INTRODUCTION TO SELLING YOUR BOOK
INTRODUCTION TO SELLING YOUR BOOK
You wrote your book for readers. We find those readers by pooling our trade networks with your platform as an author. It helps to be where the books are, in shops, libraries and at events, or where books are talked about, online and in traditional media. You will reach your readers by approaching local bookshops and libraries (User Manual EVENTS), running workshops, giving talks, handing out flyers (User Manual PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL),being active on social media (User Manual SOCIAL MEDIA), and emailing your networks (User Manual EMAIL). Make sure readers can buy books easily, add clear buy links and directions in emails, on social media, in articles, in posts, on your website and on any other websites with which you have connections. There is a BUY ONLINE button to key retailers for your book on your page on www.johnhuntpublishing.com.
We are in contact with some key booksellers in the distribution chain. These are distributors, wholesalers, retailers, libraries and event organisers. However, in 2015, 500,000 new titles were published in US, 300,000 in the UK, and another bookstore closes every week. Your book has to fight hard for shelf space in bookstores. Most probably we won’t get your book into your local bookstore, but you can, with our help, using the advice in this User Manual, especially this chapter on Sales & Ordering and the one on TRADE CONTACTS.
Distributors handle the warehousing, invoicing and delivery of books to whoever orders them—wholesalers, retailers, book clubs, bookstalls, authors, etc. There’s more on who these are and how to order in the section ORDERING.
Wholesalers serve smaller retailers and Amazon, and promote our books to their networks. Most retailers and libraries prefer to place orders through a wholesaler so that they are getting from one source rather than dealing direct with many publishers and distributors. Wholesalers supply smaller retailers faster than a distributor can. When you are discussing with a retailer how to get stock, tell them JHP books are stocked by wholesalers such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bookazine, New Leaf and Quanta in North America, and Bertrams, Gardners, Westnedge and Bookspeed in Europe, and many other smaller ones.
Four months before publication we present new titles to the key trade wholesalers. We, or our representatives, present titles to larger retailers such as Amazon, Hudson, Hastings, BAM, NACS and Folletts in USA, Indigo in Canada, and Waterstones, Blackwell, Foyles, and John Smith in UK. The largest retailer in the US, Barnes & Noble, orders one copy of every new title automatically. They order more copies as necessary, tend to over anticipate demand and returned excessively in 2015. We also present to library suppliers such as Brodart in USA, and to Bertram Library Services, Askews and Yankee Book Peddler in Europe. We supply book metadata to international bibliographic distributors such as Nielsen, Bowker and Bibliographic Data Services.
Over the years we have built relationships in certain subject areas. For instance in the Mind/Body/Spirit sector we have close links with specialist bookstores such as Watkins Books in London, and Banyen Books in Vancouver. In the Christian market we have close links with the wholesalers A Great Read and Goodnews Books. Our imprint for radical politics and culture, Zero Books, is popular with booksellers such as Foyles, Blackwell, Bookmarks, Housmans, Folletts, Bluestockings and City Lights. In general, our trading terms are effectively sale or return (returnable) and we offer trade accounts a discount off the recommended retail price RRP of 35–60%. We never refuse returns from an event and often offer increased discount.
These outlets market and sell our books by hosting events, and displaying books on their shelves and websites, as well as publishing articles, reviews and adverts. We also work closely with festival organizers, colleges and academic institutions, churches and retreats, arts centers and galleries, therapy centers and healing groups throughout the world.
Several months before publication day, we email newsletters to booksellers, journalists, foreign publishers and readers. These highlight author events, articles and interviews, and new and better-selling books. Our trade contacts include foreign publishers to whom we sell rights, and retailers, who are encouraged to pre-order new books ready for launch.
We are unlikely to get your book into many or any bookstores. The strongest possibilities are in the independent, more specialist sectors. Chain stores will not in general stock books by first-time authors unless the author is already known, or has great endorsements from well-known names Supermarkets will only stock books that are already selling a few thousand copies a week. More on expectations in Estimate of likely sales in Chapter 4.
Distribution, currency exchange and the state of the book industry locally mean that sales outside North America and Europe can seem disproportionately low. Increasingly, most sales outside these areas are through the big online retailers such as Amazon. It is particularly hard to sell fiction in paperback in Australia and South Africa. In other parts of the world, the numbers of English-language speakers might be very high, as in India, but local retail prices do not make it possible to deliver and sell our print books there.
We are continually building relationships with booksellers, new and established, big and small. The Contacts database contains about 1500 bookstores (2016) which is added to and used by authors and JHP alike. While JHP is in regular contact with some stores, offering new and bestselling books, it is unlikely that a particular book will have been pitched individually. However, authors can sift local, niche or particular bookstores from Contacts and pitch their book to them. Authors are often the best advocate. Start with email and follow up by phone. They like local connection, topicality and a reason why their customers would pick your book off their shelf. Are you known locally, has anyone well-known endorsed your book, have you been interviewed by national or local media, does your book content relate to a current, hotly-debated topic? You could ask to sign copies or do a talk. There’s more on this in EVENTS/SIGNINGS in Chapter 11, and more on how booksellers can order books in ORDERING.
Trade advertising and promotion
We exploit any opportunities to have your book noticed by booksellers. We run adverts for qualifying books in trade catalogues published by wholesalers such as Ingram and by the trade press such as The Bookseller. These catalogues and journals are both in print and digital, and offer booksellers details of new books several months in advance of publication. Occasionally a book will be picked to feature in a special preview with extra column space. This advertising is recorded on your Marketing page in Activities.
We offer certain booksellers extra discount or free books in return for higher profile on their website or in their shop window, inclusion in promotional mailings to their customers, running an event and sometimes special “publisher shop front” space online.
We don’t run front of store table promotions in the big chains. When you see piles of books at the front of a bookstore, understand that the exposure was “bought” by the publisher. It’s mostly relevant to mass-market fiction and celebrity self-help, not the more specialist kind of books we generally publish. For example, it may cost $5000 to get a book on the "New Arrivals" table at all Barnes & Noble superstores. Or it may cost $15,000 to $25,000 to be the “Book of the Week.” For more serious widespread prime exposure around a single main bookshop chain you’re looking at $50,000–100,000. But it is not down to us to choose the book, the main bookshop buyer at head office does that.
Libraries generally do not buy from publishers, but from wholesalers, who we do contact. In the UK these are organizations like Bertrams, Askews, Yankee Book Peddler and Tomlinsons. There's a similar spread in North America, where Baker & Taylor has about 70% of the library business. These wholesalers pass on information to libraries through online feeds. There are useful articles on libraries at: http://www.strategicbookmarketing.com/services-library.html and http://www.library.pima.gov/contact/authors.php.
The degree to which libraries continue to receive taxpayer support varies enormously by region. The one common thread emerging recently is "PDA"—Patron Driven Access, i.e. "Patrons" or "readers" will have a greater role in book acquisition. Libraries need to make themselves more directly relevant to reader wishes. So though the library market is shrinking, the possibilities for direct author intervention are increasing.
- If you are an academic, please encourage your university library to stock your book, and others on the list, and subscribe to our newsletter. Do you know of courses where your book could be a course text or on a reading list?
- Add your library to our contacts database.
- Contact your local public library. Tell them briefly what the book is about, of any reviews and how to order. Public libraries now offer e-books too, so go online and check they list your book and, if not, recommend it and any others in the imprint. Overdrive distribute our ebooks to most public library platforms in UK & US. NB Overdrive will only list your book as available in a particular country if a library has requested it. So ask for it in your local library and get friends in other countries to ask in theirs too.
- Reviews in library review journals, such as Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, can help. We submit a number of books each month to these journals and record this on your Marketing page in Activities.
Public Lending Right
In some countries the government pays authors a small amount every time their books are borrowed from a library. Authors have to register for this directly. It does not happen in the USA. For the UK, check on www.plr.uk.com.
Also, in the UK, you can register at www.alcs.co.uk. It’s a central body for collecting payments from schools etc. for photocopying. Payments will not be sent to you unless you register. It usually only applies to books being used as a classroom text.
Piracy is a negligible issue on printed books. Piracy of e-books is more common. Along with most publishers, we do not build digital-rights management (DRM) into our e-books because it would restrict their readability and distribution. What instead happens is many of the third-party stores (e.g. Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble) add a layer of DRM that locks the book to a specific user account and device. If you do come across an instance of your manuscript being offered as a free download and you can find a contact email address on the offending site, post this on the Help forum in Sales & Distribution/ Sales Online with the URL link to your book. We will then send a take-down notice to their service provider. Word Press is on our side and will take down any offending URL.