Back in the day, it was common for retailers to have two different contact people at their wholesale distributor contacts. One was their actual sales rep who would visit anywhere between two and six times per year, depending on the account size. The other was a telesales rep who would fill in the blanks between sales rep visits with specials and problem-solving.
The point of these reps was to get as much of their company’s product into the retail stores and then, with displays, magazine advertising and mentions on Christian radio and television, the books would sell themselves.
That’s not the case today.
It occurred to me this week that what I would really love to have is, for lack of a better word, an equipper who would keep me saturated in YouTube book and movie trailers as well as the HTML elements I’m always ranting about needing, that I can use on Facebook, Twitter, the store’s website and the store newsletter. This person would not be driven by getting product into the store, but in making product awareness happen; to boost sales of the products I’ve already committed to, as well as those that myself and my staff have not yet stocked, or may not know about it.
Today I watched a video trailer at NewReleaseToday.com for a movie titled Chasing Grace. The video was posted back in November, 2014 and has only had 1,100 views. The movie is in stock now at David C. Cook with a May 3rd, 2016 release date. I clicked one into a cart. Some of the themes look dark and there’s a scene in the trailer where a man puts a gun to his head. Not for everyone, I guess. But I wouldn’t have heard of it without the trailer. If I choose I can put the trailer on FB, though I’m not likely to promote a film where I only have a single copy stocked. And the latest advice is that retailers keep to one FB post per day, so I have to be careful where to use that. But still, it’s great to be able to see the product.
An equipper would provide retailers with the new media tools they need to know what to stock and how to market it.
Earlier this week I took a screen shot of a page from YourChurchZone.com of a $64 book on learning Biblical Greek. I sent it to only two pastors who are doing a kind of ‘Greek club’ once a month, and one of them ordered the book. It’s that easy! But it’s a sale I wouldn’t make without media resourcing.
And to save you looking, here’s the trailer for Chasing Grace:
5 Ways to Get Customers As Excited About Books as You Are
by Paul Wilkinson
There’s a saying that “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink;” to which the response is, “True, but you can put salt in its oats to make it thirsty.”
Getting customers — and people you would like to see return as customers — into the books you stock is always a challenge. These days, it seems like there are so many things competing for our attention. But there are some things you can do:
YouTube – I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again. Let a customer listen to N.T. Wright or Francis Chan, and they will literally hear those authors in their heads as they are reading. I’ve directed many customers to an obscure clip from Chan titled “Balance beam” many times. These links create familiarity and intimacy with the authors and drive customers back to get their books. Of course, there are also book trailers. I wish the publishers would help us find out about them better, and have something to direct our customers to find them.
Magazines – Most stores say their magazine program is dying or has already died, but these resources were great for allowing people to read excerpts and reviews of current products. We’re currently doing a giveaway program with Faith Today magazine from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, to help people who want to be better connected stay in the loop. Our regional Christian newspaper, The Christian Herald, contains book reviews in each and every issue. For stores still playing the magazine game, Relevant, Christianity Today, various women’s magazines and Focus on the Family are examples of periodicals that can drive sales, though with Focus you’re competing with their in-house product sales.
Church Libraries – Many stores see the local church libraries as competition, but nothing could be further from the truth. Besides being among your best customers, they get people excited about books, authors and series, and I like to encourage some of the local church librarians to make sure the library is frequently mentioned in the announcements or the bulletin. With one or two churches, I’m going to take some pictures of the library myself, send them to the church office, just so they have an image to go with a mention in the weekend announcement slides, and mid-week e-mail blast.
Thrift Shops – Someone made a point of tracking me down when Bibles for Missions opened a store in my town, to inform me that this would spell certain doom for my bookstore. Quite the opposite. People get a couple of titles in a 4-book set and come to us hoping to find the rest. I don’t have room to start a used department, so I see the thrift store as complementary to what we’re doing in the retail bookstore. Besides, the book departments at Value Village or The Salvation Army are testimony to the fact that book reading is alive and well.
Excerpts Online – I recently asked an author for 6 or 7 paragraphs from his recent book. You would think I had asked for a share of his royalties. Publishers and distributors and literary agents couldn’t make it happen. I just don’t have time to transcribe from each and every book, or I would; and I can’t copy and paste excerpts from fuzzy .pdf pages. Christian publishers are totally dropping the ball on this one and they don’t get it. Fine. I understand that budgets don’t allow for printed samplers anymore. But it costs nothing to post sample chapters and then let retailers know where the heck they’re buried online. It’s the bookstore equivalent of handing out samples at the grocery store or Costco. Give me a little bit on a toothpick, and if it tastes good, I’ll probably throw the package in the shopping cart.
