Ask The Experts – Book Publicity

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Topics Discussed Below Include:
Reposting Movie Links
Trouble With Marketing to Book Clubs

Question:

We had a question about reposting a link to a movie trailer on our Facebook page. The movie trailer is on Hollywood Life website and is preceded by a movie review. We wanted to know if it is legal and permissible to put the link from that page onto our Facebook page before giving a description of one of our books.

Answer (07/2013):

When somebody makes a website that’s open to the public, like the Hollywood Life site in your example, you’re perfectly within your rights to link to that site, or any page on it the public can view. We’ll assume that Hollywood Life is authorized to put that movie trailer on the web page you’re linking to — the fact that the studio made the video embeddable on other people’s websites is, right there, proof that it’s okay to post it and to link to it.

Hold on, though: What if we don’t know whether the movie trailer comes from the studio, or that the studio has given permission for it to circulate? What if it’s a bootleg? If you think that might be the case, don’t link to it — if you do, you may be liable for what’s known as “contributory copyright infringement.” Essentially, the website that HOSTS a bootleg video is infringing the copyright, and you’re contributing to their infringement by steering people to the
site.

Honestly, you’re probably not going to run into this situation much, if ever, and almost certainly not on a site like Hollywood Life. But better I should put it out there so you know.

Now, that’s the law, at least as I understand it (keeping in mind that I am not a lawyer). What about your user agreement with Facebook? Again, as I understand it, you’re not allowed to sell ad space on your Facebook timeline; only Facebook is authorized to do that. So you can’t take money from another company and then promote their website on your timeline.

But that’s not what you’re talking about. You’re just posting a link to another website that you happen to like, without any inducement on their part. And that should be no problem. So go ahead, post that link!

Ron Hogan helped create the literary Internet when he launched Beatrice in 1995. His latest website, TheHandsell.com, recruits authors and independent booksellers to make personalized recommendations for readers based on the books they already love. He lives in Queens.


Question:

I understand that one avenue to marketing my books is through the use of book clubs. I have joined several as an author (e.g.: Goodreads) and reviewed their suggestions for author “giveaways, discussions, Facebook tabs”, etc. – but still do not understand how just listing my books with them results in them being recommended to their book club groups to start the whole process off. I’ve tried communicating with them – by email – no real response except the already listed author “suggestions” mentioned above. Am I missing something, or is this it?

Answer (09/2011):

There is a book club for almost every conceivable interest, such as clubs for children, entrepreneurs, minorities and sports fans. Each is attuned to the interests of its members and their buyers have narrowly focused needs. And even though their discounts may approach 80%, you can make large, non-returnable sales to them.

When submitting books to various book clubs for consideration, it is best to contact them six months before your title’s publication date. But only contact them when you have compiled an edited and relatively complete manuscript with a finished cover design. Buyers are usually open to evaluating books that are already in print if its content meets their members’ requirements.

Call first to find out their submission guidelines. Review their website and look for competitive books and examples of the copy they use to describe the books. Provide the book-club buyers with a sample of the selling copy you think would be most effective in presenting your book favorably.

The same advice in terms of crafting your cover letter applies here as it does to other special-sales buyers: focus on benefits. They are not as concerned with selling your books as they are with making their members happy. You may have the greatest book ever published, with the most beautiful illustrations, but what the clubs want to know is why their particular members will buy it.

The advantages of book club sales are numerous: potentially large quantities, no returns, lower unit cost when you add a club’s order to your own print run, and the cachet that comes from including “a selection of the Such-and-Such Club” on all your marketing materials.

Another benefit of marketing through book clubs is that they represent a practical means of reaching your target markets. There are book clubs for business titles http://www.sohojobs.org/(Business Book Club offered by The Johnson County Library and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation FastTrac® program) as well as titles for children (http://www.cbomc.com/), large print editions (http://www.doubledaylargeprint.com), cooking (http://www.thegoodcook.com), romance (http://www.rhapsodybookclub.com), spirituality (http://www.onespirit.com), religion (http://www.omnicbc.com/), minorities (http://www.blackexpressions.com/) and science fiction (http://www.sfbc.com/).

The Vegetarian Resource Group publishes the Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook. VRG offered this title through a Jewish book club. “We gave a good discount, so it was a good moneymaker for the groups, and it was a way for us to distribute the information to a niche audience, and beyond. Though there was a low profit margin, it enabled us to print a larger quantity of the book (http://www.vrg.org/catalog/ljvc.htm).” As a result of this guerrilla marketing, Debra Wasserman, author of the Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, ended up doing a cooking demonstration on Good Morning America, as well as CNN and being on the Discovery Channel.

Advantages of selling through book clubs:
Look at book clubs as you would a distributor, helping you reach specific markets more economically than you could yourself. In reality, they sell your books on a non-returnable basis and charge you a percentage of the sale. And there are other advantages to working with book clubs:

• Acceptance by a book club adds credibility to your title as well as an opportunity to send a new press release. Note the fact on all your literature that your title is a selection of the book club. Tell producers and editors and you may enhance your chances of getting on a show or having a story written about you. The book club will sing your praises, giving you additional, free exposure.

• When the clubs send their literature to their members, they are advertising for you. This facilitates the spread of word-of-mouth communication.

