One of the most common questions we hear from authors is "Why does Ingram return my books only to order more the next day?" And it’s true: Ingram, the biggest player in the book wholesaling game, will frequently send books back to a publisher’s doorstep only to turn around an place an order a few days later. Why on earth didn’t they just keep them?
All books that bookstores ship back to Ingram are sent to their Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, warehouse for processing and then are directly returned to publisher or distributor of the title. Unfortunately, Ingram does not restock returned inventory. (You can imagine that tracking, inspecting, and restocking undamged returns would be a time-consuming endeavor for an operation of that size.) At the same time, Ingram has to bring in new stock to cover ongoing demand.
Another scenario that creates returns followed by more orders is a shift in regional demand. Ingram has four warehouses serving the country by region (in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Indiana, and Tennessee). If your cookbook is overstocked in Seattle bookstores, but you just did a great local radio tour in the Chicago area, Ingram’s going send the Seattle books back to you while simultaneously asking you for more to cover the new demand in Chicago—no matter how inefficient that seems.
The best way to minimize returns is to balance supply with demand by trying to maintain supply at a level that will sell in less than three months. So, as we’ve told you before, avoid overstocking and subsequent returns by always communicating your marketing and publicity activities to your publisher or distributor.
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Getting news media coverage for your book can be challenging, especially when the number of traditional media outlets (such as daily newspaper book review sections) is shrinking. However, too many of the lucky or deserving handful who are given a chance to get their message to the masses waste their opportunity.
As one who has worked in book publishing for twenty years and has been involved in arranging thousands of interviews for authors, I can say that most authors—even seminar speakers, motivational trainers, and life coaches—often don’t fully exploit their knowledge, ability, or passion. Rather than turning their radio or television interview into a memorable, experience, they simply treat it as a defensive situation with a standard approach of “I just don’t want to be embarrassed.”
Here are nine ways to be proactive and steal the show.
1. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good line. Instead of merely making a statement, say something with some colorful language. One could say, “To lose weight, drink eight to ten glasses of water a day,”or you could show some personality: “If you wanna drop those ten unwanted pounds, then drop down ten glasses of water every day. Drink up or fatten up. It’s your choice.” See the difference?
2. Give an action step, not an advertisement. Never say, “You can buy my book at www.whatever.com.” Instead, say the name of your book in a smooth sentence: “How to Lose Weight on Your Lunch Break is like having a therapist in your bed. You can access twenty-five free tips at www.whatever.com." Now you’ve provided value and stated a specific offer.
3. Make a point and provide an example. People remember a story or something they can specifically identify with rather than an abstract statement.
4. Make it relevant when possible. Tie your message into the news or to what’s on people’s minds at a given moment in time.
5. Confess or admit to something. Don’t tell us you cheated on your spouse when you’re hawking a cookbook, but do tell us how your six-year-old kid thought your cake tasted like crap. Self-deprecating humor is good. Or tell us how you made a dish twenty times until you found the missing ingredient.
6. Create an enemy. Put every conversation in the context of good versus evil, new versus old, us versus them, etc. Enemies are everywhere. If you’re talking about personal finance, vilify government bailout and corporate greed; if you discuss a disease, you want to eradicate it; if you want to help parents be better at raising kids your enemy can be a situation (kids whining while you’re driving). There’s no end to finding a villain—it can be a person, group, ideology, circumstance, fate—whatever.
7. Express emotions and play to people’s fears, desires, needs, and weaknesses. Make assumptions about the people who will buy your book and identify their concerns. Your interviews should answer these concerns. If you wrote a book on dating and you know the fear of never getting married is in the back of your potential readers' minds, address the issue and do so in a way that it gives a positive, proactive feeling. This will naturally lead them to visit your site.
8. Ask the talk show host or his or her audience for help. Tell them you’re trying to do something (i.e., get people to stop smoking if your book is about addiction). Suggest people email you their ideas on how to eradicate the problem. Not only does it unite people, it gives you a whole bunch of email contacts to follow up with.
9. Be colorful, not boring. Think of a waitress who can simply bring you a plate of food or one who can do a little dance before serving you. Who will you remember? Don’t just drone on with useful info or ideas—deliver it with style.
Brian Feinblum is the Chief Marketing Officer of Planned Television Arts, a book publicity company and leader in the media placement field since 1962. If you want to know more on how to promote your book during a media interview, please send your queries to Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 212-583-2718.
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- Last weekend's Christian Book Expo flopped, with a reported 1,500 showing up, rather than the hoped-for 15,000–20,000.
- HarperCollins abandoned dead-tree catalogs and went all digital.
