing unlimited two-day shipping for a fixed annual fee. Then Amazonexpanded Prime to include streaming media (adding value through access and entertainment) and unlimited photo storage on Amazon servers (to reduce risk). Each new element attracted more customers and increased the value to existing ones.

Apply this strategy to your business and outpace the competition by pursuing a better path for your book-marketing efforts instead of following conventional logic. Here is a comparison of the old book-marketing barriers with new book-marketing opportunities. If you can recognize these hurdles and overcome your self-imposed boundaries, you can increase your sales, revenue and profits.

Traditional Book Marketing
New Book Marketing
Sell books through brick & mortar bookstores
Create new sales opportunities by selling to non-bookstore buyers (retail and non-retail)

Sell books through Amazon
Sell through Amazon and also through niche bookstores online

Everybody is a potential reader
Market to a narrowly defined audience in a targeted niche

To sell 10,000 books you have to find 10,000 new buyers
To sell 10,000 books you have to find one person to buy them

People buy physical books
People buy what the information in the book can do to help them, and in the form they desire

Books have a short life because of the copyright date
The relevancy of content and its ability to solve business problems is paramount

Returned books are inevitable
Non-retail buyers do not return books
Price a book the same as competitors
The cost of the book to the buyer varies, based on the quantity purchased and the value its content provides

Non-retail buyers do not purchase fiction
There are many ways in which fiction can be used by corporate buyers as a gift with purchase, for example

Maximize revenue per book sold with a short discount
Maximize my total revenue by selling in large quantities and making less per book

The availability of more books forces lower prices and profitability
Compete profitably in an expanding marketplace where books are a specialty, not a commodity

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