How to Win Big With Airport Book Sales

In retail product sales, just as in real estate, the key to success can lie in location, location, location.

A strong location brings a healthy volume of shoppers AND the right buyer demographics aligned with the product you’re trying to sell.

For this reason, many business book authors want to see their books in airport bookstores. The traffic is strong, the demographics are right, and chances are good that the book buyer will convert to a reader on the plane…and perhaps a consulting client after that.

This kind of prime real estate is high in demand, however. Just as in grocery and other brick and mortar retail, premium airport bookstore placement comes at a price that is shouldered by the publisher and/or author. It’s not extortion for retailers to ask for payment to place your product in these premium positions. It’s capitalism, and it happens at all levels of retail. But money alone won’t secure a product placement.

Retailers are very selective about which books (or other product) receive an opportunity for promotion. The buyers who select the titles in these placements are evaluated on sell-through performance. They choose the product that they believe will move the most units based on sales potential, which (for books) boils down to–

·     Author’s platform and name recognition

·     Cover design

·     Quality of content

·     Author’s marketing plan

If you want premier store placement for your book, you will need–

·     All of the items listed above

·     A publisher or distributor with a strong history of negotiating co-op promotions

·     Six months of lead time to pitch a mostly final product

So how does a book end up on the new release table at an airport’s entrance or the “New Year, New You” display at the front of Barnes & Noble? First, the publisher or distributor’s sales rep meets with the category buyer. The reps generally pitch buyers five to six months in advance of publication.

Then the rep solicits a buy and a placement promotion if co-op money is available. Co-op is what retailers call placement promotions. The term comes from cooperative advertising, stemming from the practice of allocating a set percentage of the previous year’s sales for co-op funds to be divvied out between titles as agreed upon by the publisher and bookseller.

If the publisher, distributor, or author has a budget for co-op promotions, the rep negotiates the placement directly with the buyer. The buyer will only offer a co-op placement for the book that he or she believes will sell the most copies in that space at that time. At the risk of beating a dead horse, Retail 101: location, location, location. Buyers will not sell the best real estate in their store to a title that won’t perform. If Dr. Oz’s newest diet book about some magical, exotic super fruit will outsell your book of poetry on the front-of-store table, it is not likely that the space will be available to you.

If the book sells well during that time, reps can try to negotiate extensions, though even the strongest seller may be locked out if there’s no unpurchased space available. Extensions are based on sell-through and available space. Time consumer-marketing efforts like publicity to coincide with your co-op promotions. If you do not drive consumers into stores while the book has the premier spot, your book will be returned once the placement expires.

While it can be expensive to secure placements in prime retail locations like airport bookstores, the payoff of new business from readers who convert to consulting clients, keynote clients, etcetera often makes it well worth it. As with any business decision, consider the potential ROI in your situation to determine if it makes sense for you.

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