Book Printers Should Be Curious
Good book printers are curious. They have to be. They know that printing a book is a small part of what concerns a publisher. Furthermore, they understand that many publishers dislike working with printers, but view it as a necessary evil. So the successful book printers are the ones that are curious about all the ways they can help a publisher be successful.
Book printing represents only 10% of the value in the publisher’s value chain. Most of the other 90% is taken up in marketing, distribution and profit. The curious book printer asks questions to understand how to help the publisher with marketing and distribution that, in turn, improve profit. Book printers know that by speaking the publisher’s language, they will gain more credibility, respect and become a valued partner rather than a “necessary evil.”
Marketing and distributing a book is no different than any other product. The publisher needs to make potential readers aware of the book and find ways to get it into their hands.
The curious book printers ask questions about how the book is to be marketed and distributed. They ask who will be the distributor or wholesaler. They ask if the books will be sent to multiple locations or one central location. They ask if the publisher has multiple titles. If so, does that publisher have a catalog? If so, does the catalog need updating and, if not, does the publisher need a catalog? They ask what marketing events are going to support the book: book signings, a book tour, direct mail, advertising, and so on. What items will the publisher need to support those events? Posters? Flyers? Bookmarks? Each answer leads to additional products a printer might sell the publisher. For a more complete list of marketing products, see the blog entry: “Printing Marketing Items for Book Publishers.”
At first, the publisher may be cautious, even suspicious, of a book printer asking so many questions. Many publishers do not know all the ways in which a printer can help them sell their books. The good printers know to back off the questions. They work on building more rapport before continuing on.
Still, the curious book printer continues to think of ways to help the publisher sell the book. One recent example from a book printer in California exemplifies this type of thinking. The printer was printing 600 books for a metaphysical book publisher. The publisher had distribution, but hadn’t thought about how the salespeople were going to demonstrate the book to potential buyers. Book salespeople do not carry all the books they sell with them. The books are too heavy. Instead, they carry samples of the book’s cover (as a flat sheet) to show to buyers. This book printer asked the publisher how the book salespeople were going to sell the book and got an order for an additional 250 covers after explaining the situation.
To be successful as a book printer, one has to be curious, ask questions, become interested in the publisher’s business and earn the trust of the printer. Only by doing these things will a book printer protect against his publishing clients leaving for another printer solely based on the lowest price.