- Ebook store Fictionwise (now owned by Barnes & Noble) debuted an app for the BlackBerry.
- A new author profile site, Filedbyauthor, had an official beta launch.
- Picador unveiled a Twitter-based book club.
- Simon & Schuster reduced eBook royalties.
- The much-buzzed-about trailer for the Where the Wild Things Are, which was co-written by Dave Eggers, debuted.
- The nominations for the 2009 Hugo Awards were announced, including a new 'test' category of "Best Graphic Story." Comic book fans of the world rejoice.
Have a great weekend!
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In the book industry, "pristine" is the word wholesalers and retailers use to describe books that are in saleable condition. If a book isn't pristine (which means “absolutely flawless” in this context), it's sent straight back to the publisher. Its fate—pulping, free giveaway, remaindering, years of gathering dust in a warehouse—is determined from there.
We recently spoke with Debbie Purrington of Ingram Book Company, the industry’s largest wholesaler, who spends her time doing fix-up jobs on the slightly imperfect books Ingram receives from printers. Debbie’s workstation in Ingram’s Tennessee warehouse checks books for twenty types of damage, including dented spines, torn pages, creased dust jackets, oozing glue, unsmoothed Mylar, and printing errors such as missing sections or upside-down pages (which, she says, happens more frequently than you may think). If the damage is too extensive to repair, the pallets of books are returned directly to the publisher. But if there’s something Debbie or her colleagues can fix, she sets to work. The book repair station, which is operated by only one person at a time, mends between 50 and 100 books per shift. The books Debbie fixes have not seen the rough-and-tumble of shipping through the supply chain (in other words, she won’t fix your books that got damaged because the UPS guy dropped them), but her tactics, outlined below, can help any author or small publisher for whom creased, dented, unsellable books can be a huge revenue drain.
Attempt to repair slight damage. Ingram has some tools you may not have at home (like a hydraulic press that shears page-edges an entire book at a time), but if your books are looking a little ragged, Debbie had some repair ideas that you can implement at home:
- Use a regular clothes iron to get rid of folds and creases. Put the iron on the lowest heat setting and lightly wet the page with a water bottle to straighten out the affected area. The same method can be applied to dust jackets, but never use an iron on laminated covers or plastic sheeting. Never use steam, and please use common sense—we absolutely refuse to be responsible for acts of stupidity involving high temperatures and paper.
- Use adhesive remover to eliminate stickiness. Debbie recommended the 3M general purpose variety for that awful residue left over from price stickers and the like.
- Water-based markers can be used to touch up discolorations or hangnails on covers.
- Dirty, smudged, or fingerprinted books can be cleaned with simple alcohol prep pads and dry-erase erasers.
If you want to get into hardcore book repair, check out the Dartmouth College Library online manual on the topic.
Take damage-prevention measures. Once you put books in the hands of the USPS or a shipping company, you can’t control the injury they may sustain at the hands of others. You can, however, make it harder for them to get hurt by packing them properly. Newspaper is a great, cheap standby if you’re not fancy enough for bubble-wrap. And no packing popcorn—it can wedge inside the pages of a book and cause both damage and extreme annoyance for the unpacker. Don’t overload the box, and make sure the box is sturdy enough to withstand a few hard bumps from people who don’t care about what’s inside. Also, ensure that your books, whether in your own garage or at a major distributor, are not subjected to heat or humidity which can warp and bow book covers.
Think about potential damage at the production stage. Another way to reduce losses from damage is to avoid printing books that are especially susceptible to said damage. The striking white dust jacket may be a compelling design choice, but is it worth the inevitable grime and smearing? Likewise, glossy black jackets are great at showing those tiny, shiny scratches, and oversized coffee-table books are usually the first to get bumped, ripped, and crushed on conveyor belts and chutes. If you do go with a jacket that’s likely to sustain damage, ask about printing extra jackets so that the books can be resold.
Inspect books for problems before you ship them. Debbie pithily summed up Ingram’s quality standards this way: “Don’t send a book if you wouldn’t buy it yourself.” If you’re getting ready to ship books anywhere—Ingram, your distributor, Amazon.com, a local gift store—it pays to inspect the stock before you subject it to the hazards of shipping. One of the adorable little quirks of the book trade is that all product is fully returnable; if those books are nicked or dog-eared before you send them, you’ll be seeing them again very soon, and you’re out the cost of shipping them in the first place. No one but FedEx wins in this scenario. So think like a consumer when inspecting product: Would I buy this book in this condition? Standards are not universal, of course: Debbie pointed out that damage on a car repair manual is not as significant as damage on a luxurious Annie Leibovitz retrospective.
Any ideas of your own? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!