Many independent publishers ignore non-trade sales because they do not know where to start selling. Their definition of non-trade marketing is selling books “outside of the bookstore.” However, that only suggests where not to sell books; it offers no direction, insight, or instruction about where or how to actually do it.
Here are some questions to answer that can help you define and expand your target readers, leading to new ways to sell your books and new places in which people can buy them. The questions themselves are universal and apply to all subject areas, but as examples I have focused on how they relate to a publisher trying to market a career or job-search title.
- Who could use the information in your book? The answer to this question should direct you to other market segments. For job-search content your initial thought is people seeking employment for the first time or trying to find new employment after being laid off.
- Where do people generally look for the information in your book? Your first answer is most likely bookstores. Keep adding places like libraries, state employment departments, employment agencies, outplacement firms, and networking groups to your list.
- Who else could use the information in your book? This is a great question to find more potential customers and new niches in which to sell existing content. You might be able to sell your content to high school or college students, people who are over fifty years old, women, blue-collar workers, and more.
- Who influences the people that use your content? Instead of marketing directly to prospective customers, you may want to promote to people who can influence them. You could potentially sell your job-search content to career development officers at colleges, to guidance counselors in high schools, or to the parents of graduating seniors.
- What information about your customers could lead to a new product form? Once you define your target audience, discover how they like to get their information. Research among college students may uncover the need for job-search information in an easier-to-use format. Instead of one long book, a series of booklets could be created, each devoted to one traditional job-search tactic such as writing a resume or interviewing.
Those questions will help you define existing and new buyer segments. Now take this one step further and use questions to analyze your marketing efforts. When doing so, instead of asking “How can we...” ask, “In how many ways…” to stimulate multiple responses. Keep the creativity flowing by next asking, “What else can we do?” To make it easier for you to conduct your own question-asking sessions, here is a list of basic questions about different marketing topics.
- In how many ways could we change our book to make it more marketable? Could we make it smaller or larger? Increase the spine width or make the typeface on the spine more legible for better visibility on the shelf? Come up with a new title, color combination, or cover design? What else can we do?
- In how many ways can we work more successfully with our distributors? Can we communicate better? Share our marketing plans? Participate in cooperative advertising? Work with distributors that sell to non-bookstore retailers? What else can we do?
- In how many ways can we improve our pricing? If we lower our production costs could we make more money at the same list price, or even at a lower list price? What else can we do?
- In how many ways can we sell our books in large quantities? You can sell 10,000 books to 10,000 different people one at a time through bookstores, or you can sell 10,000 books to one person at one time. Clearly, the latter option would be more profitable. Find people who can buy in large quantities. They may be in government offices, corporations, schools, or many other places. Where else can we sell?
- In how many ways can we improve the quality and quantity of our promotion? Should we try to conduct more targeted radio shows? Improve our performance on each by taking a media training course? Improve our social networking skills? Hire a publicist? Create more and better sales promotion items? Improve our website? What else can we do?
These questions do not represent an exhaustive list. Let your creative sessions lead the way and when you least expect it, you just might come up with that one great idea.
Asking and answering these questions for your books will help you formulate ideas about how to take them to new markets, possibly in different formats, and become more profitable as you meet the needs of new groups of people. In short, they will help you find new ways to make more money selling your book.
Seek new opportunities with a clear eye and an alert imagination. Be open to at least evaluating a different way of reaching the goals you have set for your business. Non-trade marketing is like electricity. It gives energy and power to the publisher, author, and title. It brings good books to life.