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5 - Marketing/Distribution
– Five --
Marketing and Distribution
In my Introductory chapter, I discussed my first publication in 1982, being “The Dirty Book,” for which, three quarterly-issues were printed before doom and failure. Promotion to the world was by advertisements in prominent computer magazines of the time. Very costly, but national publications generate a large quantity of queries from all corners of the world. I simply didn't have the organization follow-up necessary to close the sales, and the advertisement program was terminated before I was able to catch up to myself.
However, that's not the type of marketing effort advised here. Instead, let's examine my promotions with the geographically localized “Diamondhead Jubilee” which was discussed in Step Two. Since that was my first book in my new life as a Writer, I will simply list my mistakes and then we will proceed as to how I handled other forthcoming books.
“Diamondhead Jubilee,” published in 1995, materialized from a retirement community comprised of folks whose sense of roots was not in their residential environment, but still remained in New Orleans or elsewhere. The residents would more readily have purchased a history of New Orleans than of Diamondhead. Many of whom, as I have found in other communities along the Gulf Coast, are residents who have aged to a retiring nature and preserving quite narrow interests – such as golfing, fishing, and playing bridge. These are simply the facts which are not intended to offend. Nevertheless, this is the type of community that resulted in low marketing successes, and thus, required a renewed and revised approach.
A principal in marketing – is retail exposure. Of the varied and consequential number of commercial places, there was not, and is not, a single book store in Diamondhead. The only saving outlet for me was the Super Market, whose owner had a deep regard for community support, and it was there that half of my 300 self-published books were sold. Although the book was well received by its possessors who stepped forward to make the purchase – the greater portion of 5,000 residents, now nearing 6,000, remain untutored in their community heritage.
I participated in several craft shows where I put up a table and sold a few books, but that effort did not justify my time or costs. Through these past years, I attended many social functions where many acknowledged their awareness of my authoring their community's history but feigned guilt in not having read it for lack of time.
All in all, I did not lose money in the long run, but would have – if it were not for coupling that book with the sale of others which I have since published.
The second heritage book I wrote was “St. Paul Parish Jubilee 3" in 1996. This was a gift contract I offered to the local Catholic Church. (By the way, one Jubilee had nothing to do with the other Jubilee – just coincidence --- besides, the first was celebrating 25 years and the latter was a 150 year sesquicentennial)
In recognizing my writing and research interests, the local librarian asked me to create a short historical sketch of the church since during that year the Parish would celebrate its Sesquicentennial. In the process of research, my eagerness for being a Scrutinier, produced a 115-page commemorative history of St. Paul Parish, Pass Christian, which included the Church, School, and Community since 1847. It was a Limited Edition of 200 issues that was underwritten by the church and was my gift to them with my name in bold print on its cover. The Pastor only wanted 100 books in the first printing which was followed by a second hundred after a few months, showing a surprising interest on the part of the church parishioners.
My third book was again centered on my hometown, initially entitled “Pass Christian – Tricentennial” for their approaching 300-year celebrations that took place in 1999. By this time, I was a member of the Tricentennial Committee, the Friends of the Library, the Chamber of Commerce, the Pass Christian Historical Society and Editor of a local newsletter. In addition, I was the founder of Pass Christian's St. Paddy's Day Parade, a take off from the Pete Fountain Halfast Walkin' Parade in New Orleans, of which I was a former member.
These endeavors were self-promotion and product promotion all wrapped up in Fun! The fact is, that as more and more people become aware that you are a writer, doesn't mean that they will purchase your book – they'd just as soon ask you for a free one – and this continues to occur quite frequently.
Nevertheless, my first book sales were modest, but somewhat encouraging since book availability was limited primarily through only two local Fine-Gift retail shops.
My fourth heritage book was entitled “Bay St Louis – Tricentennial,” which was released in 1997. The neighboring city of Bay St Louis was also observing its 300-year celebrations in 1999, and which afforded me a few more interesting sales outlets. I had befriended the Branch Manager of a coastal bank who personally inventoried and sold my books and turned over all proceeds to me. Another outlet was the Hancock County Historical Society who received 25% commission. They offered to sell my available books of Diamondhead and Pass Christian in addition to Bay St Louis. This opened the door to the only book store in Bay St Louis. The owner attempted to negotiate the standard 40% that bookstores normally operate by, but I finally convinced her that my costs were too great and I would have to give 40% to all my other vendors. Because the bookstore was getting a number of requests, the owner relented in my favor. (And by which I was able to establish a 25% commission rule for all future retail consignment sales.)
My fifth heritage book was entitled “Kiln Kountry,” as released in 1998. I selected Kiln, Mississippi as a belated follow-up to the successes by Green Bay's Brett Favre, after his starring in the Super Bowl at New Orleans during the previous season. The original edition 130-page book (later revised to 160 pages) covered the European settlers in the early 1800s, the old Kilns, Moonshine, and an early history of Brett Favre during his elementary and high school days.
Actually, that was my most exciting marketing effort encountered, as I generated new retailing ideas. The books sold through such locations as convenience store gas stations, barrooms, restaurants, craft shops, and even at the local VFW Hall. Sales were brisk during the first months as more than 400 books were purchased in that small hamlet which didn't have its first traffic light until most recently. I was constantly being called for new inventory during the first four months.
My sixth heritage book was entitled “Gulfport Centennial” and released in 1998, in time for the city's 100th Anniversary celebrations. Again, a new marketing opportunity was opened – the City of Gulfport and the Port of Gulfport's Exchange Club, each contracted for 100 books. Another favorable consequence resulted in befriending a family-owned duo of bookstores located in separate parts of the city -- which had grown to become the second largest city in Mississippi. These two bookstores were the first to put up signs in their door-entrances advertising availability of my books. They also agreed to handle, as of that time, all six of my self-published heritage books and where they now stock all of my books as each new one is released.
Taking a short respite from producing another Mississippi Gulf Coast book, I put forth a yearlong research effort on Slidell, Louisiana. During the same period, I revised and updated several of my books and changed their names in a repackaging endeavor. I initiated my “Discovery Series” by renaming former books to the following: Pass Christian Discovered, Hancock County – Bay St. Louis Discovered, and Gulfport Discovered – and revised the following to, Kiln Kountry – Home of Brett Favre. In this way, the titles were not trapped in a time warp and therefore allows me to make continuing updates as errors are found and desired inclusions made.
I also reconstituted an older booklet, Mississippi Gulf Coast Panorama, from 1994, and added photographs to the text. This booklet sells for $9.00 – however, I sometimes use it as a “Freebie” for anyone making group purchases. Excluding this booklet, all of my heritage books average 150 pages and include more than 200 graphic representations such as maps, dated photographs and significant landmark photos. These books sell for $20 each.
The title of this chapter is “Marketing and Distribution” – and you may be wondering at this point, wherein I speak. Certainly, the genres you choose to write in, will determine your methods of distribution. What is Distribution? – That's getting your book out to the public! The idea is to sell - sell - sell.
I can only speak from my experience – for that reason I appeal to those of you who read these Tomes, and have your own success stories to assist this writer in getting your word out to future writers about your distribution techniques. Send in your anecdotal experiences and let's post them on this web site – or even better – if you want to link your web site from here – I will be more than happy to accommodate.
I hope by now you are noting the fact that I have no intention of monetary profiteering from this project. Send me your thoughts . . .
(Also, note, the color bleached out of the above cover samples for some reason.)