Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Underpriced Latte, Renee Zellweger's Book Savvy, and How Kevin Coster Ruined a Generation

For some of you, this email will seem familiar. I've sent variances of this to many authors as we brainstorm the best strategy for their books.

An opening fact: over 8,000 books release a week.

In my earlier posts (and future ones) I've written on niche marketing, which is the future of the book industry.

However, bookstores still play an important role, as there are still readers out there who, like me, must have the feel and smell of books in order to survive.

The Underpriced Latte

I would be remiss if I did not input my personal view: today's bookstore is essentially a germ-free library. Think about it. Go sit in a bookstore for a few hours and just people watch.... Talk about an underpriced spend $3 on coffee in exchange for access to pristine copies of all bestselling books and magazines.

But I digress. Back to marketing.

When you approach bookstore marketing, it is vital to beat out the competition.

Your average bookstore stocks less than 10% of the titles available to them. And that's not considering all the titles out there that aren't available through distribution.

Bookstores are overloaded. Even the online book retailers have trouble keeping up with the volume of titles.

Ergo the importance of having a relationship with a buyer for a store, as well as with the mainstream distributors.

Due to our relationships with such entities (which are carefully cultivated, I promise you), we are able to offer our authors many advantages they would not receive elsewhere.

Bookstore buyers look for certain genres at different times during the year. Our department heads are always keeping an eye on our catalog looking for titles that meet those requested genres. We regularly submit for the buyers' consideration.

But because of our relationships with the buyers, we are able to submit more than just the specific titles they are looking for. For some stores (like Barnes and Noble), this means that all of our titles are available to all of their stores.

For other stores (such as Mardels or Family Christian Stores), we submit the titles we feel might interest them, that way all eligible titles have a chance!

Renee Zellweger's Book Savvy

Did you ever see the movie DOWN WITH LOVE with Renee Zellweger? If you haven't, here's a brief recap: her book gets placement in the big stores, but still no one knows about the book. So she and her publicist put together a strategy that, along with hard work, creates a demand. Pretty soon, no one can keep the book in stock (which is a good problem to have).

This really is a great example of how the industry works.

The BEST thing anyone can do for bookstore marketing is to create a demand for the book. A bookstore manager only wants to stock a book he or she knows will sell.

Which is why the Espresso Book Machine is a brilliant invention, but that's another topic.

If a manager does not know that a book will sell, what reason does he/she have to spend his/her time and store resources on ordering a book, unloading it, stocking it, monitoring it, etc. if there is a good chance she/he will have to spend more time and store resources on pulling it from the shelf and sending it back to the distributor?

The manager---who is responsible for the sales report that store turns in to corporate at the end of the month---wants to spend her time and store resources on a book that will sell and give them room to stock another book that will sell.

How Kevin Costner Ruined a Generation
"If you build it, they will come!"

I bet you one underpriced latte that the moment your eyes saw those words, you pictured the little girl on the bleachers, Kevin Costner's baseball quest, and the line of cars as long as the eyes can see. I can still recall the first time I saw FIELD OF DREAMS.

An entire generation has been built around the two messages that movie conveys:
a) Hope is a strategy for success.
b) Supply drives demand.

This is why every writer legitimately thinks he/she will be a bestseller. Why every inventor thinks he/she is the next Thomas Edison. Why every waiter in Hollywood thinks he/she is the next Sandra Bullock. I'm entirely convinced that this is the reason our generation has so many disappointed and unhappy souls. We feel entitled to success. We have forgotten that success comes at a great price: hard work.

There are two things all successful people have in common. They know that:
a) Hope is not a strategy for success.
b) Demand drives supply

I'll expound on this more in a later post.

Back to the Bookstore.

Bookstore Success = demand = strategy + hard work.

In today's society of entitlement-driven publicists and success-driven executives, most publishers only invest the strategy and hard work on titles that already have a demand.

Tate doesn't. We work on strategy + hard work for the entire life of a book by:
a) developing a niche strategy for your book
b) implementing that niche strategy, facilitating the word of mouth buzz
c) putting a voice to that demand through media opportunities to highlight and promote events
d) working with the stores to fulfill demand through events and stocking

That said, bookstore success is quickly moving out as the best way to sell a book. With today's technology, bookstores can print a title themselves in less than 5 minutes, making every title available to the world. This will negate the great demand for shelf space....but it doesn't negate the fact that people must know about the book if they want to buy it.

But we'll save that for another day.

Question: Have you seen this self-important attitude of entitlement in the business world? If you have, what have you seen as the result of an attitude of entitlement? Does success really come that easily for those who operate with this attitude?

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