John Kremerís Book Marketing Update

How this author sold nearly 500,000 books without bookstores
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Bob Kalian of Roblin Press recognizes that the chances of him getting rich by selling his book in bookstores are pretty slim. He had already been successful selling tens of thousands of copies of his book, The Best Free Things in America, in bookstores. But Kalian didn't want to sell tens of thousands of books; he wanted to sell hundreds of thousands. So, he decided to try his hand at other outlets, like book clubs and various non-book-trade buyers -- catalogs, home-shopping networks and premium buyers.

That was a little over four years ago. And, since that time, Kalian's original book and a couple spin-offs have sold nearly 500,000 copies -- not including sales made through bookstores. Here's how he did it.

Think like your customer. Specialty buyers will only buy your book if it will help them grow their business and make them money. Maybe it will help them retain clients, find new subscribers, or is a product they can sell to their customers for a profit. Ask yourself what kind of concrete benefits the buyer will get from doing business with you. Back up your claims with sales figures, demographic information or other facts.

Consider selling rights, not just books. For deals with Boardroom, Inc. and Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC), Kalian didn't sell a specific quantity of books, but instead sold reprint rights. With BOMC, Kalian receives a royalty (6% of retail price) based on the number of books the club sells. The club handles all the printing and fulfillment. The Boardroom deal is similar, but contains an interesting twist. As with BOMC, Kalian receives a royalty (again, 6% of the retail price) for each copy of the book Boardroom sells, with that company handling printing and shipping. The twist is that, when you buy the book from Boardroom, you might not ever know it was originally published by Roblin Press. That's because Boardroom took his book, The Best Free Things for Seniors, a spin-off of The Best Free Things in America, and published it under the new name, The Bottom Line Book of Freebies, complete with a new cover and the author's name removed.

Offer package deals. In a deal Kalian put together with QVC, he combined a number of books and offered them as a package. It included the original book, the seniors spin-off and a third book, Amazing American Bargains. Kalian sold the whole package on QVC for $18.75, about 35% off the price if all the books were purchased separately. The offer was so successful that Kalian was asked back 16 times and sold about 90,000 copies of his books.

Write a new book specifically for a customer. When he approach mail-order-clothing company Haband with his book, The Little Book of Free Things (basically The Best Free Things in America repackaged in paperback format), Haband was lukewarm to the idea. Instead, they wanted a book targeted directly at its customers -- seniors. To make the sale, Kalian pulled out information from the general book that was most applicable to that market and published The Best Free Things for Seniors. The company wound up buying 51,000 books. Another sale for 250,000 books came when Kalian created a customized version of his very first book, A Few Thousand of the Best Free Things in America. A magazine was interested in a major purchase but wanted a few changes. He sent the company the book, they circled the items they wanted in their version and sent it back. Kalian then had the customized version printed and closed the sale.

Make cosmetic changes to fit new markets. When Kalian wanted to sell his book in specialty retail outlets, like convenience stores and airport gift shops, he realized it would be difficult because his books were all trade paperbacks. The problem is that the slots for books in stores like these only accept mass-market paperbacks. No problem. Kalian repackaged the trade paper version of The Best Free Things in America as a mass-market paperback, The Little Book of Free Things. That simple change helped him sell 40,000 books into those stores.

Persist. Selling into special markets "involves work, awareness and persistence," says Kalian. "In talking to people, the one thing I find that keeps people from succeeding is that if they send something out and don't hear back, or get a form rejection, they forget about it," says Kalian. "But it doesn't mean it's not right for them. It simply means it's not right at this point in time. In a few months it could be totally different. Believe in what you're doing and don't get discouraged because one person, or even a whole range of people, have rejected it in one form or another."

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For more information on Roblin Press, visit the company's Web site at or contact Roblin Press, 405 Tarrytown Rd., PMB 414, White Plains, NY 10607; 914-347-6671;

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This article is based on one that originally appeared in John Kremer's Book Marketing Update, a twice-monthly newsletter that covers major media publicity opportunities for authors as well as case histories of successful book promotion campaigns. Click here for subscription info, plus a transcript of John's recent telephone seminar on "What Bestselling Authors Do Differently."