THE BLOG
10/22/2013 10:07 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Courting Catalogs and Bulk Sales

Have you ever dreamed of selling your book to a catalog or large corporation? A sale like that would register several thousand copies of non-returnable product on the book sale meter. The trick is knowing who to pitch and when.

Before you embark on this type of a project, it's important to understand the possibilities: these include incentives, gift basket inserts, sales to catalog companies, corporate buys. All of these can be fantastic ways to gain some extra momentum for your book. The first step with this is to identify your market. Where does your book fit into this market and where could they use it? For example, a number of years ago I stumbled onto an event company that was planning a lot of corporate retreats to golf courses. The company would organize gift baskets for the executive sleeping rooms so when they arrived they had a lovely "welcome to the retreat" basket. This sparked an idea. At the time we were working on a golf book that would have been a perfect gift for them. When I offered it to them they got in touch with the author and purchased several thousand copies of this book. The key here is to start being aware of incentive items you might see and understand how they are used. Many are offered as consumer gifts or incentives while others are used as training tools or morale boosters for employees.

You may have to do some research because if you're going after a corporate target, you want to find one that aligns with your book in some way. Thirteen years ago when I was first in business it was pretty easy to place books with companies and even airlines. I once coordinated a purchase for Southwest Airlines that took less than a week to close. Things have changed. Companies are more selective about what they buy, some no longer buy, and others have limited any incentive buys to once a year.

Some examples of bulk sales might be:

  • Books offered at yearly company sales meetings
  • Books offered to consumers at a discount (consumers are usually asked to send in product UPC's to qualify for these specials)
  • Books offered to new customers at financial institutions
  • Books offered to new home buyers
  • Catalog sales

Corporate Buys

Once you analyze your book and the appropriate market, you're going to want to put together a sales pitch. The pitch needs to be sharp and educational. Most of the folks you are going to be pitching may have never dealt with bulk buys before. They won't know the benefits of offering a book; they won't see the immediate tie-in with their audience, or the benefit of buying your books in bulk, so you'll have to spend some time telling them why.

The why, however, should be pretty easy. First, books have a higher perceived value. If you've ever been given a swag bag, you know that much of it gets forgotten or discarded, but people are less inclined to toss a book. There is more value to the person receiving it.

Second, you may want to share with your potential buyer some of the success you've had with the book such as reviews, blurbs, etc. All of these things are positive. Perhaps even other sales you've made (unless it's a competing company!). Also, if you are doing a short print run, remind them that the books can be customized with their company logo and perhaps even a letter from the President of their organization.

If you're going after a particular market and are trying to locate companies within that industry, try doing a search in Google. Your search should look like this: "your industry and companies.".

Next, don't overlook companies in your own backyard. Think about industries, companies and organizations in your area that might work well for your book and begin going after them. Many times, local companies will welcome the opportunity to support hometown authors.

Once you've put your list together, you'll want to create a pitch packet. While most of the pitching we do now is via email, when it comes to bulk sales to companies we'll generally do a pitch packet which includes a book, endorsements, blurbs, and a cost breakdown of the book. Keep in mind that you'll likely have to offer a significant discount to get them to buy. For example, you could offer 45% all the way up to 80% if the buy is big enough. When you start to get into big numbers like 5,000 -10,000, etc., I recommend doing an offset print run to drop the cost of the book. Short print runs are always more expensive.

Corporate buys can take a bit of time, so start early. Most companies decide on gift or incentive items months in advance of the event. You'll need to follow up and that's really important. Most of the companies will not just call you when they get your packet. You'll need to call, follow up, and if you're lucky to get a call or a meeting, be ready to lead with the benefits.

Catalogs & Stores

This is another area where your book can shine but be cautious; unlike in the corporate arena, there's a lot of competition here. First and foremost, you'll want to identify the right catalog(s) to pitch. You can find a listing here:
http://www.catalogs.com/.

Once you locate the catalog, you'll need to search the site for submission information. If it's not there (and it may not be), you'll have to call them. Be warned: you may get the runaround. This isn't intentional. Most of the phone reps you'll come in contact with are there to handle customer issues and know very little about sales. You'll have to be persistent and, if necessary, ask for a manager.

The same is true for stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Home Goods Store, Home Depot, Macy's, etc. If you're lucky, you'll be able to find the submission information on their website but in most cases, you'll need to call. You will get bounced around a bit, but if you persist (just like the catalogs) you'll eventually succeed.

As with corporate pitching, you'll need a package (though in some cases, you'll submit your information online) but unlike with corporate pitching, you won't have to convince them to buy. They know you're submitting to make a sale, but I do recommend that you send them pricing for various purchase points. Use 0-1,000, 1,001-5,000 and so on. You may not have this pricing handy but a quick call to a printer should be able to get you estimates on printing your book in these quantities.

Gift Shops & Specialty Stores

This is another area that's often overlooked. We were working with a cancer book recently that we sold into a few hospital gift shops with big or well-known cancer wards. Gift shops, whether in a hospital, amusement park, museum, or some other tourist location, can be a great way to push copies of your book into the exact perfect market. I was in Vegas recently and saw a self-published book on Vegas mob history in several of their gift shops. Perfect fit, right? I asked the shop owner how they found these books, they said, "Often the authors pitch us, if it's a good fit we'll make a buy." I find this is true for most stores. Consider any store that might be appropriate to your market, regardless of the size. We've sold books to church bookstores who continue to order copies year after year. I have one title I placed in a church store 7 years ago, they continue to reorder it. Imagine those sales numbers!

Be open and creative with your pursuit of bulk sales! There are a lot of possibilities out there to sell lots of copies of your book and the more niche you can get, the better.

How long does this process take? As I mentioned above, I've seen bulk sales turn around in a week, while others take a year or more to complete. Oh, and the most important part... how many books can you plan to sell? Anywhere from one thousand to several thousand depending on the deal and the company.

With the right book and the right targets, sales like this are not only a great way to gain exposure of your book, in the end, they make great "cents."

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