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Marketing and Selling Small Press Books

Every small press publisher needs to develop ways that a prospective customer can be come aware that a given book exists and is a desirable purchase.

Having created that awareness and motivation to buy (the role of publicity, promotion and advertising) the publisher needs to make it as easy for that customer to transact a purchase as possible.

The ways that a small press (with limited resources and financing) can best facilitate that commercial transaction is by offering some combination of any or all of the following:

  1. Snail-mail address
  2. Toll-free phone number
  3. E-mail address
  4. Web site offering ordering information
  5. Secured Web site capable of credit card transactions
  6. Inclusion in an online bookstore inventory
  7. Inclusion in a wholesaler's inventory
  8. Inclusion in a distributor's inventory

Individuals will use 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 to make personal orders. Bookstores & Libraries will make varying use of all eight alternatives, but will prefer 7 & 8.

Please remember that distributors do not sell, publicize, promote or market their inventories. They depend on bookstores and libraries initiating contact and placing orders which they then will merely fulfill.

Because of the severe financial hazards of "revolving door" returns and the attendant attrition of publisher financial resources through damaged copies and shipping costs, a great many small presses cannot afford Ingram or Baker & Taylor on any other basis than prepaid, nonreturnable ordering.

Use the first six alternatives while busily promoting and publicizing your titles right from the beginning of a book's availability to the reading public. Once you have an established sales record of 800 orders, online bookstore, Web site, and direct publisher orders, you can then more successfully approach a wholesaler because you will be able to demonstrate and document the demand.

By developing a marketplace demand for your book(s) resulting in customers going into bookstores & libraries and asking for your titles, those bookstores and libraries will be contacting the distributors, and the distributors will then contact you -- and agree to a prepaid, nonreturnable transaction, protecting you from returns abuses or mismanagements (e.g., one Ingram warehouse not knowing what's in another Ingram warehouse).

It's not the job of bookstores to develop a demand for your book -- it's yours.
It's not the job of wholesalers to develop a demand for your book -- it's yours.
It's not the job of distributors to develop a demand for your book -- it's yours.

It's the job of bookstores, wholesalers and distributors to swiftly and alertly fulfill customer demands, once you've managed to create them in the minds and wallets of the reading public.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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