Avoid dead books; clear out your cemetery

By Ramon Rocha

cemetery image

This visual had the most impact on Christian publishers and booksellers at the Cote d’Ivoire workshop where I spoke recently. I gleaned the idea from Edward England’s book, “An Unfading Vision”.

Dead books are dead missionaries not able to come out to spread the good news. In several countries where I have led training, dead inventory is a major problem. Somewhere, somehow, sometime in the past, wrong decisions lead to an accumulation of slow moving titles over the years. You may have overestimated the demand? You were too excited?

Publishing can be profitable but the risks are high. You want to have the right titles at the right quantities at the right time at the right places. Inventory management may reflect how well or poorly a publishing house is run. Learn to move that “dead” inventory in your warehouse and avoid the problem in the first place.

Move your dead inventory
1. Date your inventory
. Aside from aging your inventory in your management reports, color-code the sagging pallets or the dust-covered cartons of books in your warehouse. For example, put a red card on each carton that arrived in your warehouse 10+ years ago, orange for 9 years, yellow for 8 and so on. When you do your MBWA (management by walking around) at least once a week, you will be reminded of how long you’ve been storing dead books.

2. Prepare a marketing plan for each title in your cemetery. The objective is to resurrect and release them to accomplish what they were supposed to do.

3. Slash the price substantially, even below cost. Try “bundling” with other books. If you still can’t sell them, donate them (assuming they do not contain heretical teachings).

Avoid the cemetery
1. Analyze and think through all the titles in your publishing list with your team.
Ensure good, justifiable reasons exist for why you will invest time and money on each new and backlist title you will sell.

2. Publish within your means. Do your revenue and expense budgets far before the start of the fiscal year. Determine with your finance manager how much money you can set aside for new titles and reprints for the coming year using your projected monthly cash flow. Measure actuals versus projections and adjust accordingly.

3. Print only what you can sell in six months to one year. If that’s 500 copies, then so be it, even if the unit cost is higher. It is always better to reprint later than to be stuck with dead inventory. There is always a temptation to print a lot more to get a lower printing quote.

4. Get as many advance orders as possible. This will ensure specific quantities earmarked for certain customers. This is part of the marketing plan you have supposedly drawn up especially for each new “flagship” title.

5. Use print-on-demand (POD). Books printed using POD with offset quality still cost a lot. But prices are expected to decline in the coming years. Research availability in your area.

6. Publish ebooks. Start with your current bestsellers. You will not only save trees but gear up for the wave of the future and will be able to distribute globally.

7. Learn from your mistakes. Pray hard, work hard and avoid a cemetery of dead inventory.

What other ways you found effective in moving dead books and avoiding slow turnover? Leave us a comment here.

Selling the Benefits (part 2 in bookselling success for publishers))

By Tony Wales

This is the second article in a four-part series to help publishers succeed in selling their books. This article describes the second key: selling the benefits of your publications.

The first key is preparing yourself with proper knowledge of your publication. See the article, Four Vital Ways to Improve Your Success in Bookselling

When I go to the store to buy a shirt, my main concern is not my collar size or sleeve length. My 16 inch collar and a 33 inch sleeve are mere features, helpful background information. Rather I go looking for a shirt which will serve various needs. These may include benefits such as: Are the shirts in the store are well made (no loose threads or other flaws)? Will it be long-wearing, good material? Will it look good on me and work with my other clothes? This mixture of personal and practical needs informs my decision to buy. They are the benefits that may lead to my purchase.

Similarly, when we are selling publications, we need to focus mainly on benefitsNepal by Owen Salter not features. Provide your customers with answers to questions such as: What will this publication do for the reader? Does it fit with the customer’s profile? If your customer is a bookshop, will your publication fit in? For example, if your book is a novel, do they have a fiction section into which it can go? Or if your customer is a church, what will your book offer that particular congregation?

Although product details are important, our temptation is to load up our customers with detailed features, such as length, price, author or even content. But these facts are insufficient. I have often seen books and their product info presented to potential customers without the key reasons to buy: the benefits to the customer and end-user.

Increasingly successful selling depends on you being prepared with a clear idea of the benefits that your book will bring to readers and therefore give your customer reasons to buy your publication. Always remember that your customers are making an investment by putting your book on the shelf. You need to prepare them to sell it to their own customers.

The late motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar made a key point with this simple poem:

“If you want to sell John Jones what John Jones buys,
You’ve got to look through John Jones’ eyes”

Too often we try to sell our publications without looking through our customer’s eyes.

So here are some action points you can take:

–  Prepare your reasons for the customer to buy your publication

–  Include the book’s benefits in all your sales materials and especially on the cover of the book. Review your sales materials, catalogues and book covers to see if they reflect this important principle. Don’t be afraid to make changes!

–  Aim to constantly try to understand your customer’s needs as you present your publications

Selling the benefits is the second step to successful selling. Next time we will look at the third great principle of sellingAsking for the order.

Tony Wales is a board member and trainer for MAI based in the UK. See his first article on bookselling for publishers.

Photo above courtesy of Owen Salter

Four Vital Ways to Improve Your Success in Book Sales

By Tony Wales

During my 40-plus years in publishing, I learned that these four principles were always the key to successful sales. If I forgot even one of them, failure followed. These principles are rooted in Christian love for God and love for my neighbor.

The first principle for successful selling is PREPARATION. When we offer our customers a book, we often ignore the need for proper knowledge of our product. Prepare yourself with these key points:

Photo courtesy khunaspix, Freedigitalphotos

Photo courtesy khunaspix, Freedigitalphotos

The author – Who is she? Does her background, her work or her church provide an opportunity for you to sell her book? What are her qualifications for writing? Has she published other books? Find out all you can and carry an author information sheet.  These details give proper respect for our authors and help build their profile, a key aspect of all successful publishing.

The content of the book – Gain sufficient familiarity with the text in order to answer any customer questions. Bring a complete outline of contents, sample text or the complete text, and a cover of the book. These items will increase your confidence before and during customer meetings. If you do not prepare, you will usually be lost for words!

The costs of the book –Be clear ahead of time what financial terms you are able to offer the customer. For example, what is the normal discount they require and what can you offer on a bulk purchase?

Customer background – Have they bought from you before? If so, on what terms?  Look up previous customer records, invoices, etc. If you lack such records, start keeping them. They will be invaluable to your publishing house. If the customer ordered from you before, what sort of books did they buy and when? This will help enable you to inquire how those books sold and what books they are looking for now.

Make a definite appointment whenever possible –Ensure that you and your customer have an agreed time and place to meet. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of your time and theirs!

Arrive 10 minutes early – Use your extra time to observe the shop, church or office, and assess local needs before you see the customer. You may meet another staff member and pick up some useful information. This preparation can often be a valuable part of the learning process before you have even met the customer.

In summary, the more you understand your authors and books, and the more you know of your customer’s history and requirements, the more you will be able to successfully match your books to their needs. This is the first step to successful selling.

Next time, we will look at another great principle of selling:
“Selling the Benefits Rather Than the Features of Our Books.”

 Tony Wales is a board member and trainer for MAI based in the UK.