Publishing Insiders Wrap-Up: Selling Your Book in Bulk and Special Sales

by | Jun 15, 2011 | Book Marketing Basics

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We had a great show – with a lot of listener questions – covering what authors should know about selling their book in bulk and special sales with our guest Amy Collins.

About our guest:

Amy Collins is the owner of The Cadence Group, a sales and marketing service provider for the publishing industry. In 2008, The Cadence Group launched New Shelves Distribution, a full-scale book warehousing, sales and fulfillment company selling publisher’s books directly to the national chains and independent bookstores in North America. Learn more at

When we talk about selling your book in bulk or special sales we mean any sales outside of the bookstore and library markets.

For example, a cookbook author’s options include cooking catalogs. The author should research websites and catalogs to find prospects.

There also are companies that seek giveaway gifts for corporations and large retailers. They can help you get in there and get your book pitched as an idea – that cookbook example might make a great Mother’s Day promotion for a department store.

Know the Cost

A typical Wal-Mart discount department store i...

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Special sales are much more expensive for authors. Selling your book in bulk to Wal-Mart, Target, mass merchants, and the larger chains means you’re looking at a 55% discount on your book.

Catalogs start at a 60% to 70% discount, and you may have to pay them a fee on top of that.

However, if Macy’s is going to order 20,000 nonreturnable copies of your book, (which you can get printed at a low cost overseas), you can make a very nice penny at 20,000 copies, even with an 80% discount.

The numbers do freak people out, but consider the big picture: When you run the numbers, if you sell 300 copies of your book at the regular retail rate it just doesn’t compare with what you’d make selling 20,000 books – even at the 80% discounted rate.

It’s important authors run their profit and loss numbers before deciding if special sales make sense.

Getting Started

16 page book, prior to being trimmed.

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1. Cost: It costs more per unit to sell your books into the specialty sales market, so it’s important to take a look at how much it costs to develop your book. Obtain the unit cost and get print estimates from all over the world.

Get samples of the books from potential printers that are similar to your book. Make sure you know exactly how much it will cost you for a 5,000 or 10,000 unit order.

2. Research, research research: Before you send anything out do your homework. Do not send a book to a store, for instance, until you have walked up and down the aisles first. See if they carry other books on your topic, how much those books cost, and learn whether those books sell. Ask the manager. There’s nothing wrong with asking employees some questions. If you find out the store has four books on the same topic that cost $4 less than yours, you need to make your book better and less expensive or find another store.

Planogram Example

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3. Planning: Large stores have planograms of every book in every rack. Those planograms are reviewed two or three times a year.

February is a big month and so is August. Another big date is right before the holidays, around October.

Walk into the store and ask when they have the change-outs. Then, when planning your 12-month calendar, realize the planogram structure is different for various industries. Work ahead. Ideally you should pitch a year in advance.

Successful Special Sales Topics

A typical Staples office supply store, in Onta...

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Business books written by an author who has a platform do very well in special sales. High-end business books focused on CEOs do not. You want to offer a book geared toward the widest market in business.

Be creative. Amy had a client who booked himself on cruises and sold 4,000 books on three cruises. He ran seminars on how to start your own business and sold his book in the back of the room.

Books Amy sold into Staples that did well include a book on how to do your own taxes, one on how to use your own tax software, and another on how to maximize computer programs (that Staples sells). Business books don’t do well at Staples because the audience for those books don’t hang out at that store.

And, do not think of Wal-Mart, Target or Staples as the perfect place for your book because you can’t get into bookstores. Those stores want to see sales numbers – really good sales numbers – that show you’ve proven yourself already.

Your Kit

You want a buyer to consider your book – how should you proceed?

ISBN 81-7525-766-0

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Buy a nice, thick, shiny folder to protect your book. Include a well-written cover letter, a one-page sheet about the book, and a color copy of the cover. Provide a brief description of the book, an author bio including hometown (your book is usually tested in your hometown). Submit a list of competitive titles. You must know the competing and comparative titles (books similar to yours by authors who are similar to you). Include the 13 digit ISBN for your book.

The less you make a buyer work, the more chance you have of getting your book considered.

Make things easy for them. Do not make them work for information; instead, give them every reason to buy your book. Use bullet points to make it easy for them to scan your information. If you have upcoming events, list them in detail. Use Priority mail to send out your packet (at minimum).

Submission and Follow-up

It could take two or three months before you get a response, but you can follow up after three weeks if you’ve had no word on your submission. Buyers are buying six to nine months out so their timing is based on their schedule, not yours.

If the book has a shot but didn’t make the cut, they’ll call and let you know what didn’t work. They might say, “We liked the book but hated the cover.” Then you can pitch them next season with a new cover. If they just didn’t care for the book you probably won’t hear anything at all.

If you are passed up, ask why. The answer might determine if you can make changes that will put you in the running next time. It might be something you can change, such as pricing.

Download the full show at:


Books 2008

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Upcoming Episode:

Please join us June 28, 2011 for our next show, topic TBA!

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