The Book Distribution Conundrum

The big news this month is that Baker & Taylor announced that they will no longer sell books to retailers as of July 15, 2019. This is industry-changing news.

For years, there have been two wholesale companies that sell books to retailers and librarians—Ingram Content Group and Baker & Taylor. Of the two, Baker & Taylor was a small publisher’s friend.

The Distribution Conundrum

Historically it has been very difficult for a small publisher to get their books stocked in Ingram (and in Spring Arbor, the Christian book division of Ingram). Publishers must have at least 10 titles and meet a set annual sales figure in order to place their books directly with Ingram for sales to retailers and librarians. If a small publisher does not meet these requirements, then they have to use a distributor who stocks their books in Ingram. Some of these book distributors include Anchor (Christian books), Independent Publishers Group (IPG), Consortium Book Sales, and Baker & Taylor Publisher Services (formerly BookMasters).

Using a distributor has benefits as well as pitfalls. A distributor is a middleman, so a distributor takes an additional 15% or more of each book sale—over and above the 55–60% discount that the wholesaler (Ingram) requires. Additionally, distributor’s vet the books they represent. So, a publisher has to pass the additional requirements of a distributor in order to be represented by said distributor.

Baker & Taylor, on the other hand, was small-publisher friendly. Small publishers could open an account with Baker & Taylor and have their books stocked directly so that retailers and librarians could place orders for these books.

With the cessation of Baker & Taylor’s sales to retail stores, only one wholesale book company is now selling books to retailers—Ingram. Some in the industry are concerned about what this will mean long-term for retailers and publishers.

 

Baker & TaylorIf you are an independently published author, Baker & Taylor’s decision to cease distribution to retailers will most likely not affect you. Sadly, it will affect a number of small publishers.

Independent authors have been able to make their books available for sale to retailers and librarians through Ingram using one of Ingram’s print-on-demand (POD) services (IngramSpark or Lightning Source) or Kindle Direct Publishing’s expanded distribution service. You may wonder why the loss of Baker & Taylor is such a big deal since small publishers can also use the POD sales route.

Here is what most independent authors do not understand: Retailers rarely order print-on-demand books to stock the shelves of their stores. Print-on-demand titles have a special code in the wholesale system that retailers can spot. As a result, if you are actively trying to get bookstores to stock your title and your book is only available print-on-demand, you have an uphill battle. If your title is listed as a Kindle Direct Published book, you have an even harder climb to get a retailer to stock your book, since retailers consider Amazon their direct competition.

Bookstore

Small publishers understand that they need to have print copies stocked (not POD copies) with wholesalers to increase their chances of book sales to retail stores. This is why the loss of a small- publisher friendly wholesale option for small publishers is a big deal.

While over 50% of books are purchased online, a good percentage of books are still purchased in stores, including bookstores. Savvy publishers know that they must have their books available in multiple locations to garner the most sales. Therefore, access to a wholesale sales option is important for these publishers.

If you are an independently published author, you can take a lesson from small publishers. Having your book available in Amazon alone is not enough. Not everyone shops on Amazon, and, for certain, libraries and retailers don’t order books from Amazon.

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Photo courtesy of Samuel Zeller.

 

Book Marketing Bingo

Eight out of every ten products launched in the United Sates are destined to fail.

I recently read this statistic in the book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom. He went on to say:

Roughly 21,000 new brands are introduced worldwide per year, yet history tell us that all but a few of them have vanished from the shelf a year later. In consumer products alone, 52 percent of all new brands, and 75 percent of individual products fail.

That’s a whole lot of products that don’t stand the test of time. In other words, they don’t sell enough for their makers to keep producing them.

Authors, you have the same uphill battle for your books. The average traditionally-published book sells less than 500 copies and the vast majority of indie published books sell less than 200 copies.

There are many factors that help books sell. However, just as a cake won’t rise without baking soda, your book won’t sell without some marketing.

I love this Marketing Bingo board that John Kremer developed. Check it out. Have you done enough marketing to win a bingo on the board?

Marketing Bingo Card

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13 Pricing Hacks to Increase Sales

For independent authors and small publishers selling books, there is a lot to learn—especially if you do not have a business or marketing background. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available for those who want to learn.

Smart retailers use pricing tricks, based on brain science, to appeal to shopper’s perception of quality, value, and cost to drive sales. You can employ one or two of the techniques that smart retailers use to improve your book sales. Check out these 13 psychological pricing strategies compiled by Wikibuy.