Two announcements this month at Send the Light (STL) that are of interest:
First, there have been changes to the free freight program. For Canadian stores, the 20-unit book free freight program is now showing as also available with a 30-unit total order:
- If your order contains at least 20 shippable units of books & Bibles the whole order will ship Payment Free Freight. (Shippable means that out-of-print and no-longer-carried items do not count towards the number of units.)
- If your order contains at least 30 shippable units of any mix of products then the whole order will ship Payment Free Freight.
(I should add that as of this morning, my own account cart was still showing as needing X number of books or X dollar amount, which is actually a mixing of the new U.S. and Canadian offers. I’m assuming they will tweak this as time goes on.)
Second, they appear to be adding the Great Value Books inventory to the main warehouse. An email this morning took me to this link, where the first tab takes you to specials at up to 92% off.
In light of developments this month at Ingram/Spring Arbor, this is certainly positive news. It’s nice to see a supplier reaching out to help stores and not hinder our mission. If your store isn’t purchasing from STL, now is good time to open an account.
On Monday the Canadian dollar closed at its highest value since October.
In general, I think a good rule of thumb should be: If a supplier took their time before modifying (increasing) prices to reflect the exchange rate realities, we need to cut them some slack now that the dollar is moving in the other direction.
On the other hand: If a supplier was very swift to change their prices when the dollar was rising, it is incumbent on them to be equally efficient in making adjustments now that things are heading in the other direction.
Suppliers: You know who you are.
Author Leonard Sweet tweeted this tonight, but didn’t mention a source
The problem is… when a website devoted to humour and satire doesn’t put the dates on their blog posts, you’re never quite sure if something was meant for April Fools, or if it was just another day! Click the title below to read the full article at source or forward it to your staff.
“Our research keeps showing that people feel vulnerable in a relationship with an all-powerful Being,” says Cloud. “Thankfully, God has given us a choice. We can set boundaries in this key relationship and let him know what we are comfortable with.”
A relationship with God presents a “natural power imbalance” because one party is so much more powerful than the other, Cloud says. Boundaries are the biblical solution.
“It was God who said, ‘Draw near to me and I will draw near to you,’” Cloud says. “That’s an invitation to draw the boundaries where we want them. God makes that okay. He respects the limits we put on him based on the gift of our free will.”
One woman who was part of their study said she enjoyed growing closer to God but didn’t want him directing her finances.
“I’m just not ready for that,” she says. “I grew up poor and make a good amount of money now, which gives me a real sense of confidence. I think God respects that, so I put a boundary there.” …
I always find it interesting when we get interest in backlist titles that is characterized by two things (a) There isn’t any media that we know of driving the sales, and (b) The people making inquiries seem to have more than six degrees of separation.
Such is the case right now with the Emotionally Healthy series of books by Peter Scazzero, published by Zondervan, pictured above. Full disclosure: I haven’t sold or stocked the leadership title, but I’m starting to wonder if we should carry that one as well.
We’re in a small town, so significant numbers are, well, significant. But I never know if, like the picture on the cover of the first book, I’m seeing all the demand we’re going to get, or if we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
(The image above is sized for Facebook, so feel free to use it on your store’s page.)
We’re currently running The 72 Hour Sale on an HTML-only basis. In other words, we’re not even doing the handout. This has presented some challenges, not the least of which is getting the information out to our customers without overburdening their email or mobile device with the graphic elements. We’re also giving out cards containing the website address for the full flyer, but for some it takes too long to load, and others don’t have Adobe and don’t understand how or why to obtain it.
So we’re breaking up the sale periods into smaller units and introducing new products every day on Facebook. This means ‘cleaning up’ the flyer images, which means ridding them of interference from overlapping items on the same page. This takes time, so I set a 5-minute limit on any one element, and in some cases it shows.
You can also do this by scanning pages of print catalogues you receive, or taking screen shots of product on display on supplier websites. The program of choice I use is Irfan View; which is a free download. It’s not as sophisticated as the Movie Maker program I bought my wife — which I needed for the new cover of the 1GN album — but allows for various types of image editing. But the actual patchwork editing for these was simply done in Microsoft Paint. (Check out the girl’s head closely in the third shot below; remember, I set a 5-minute time limit.)
Some were simple crops, but others involved touch-ups. If you’re doing the sale, feel free to use these on Facebook.
I have more of these I can send you by email, or you can steal them from my store’s Facebook. If there’s a supplier website image you’d like to adapt for Facebook, send me the link and I’ll email you the finished product for free, provided I can use it on mine as well. You’re on your own for adding captions.
In an ideal world, suppliers will start supplying these graphics elements more frequently as well as with every sale promotion like this one. Here’s two more: