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Sell No Book Before Its Time

Sell No Book Before Its Time

An engineer can look at the foundation of a building under construction and tell you its eventual height. The deeper the base, the higher the structure will be. Similarly, an independent publisher must create a strong foundation to support a title's future growth. This preparation is performed in five phases.

1) The Planning Phase

Focus on creating a strategic marketing plan for your title at least six months prior to its publication date. Outline the tactics you will perform, and establish completion dates for each, in four functional areas:

* Production. How many pages and what size should the book be? What type of binding? Will you use illustrations or half tones?

* Distribution. Will you distribute your books through the traditional distributor_wholesaler_ retailer channels? What special markets--mass merchandise clubs, associations, premium sales, corporations, foundations, book clubs or home shopping channels--are suited to your title? What about Internet marketing?

* Promotion. Plan your strategies in four areas: publicity, advertising, sales promotion and personal selling.

* Financial. Determine the list price and forecast potential sales. This will determine your initial print run. Calculate expected costs and create your preliminary cash flow statements and other financial reports.

2) The Production Phase

The next month or two (four to five months before pub date) are devoted to the production process. Finish all illustrations and photography. Complete the front cover design and internal layout, which presupposes all registration information (ISBN, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number, Bookland EAN bar code and CIP data) has been compiled.

Once you have all the production information, submit Requests For Quotation to several printers. Each RFQ should list the quantity to be printed and books's trim size, number of pages, number of colors (on the cover and internally), number of halftones, type of binding and the weight of the cover and paper.

3) The Promotion Phase

Promotion begins here and never ends. Three to four months before publication date, begin contacting book clubs, inquiring into serial or other rights' sales. Prepare galleys to send to reviewers as well as for peer review and endorsements. When you receive testimonials, add them to the rear cover copy and all your promotional material.

Think in terms of the four parts of the promotion mix: publicity, advertising, sales promotion and personal selling. Create and place prepublication announcement advertisements (some trade papers have 90-day deadlines). Produce sales-promotional items. Decide upon the trade shows at which you will exhibit. What direct-mail letters and sales literature must be written and printed? Plan non-traditional publicity programs that will stimulate as much attention as possible.

Prepare press releases for relevant newspaper and magazine editors. Do not overlook the broadcast media as a source of low-cost, high-yield publicity. Develop a list of television and radio shows suited to the topic of the book.

4) The Distribution Phase

During the two to three months prior to publication, your objective is to create distribution. Research and contact relevant wholesalers and distributors. Do not forget that separate channels may be required for marketing to libraries, bookstores and special markets. When you contact a prospective distribution partner, describe the comprehensive marketing plan you have in place and how your promotional efforts will support their sales efforts.

Continue your preliminary promotional efforts. Once your books are being printed and your distribution is in place, send your press kits to the media. Also, provide your distributor with copy and cover-art for its catalog.

5) The Introduction Phase

The final month before publication is devoted to following up and catching up. You must follow up with your printer, editors, producers, buyers and reviewers to consummate your programs. And make final arrangements for your media tour and book signings.

At the same time you must implement last-minute promotional programs. This may entail mailing literature to buyers at major chains and independent stores, sending book covers to distributors, participating in cooperative mailings with SPAN, and getting your web site up and running.

When your book is finally released, the real work of sustaining its momentum begins. However, the publishing process is more rewarding and productive if it begins well enough in advance, building steadily upon a strong foundation of strategic planning and effort.