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Don’t Pull a Bait and Switch

Over lunch, my friend related a recent experience she had with a book. This friend told me that she had taken her daughter to a local bookstore to shop for new books to read.

While browsing, she picked up a nonfiction book whose title caught her attention. She read the back cover. Then she turned to the beginning of the book and read the first few pages.

Don't Pull a Bait and Switch

My friend shared that the story at the beginning of the book drew her in and had her intrigued. She was excited to read the rest of the book.

As her daughter continued to browse, my friend carried the book around the store with her. Just before checking out, she thought that maybe she should read something halfway through the book just to make sure she was spending her money wisely.

My friend reported that, to her horror, the rest of the book was not like the opening. The opening had been a lovely story that drew her in. She had thought that the book would contain more stories like this. Instead it turned out to be a long succession of dry writing about the historical event the book covered. Needless to say, my friend put the book back on the shelf.

My friend shared this story because she had been sorely disappointed with her experience. The opening pages of the book promised something that the rest of the book did not deliver. In essence, she experienced a bait and switch.

The first few pages of your book are extremely important. You must draw the reader in right from the start. But, be careful that you don’t create a bait and switch. In other words, your book’s opening needs to be engaging, but it also needs to reflect what can be found in the remainder of the book.

Draw the Reader in

By the way, the process my friend went through in selecting the book she thought she wanted to buy is the same process most people use when looking at books. When choosing a book, studies show that readers consider in order:

  1. The Title
  2. The Cover
  3. The Back Cover
  4. The Table of Contents
  5. The First Few Paragraphs of a Book’s Content
  6. The Price

Each phase of this process either encourages the reader on to the next step and closer to a purchase, or turns them off and sends them on to the next book.

Delivering on your book’s promise is essential. Readers that don’t receive what is promised in a book will not recommend it to their family and friends. Remember, word-of-mouth recommendation is the most powerful driving force in book sales.

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Tips for Selling Books from Your Website

Do you sell your books direct from your website? If so, pay attention to these important findings from Cyber Monday shopping.

On-line shopping is growing. One of the fastest growing trends for online shopping is the buy online, pick up in-store movement. Fifty percent more people used this option on Cyber Monday 2018 than in the previous year.

Shopping using smart phones is also growing. According to an online shopping data report by Adobe Analytics, people spent 48% more shopping from their smartphones on Cyber Monday. In fact, purchases made from smart phones on Cyber Monday amounted to $2 billion. This is the most revenue ever to come from smart phones in a single day.

Interestingly, taking a closer look at the data report by Adobe Analytics, the report states:

 “Large retailers ($1 billion or more in annual e-commerce revenue) saw 6 percent higher conversion rates on smartphones. Smaller retailers, offering more specialized products, were better at getting shoppers to close sales via desktops with 7 percent higher conversions.”

Whoa. Stop right there. For a while now, the trend has been mobile. Experts have been telling us that every website needs to be responsive for mobile devices as well as desktop computers. Yet, this research from Cyber Monday shows that smaller retailers—people like you—had a higher percentage of people purchasing from their websites via a desktop computer this past Christmas season.

If you sell books from your website, your main focus should be on keeping shoppers on your site. After all, conversion—converting a visitor to a buyer—is what drives sales.

Here are a few tips to keep shoppers on your website:

1. Have the books you are selling front and central.

Make the products you are selling easy to see and find on your website. Don’t bury them. Include clear descriptions for each book so readers know what the book is about and how it will benefit them.

2. Make the prices clear.

One study by Corra found that 33 percent of shoppers hate when prices aren’t up front. Make sure that the price of your book and the cost for shipping is easy to find and see.

3. Ensure ease of purchase.

Studies show that for every extra click a customer has to make to finish a purchase, a business loses 50% of shoppers. Create a streamlined buying process on your website.

4. Allow customers to contact you.

The same study by Corra found that more than half of all shoppers wanted to have the option to live chat on a website when they ran into a problem shopping. Of course, most small publishers and independent authors don’t have the resources to provide this on their websites. However, you can provide a phone number. This allows customers to feel confident that they can talk to a real person if they run into a problem.

If you sell books from your website, use these four tips to improve your visitors’ shopping experience, and maybe, just maybe, you might sell more books.

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Photo courtesy of Bru-nO.