• Book club sales typically enhance bookstore sales rather than detract from them.

• In some cases a book club may help cover your printing costs. The book club may purchase while you are preparing for your initial print run. Since you can now order a larger quantity (including the books for your inventory) your unit production costs will be significantly lower. If they buy copies from your stock, they will generally pay production costs plus a royalty of 10% to 15%.

The royalties you can expect for book-club sales are approximately 10% of the club’s list price (which may be 70% off your book’s list price). The royalty may be less if your book is used as a premium. A typical advance against royalties offered by the niche book clubs is minimal. When negotiating with them, do not offer a price first. Instead, ask for their standard terms. One author learned this the hard way by offering a company 80% off and later found out that they only needed 65%.

The term for most book club contracts is two to three years, during which time the book club has the right to distribute your book to its members as they see fit. Generally, the major book club licenses require exclusive book club rights. Most of the niche clubs do not require exclusivity.

How do you get paid?
Deals with book clubs can be structured in several ways. Here are descriptions of the three most common.

1) Negotiated Price
This may be the most attractive way to structure a book-club deal because you typically receive more money than through the other means. In this schedule, you have the books printed and sell them to the club at the agreed-upon unit price. This price should cover the discount to the book club (perhaps 75%), your production costs plus your profit. Remember to include the author’s royalty in your calculations. Here is an example of how the pricing may work out for an order of your books with a list price of $19.95, but for which you sell to the book club for $3.98. Note that the percentage to the book club is off the discounted price, not the list price.

List price                                       $19.95

20% member discount              4.00

Club selling price                     15.95

75% club discount                     11.97

Gross to you                                     3.98

Unit Production Cost                          1.39

Unit net to you                                    $2.59

Another advantage to this structure is that you can add an additional quantity of books to the press run. If the quantity is sufficiently large, these additional books are at a fraction of the cost of that quantity printed separately. In the case above, the unit cost of $1.39 is based on a print run of 5000 books. This may be divided as 4000 for the book club and 1000 for your stock. If you printed 1000 books at a time, the unit cost could be $3.29. The books you now have in stock are at $1.39, not the higher cost of a smaller print run.

2) Inventory Purchase
In this case the book club buys books from you at your unit cost and pays you a negotiated royalty on each sale. Given the same book as above:

List price                              $19.95

20% member’s discount   4.00

Club price                                15.95

Negotiated price to the club         3.50

Unit production cost                      3.29

10% Negotiated royalty         1.60         (10% of the club price)

Net to you                                 $1.81

However, you are not guaranteed any minimum sales level, so you probably should not print 5000 books. If you print a smaller quantity, your unit cost will be higher.

3) Club Prints Its Own Run
The book club may be very confident in its ability to sell a lot of your books. If they believe sales may be significant, say 10,000 books, the club may opt to print the books themselves and pay you a royalty. Make sure you have written agreement on who pays the pre-press costs. This is how your royalty could be determined:

List price           $19.95

Club price         $15.95

Your royalty      $ 1.60  (10% of the club price)

Although you receive the lowest unit amount in this scenario, you could maximize your gross revenue. However, you are only paid on sales and there is no guarantee that they will sell 10,000 books. Also, you can add your press run to the club’s print run and substantially reduce your own unit cost. This is certainly an advantage over the inventory-purchase deal.

Start your own book club and sell books at list price
This is not as strange as it may seem initially. In fact, it is just what Wes Green did with his company, Linguality (www.linguality.com). Mr. Green started his own book club and sells books directly to targeted consumers.

Linguality republishes foreign-language books in their original language. Wes’ twist is that he includes a glossary opposite each page so the content becomes a language course. He even includes a CD containing an interview with the author in each book. Linguality groups six books together, in French or Italian, and sells them on a continuity basis. Readers subscribe to the six-book series and receive one book at a time.

Wes advertises these books in full-page ads in the New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Book Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Economist and Atlantic Monthly. He then sells directly to their readers in his target market: upscale, urban, educated, 50-year people who love to travel. You may ask, “How can he afford that?” There are several reasons:

• By bypassing the retail outlets he saves the distributor’s discount that can amount to sixty-five-percent or more.

• He charges list price, and also charges for shipping.

• He is paid up front for the full six-book series.

• Since Wes has an accurate forecast of demand, he prints to order instead of carrying a large inventory.

• Wes buys “off the rate card,” meaning he gets a substantial discount, buying ad space “at much less than you would expect,” he says.

• “When we sell books by subscription, we capture names and addresses. That means we have a mailing list we can use to sell re-subscriptions and other complementary products such as literary trips to Europe,” adds Wes.

The money he makes or saves with this unique marketing technique more than pays for the advertising space. Linguality has carved out a niche market and created a book club to sell to it. This innovative combination has led to a lucrative business with a bright future for expansion, “selling in one of the toughest language markets in the world,” Mr. Green adds confidently.

~ Brian Jud is the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and now offers commission-based sales of books to buyers in non-bookstore markets. For more information contact Brian at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; (860) 675-1344; Fax (860) 673-7650; brianjud@bookmarketing.com or www.premiumbookcompany.com @bookmarketing on Twitter


We hope you will find this program useful, but as with any advice, we recommend that you make sure it fits your specific business needs. IBPA does not specifically endorse or support any particular group or service.


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