By Tom Doherty The following article first appeared in IBPA Independent. The time to begin thinking about selling a book comes long before the book is available to consumers, and even before acquisition of the content. Naturally, your first thoughts may center on considerations such as how good the content is and who will be interested in it. But while you think about attracting consumers you must also consider your customers—the people you have to reach before you reach the people who will buy and read the book you plan to publish. Although potential consumers differ from book to book, potential customers—retailers, wholesalers, and institutions—have several needs in common. Your ability to sell to them will depend on decisions you make about packaging, distribution, and marketing, starting before the editing process begins, and on whether you can make a compelling case for a book in terms of content, author, marketing, and marketplace. CONTENT AND AUTHOR CONSIDERATIONS When you’re selling to a customer, you need to bear in mind a question customers always ask themselves: “If I buy this book, how will the publisher get consumers to purchase it?” Where content is concerned, providing a satisfactory answer requires distinguishing your product from the competition. Customers may not be interested a novel’s plot details or the instructions in a how-to title, but they will want to know how a book is different and better than apparently similar titles. Convincing customers that a book’s content is good is relatively simple if the book is by an established author with a proven track record, but what if you are selling one by a new author, or by an author whose new book should rise above previous releases? Allocate time in your production schedule for getting advance praise from relevant professionals and writers. Take all the quotes you can gather and put them in a flyer you can share with reps and customers several months before the release of a book. Aim to produce galleys four to six months before publication, and send them to industry review sources, your reps, and your potentially important customers. Run a contest on Goodreads and/or utilize the IBPA NetGalley member benefit. And if you use electronic versions of your book as galleys, make sure you send files only to trusted and reputable places. If you are selling a book by a first-time author, think long and hard about all the ways you can tie the author’s life experience and professional credentials to the content. Tactics can include something as simple as focusing on biographical material that relates to content, along with focusing on the author’s social media followers, access to media, and/or entrée to associations whose members are part of the audience for the book. If you are selling an author you wish to bring to the next level, you might have to focus more on the content of the new book and what distinguishes it from previous efforts, or present a truly innovative marketing plan. MARKETING AND MARKETPLACE MATERIALS A good marketing plan is your very best friend. It will cover all potential audiences for the book, all forms of media (print, online, and broadcast), and all other ways you will reach a particular book’s readers. Many great Independent articles can help you develop a marketing plan, and they’re available via ibpa-online.org. However, it isn't enough to have a really nifty plan. You must communicate the plan effectively to your reps and customers, and you must do that months before the release of a book, preferably six to nine months in advance. If you don’t have a clear idea of how you can market a book to consumers when you’re thinking about acquiring the book, you might move on to considering another proposal. Even if the copy in your catalog or sell sheet features only a few bullet points from your plan, key customers and your reps will benefit by having specifics months in advance of publication. You can update the marketing plan and your sell sheets as you get closer to the release date. The important goal is giving customers and reps as full a plan as possible right from the beginning of the sell-in process. Although you may have fewer customers when you’re marketing a book only in electronic formats, a strong marketing plan is just as important for e-books as for print editions, and the process, including timing, is remarkably similar to the process for print books. Regardless of format and no matter how unique the content of your book is, marketing means reaching out to people who read books, and more than likely your book will not be their first. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your book has no competition. Your reps and customers need to know how your new book fits in with their existing catalog of products, and one of the best ways to tell them is with comparative title analysis. Comparative title information can boost sales to retail and wholesale buyers by revealing geographic hot spots, genre and sub-genre performance, and trends. So, doing the research is well worth your time. Visit retail outlets, explore online, talk with your distributor if you have one, and check out the IBPA Nielsen BookScan member benefit if you haven’t already signed up for it. BookScan will show you which competing titles are selling well and which are not in certain sales channels. A QUICK SUMMARY OF POTENTIAL PAYOFFS Key buyers look for clues of professionalism as they try to pick winners and losers. Because customers are gambling their cash-flow on every purchase, they like to bet on publishers and books that seem professional, and that’s the image you will project when you provide compelling evidence about the strengths of a book’s content, author, marketing, and marketplace right from the beginning of the book’s life. Doing so should help you sell more copies. And selling more copies should, in turn, help you avoid problems with your cash flow and revenue. On that happy note; good luck with your next book. Tom Doherty This article is offered here by permission of the IBPA Independent. Tom Doherty is the president of Cardinal Publishers Group, a full service national book distributor.
Edward Snowden truth Q: What are the most important disclosures? A: The first disclosure, the Verizon report, which shows that the phone records of all Americans (by all major phone providers) has been turned over to the federal government for the last seven years. The second exposés, the PRISM editorials, which appeared the next day in both The Guardian and Washington Post. These prove that surveillance is taking place with our online communications. The day after that, the Washington Post rewrote its report (and The Guardian debuted the same in a little noticed article), which revealed that GCHQ and the NSA are working together. The Boundless Informant article. It shows that the NSA has hid surveillance programs from congressional oversight committees. Later reports would argue that this was not an isolated incident. All of the South China Morning Post exposés. They were the first to state the NSA has been spying on foreign nations without provocation. This includes economic and civilian espionage. The XKeyscore article at the end of July is very condemning. It depicts the nearly godlike technological capabilities the NSA has at its fingertips. The Guardian's Microsoft report, which shows that Internet corporations are willfully participating in mass surveillance. The joint Guardian/Washington Post/Pro Publica encryption editorials. They prove that no communications are safe, not even ones using secure websites or encryption technology. Q: What kinds of explosive material has the press failed to report to the public? A: I anticipate that forthcoming disclosures from the bounty of the purported 1.7 million files in the Snowden press's possession will continue to be limited to civilian, diplomatic, domestic, and economic affairs such as revealing that the Five Eyes are spying on each other atop domestic surveillance being more invasive. However, it is clear that of the millions of classified documents, military secrets are being carefully protected. This is because the Edward Snowden press has stated that--upon the whistleblower's request--national security will not be compromised. This implies that they have access to delicate military data but have, and continue, to refuse to divulge this information. Case in point, the federal government openly stated that Chinese hackers stole millions in military R & D from the Pentagon. To assume similar espionage hasn't been ordered and executed by the U.S. would be naïve. Q: What are the most disturbing aspects of the NSA reports? A: That the intelligence community had hid surveillance programs from Congress. A secret court, the FISC, which was supposedly created with the express purpose of overseeing the NSA and whose judgments are rarely revealed to the American public, essentially rubberstamps itself into extraneousness. How our legislators gerrymandered the law in order to grant itself almost absolute freedom to spy, such as creating the word “metadata” because “communications,” by law, cannot be surveilled. The fact that the U.S. government isn’t acting alone and, as the Snowden press has heavily implied, has other nations spy on Americans in order to circumnavigate around the Fourth Amendment. However, the most enraging aspect of the intelligence revelations is the NSA’s attitude. A classified training slide was revealed that tells intelligence agents that if a privacy law has been violated, the error should be reported but, if the government worker fails to do so, it’s “nothing to worry about.” In a September report, another series of slides refers to cell phone users as naïve, gullible “zombies.” Q: What was the NSA's response to the disclosures? A: Instead of changing protocol to keep other guilty consciences from whistleblowing, the NSA instituted a security lock down, i.e., two-person data transfer system. Interestingly, instead of curtailing its spying as a gesture of good faith, it increased its surveillance capabilities: It opened the Utah Data Center last September. This facility has the ability to retain an unimaginable amount of data and is said to be able to make metadata immortal. Author of the "Edward Snowden Affair," Michael Gurnow