Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Selling Books To Those Who Sell To Bookstores

I had the opportunity to sit in on a day’s worth of publisher presentations to a distributor’s sales force, listening to each publisher “sell” their upcoming spring list of new titles to those who are in the trenches and hand-selling to bookstores.  It was quite interesting—on many levels—and revealing of the publishing industry’s style of doing things.

The sales reps asked good questions and offered advice on pricing, formats, publishing timelines, discount plans, etc.  Too often, publishers operate in a vacuum but when they hear from those who know the market better than anyone, they seem to feel relieved and empowered.

What’s interesting is that many of the sales reps are 40 and over, as are the publishers.  The publishing decisions that get made seem to be influenced by middle-aged individuals.  Perhaps they are uniquely positioned—not too old to be out of touch, not too young to lack perspective.

The publishers still—at least these smaller ones—use paper catalogs and present to a room filled with people looking for ammunition to take to the stores.  Each title is presented with a sense of hope and conviction.  A consumer would want to buy every single title, right?

Decisions are being made all of the time—

*Publishers decide what to publish.
*Sales reps decide what to push to stores.
*Stores decide what to make available to consumers.
*Consumers determine what to purchase.
*Authors then decide what to write about.

Each of these books screams for a reader, for a following.  Each of these books, at the sales conference, is given a champion the way a proud parent discusses his or her child.  For today, at least, every book has great potential and comes across as valued.

This is the honeymoon period, where goodwill and optimism fill the room.

Then comes reality.

*Books get delayed or cancelled.  Suggested changes on price or content aren’t done.
*The book, in its final form, is not as impressive as it was envisioned.
*The PR plans that were promised, didn’t materialize.
*The competitiveness of the marketplace pushes some of these books to the side.

Publishing is like a sport.  At the beginning of say, the football season, every NFL team boasts of making the right personnel changes to compete for a Super Bowl berth.  Fans feed a frenzy of unwarranted enthusiasm.  The media pumps up the local team.

Then the games get played.

And week by week the truth settles things.  Stark reality replaces hope and hype. Season over.

The publishing world regroups and forges ahead to the next season with renewed plans for victory.  Soon the facts will tell us of the winners and losers but today everyone is a winner.


Here is my 2014 Book Marketing & Publicity Toolkit: Based on 20+ years in publishing --

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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