Get the Inside Scoop on Special Sales

Since 1988, Jerry Jenkins and Jenkins Group, Inc. have been working with individuals, corporations, associations and non-profit organizations to sell large quantities of books to non-traditional, special market sales customers. Now you can do the same. No longer will you have to spend hours of your time researching for new sales outlets. The INSIDER'S GUIDE TO LARGE QUANTITY BOOK SALES is an innovative PDF publication that allows individual authors and publishers to take advantage of our years of accumulated knowledge and experience. Based on actual JGI client success stories, this in-depth guide is the number one resource for special market sales. It reveals the most effective strategies in gaining attention for your book and getting it sold! NEWS FLASH!! Catch the next stop on the Special Sales Express, as Jerry takes his Insider's Guide on the road. $295 attendence fee includes a FREE copy of the Insider's Guide.

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Here's What's Special About Special Market Sales

Jerrold R. Jenkins on Special Sales, with an excerpt from the Insiders Guide to Large Quantity Book Sales

Special Sales (def.): Books sold outside the traditional book trade; typically large quantity, non-returnable, freight pre-paid sales

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What, you ask, is so special about Special Market Sales?

Our Insider’s Guide to Large Quantity Book Sales is designed to change the direction of your publishing business, by helping you get into the lucrative area of special market sales. As a company, Jenkins Group, Inc. has spent endless hours to transform our years of experience into something that is both targeted and effective for independent authors and publishers – to bring you greater exposure and larger quantity books sales.

Ted Turner, media mogul and the founder of CNN said, "When you lose small businesses, you lose big ideas." That is especially true for independent publishers, and so I encourage you to use this guide as a strategic element of your existing marketing plan and to explore the network of information provided here to its fullest extent.

The Book Industry Study Group reported in its latest study that book sales would surpass $39 billion in 2004 and increase to $44 billion annually by 2008. You and your book can be a part of that growth!

Here is an excerpt from chapter one of the Insider’s Guide to Large Quantity Book Sales. May it contribute to your publishing success!

Jerrold R. Jenkins

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There are many publishers who have made small fortunes in selling directly to consumers in tightly defined markets. The ways are varied: advertising in trade magazines, direct mail, sales through seminars, and simply doing a host of media interviews and giving out an 800 number to listeners. Although it will challenge all of your entrepreneurial skills, direct selling is a great way to sell books.

From learning the mechanics and logistics of the various direct sale channels, to making pitches to a target audience that’s heard above all the others, you'll have to do the work -- but the payoff will be worth it. Each book you sell will capture the full retail price with very few returns. Besides hard work, selling direct takes creativity and capital. But those who succeed think of their work as the ultimate in entrepreneurship and wouldn’t do business any other way.

The more tightly targeted your book is to niche markets, the easier it is to sell by direct mail. Show What You Know® Publishing (a division of Englefield and Associates, Inc.) in Columbus, Ohio, specializes in books that help teachers prepare their classes for the proficiency tests given to students in Ohio, Florida, and Washington. The books are sold almost wholly by direct mail to the public schools in these states.

Bock Information Group ( makes 80 percent of its sales to schools, but has branched to other pursuits, such as a booklet aimed at property managers, including one on preventing and dealing with drug activity on rental property. “We sell them by the thousands to apartment-owner associations,” said President Wally Bock, who is building a small fortune from the business. “I think of myself as an information entrepreneur. What I do is harvest, process, and sell information,” he says.

Direct mail

Books are a perfect product for direct mail. They don’t spoil, they can command a high markup, and they can be mailed at a special third-class bulk rate. Direct mail usually works very well if the book offer meets three criteria: it satisfies a concrete need; it makes clear that the reader can’t get the book any other way or can’t get it at such a bargain, and the pitch contains a great headline and copy.

Yet direct mail is expensive.

Here’s some advice from Bev Harris, a book-marketing consultant:

  • Because of the high expense involved, direct mail is profitable for items that bring in about $100 per sale, or have strong repeat income (such as getting something four times a year and automatically billing it to their credit card.) For a book, don’t consider direct mail unless the price is over $20, and then only with a very targeted list. Starting with a test mailing of no more than 2,000 pieces, and spend no more than $.40 cents per piece. At that, you’ll need a 2-percent response just to break even. You can get up to 5 to 10 percent with an awesome list, but don’t count on it. Test first.
  • Don’t do direct mail on rented lists with a $20 book. Typical response on rented lists is often .5 percent (that’s a successful mailing on a rented list). At .5 percent, you’d need per-piece mailing cost of just $.10 cents on a $20 book. This is impossible. It’s better to bundle books together as a “buy three and get such-and-such, FREE” to increase the price point on direct mail.
  • Despite the volume purchasing advantages, never do a large mailing of, say, 100,000 pieces unless you’ve done extensive testing. Despite the economy of scale, zero percent of 100,000 is zero dollars and a whopping financial loss. That disaster can indeed happen if you miss the target or use an ineffective message.
  • Test both the mailing list and the message, starting with quantities no smaller than 2,000 and no larger than 5,000. Test with 2,000-5,000. If it works, test again with 5,000-10,000. If that works, test again with 25,000. Only if that works should you roll out. That assumes the list you are renting has that many names. Individual lists can perform very differently; each must be tested separately.
  • Even if you get good response on 25,000, an equal response on the rollout is not a sure thing. Seasonal factors play heavily, with January being the best time for direct-mail response on publications. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom. Harris said she had her best luck with consumer mailings that hit homes the week after Christmas, before New Year’s, and January. She’s also had good luck in February, August, September, and October. Business-to-business marketing is much more variable since you have to time things to match business needs and cycles.
  • Harris tested third class mailings against first class mailings three times; all three times the first-class mailing outperformed third class two-to-one. But even with big bulk sort discounts, that means more than $.20 just for postage. Price point is critical! It’s hard to make a buck if you are selling stuff for under $50-$100 or unless you have ongoing income expectations (such as publications with 45 percent renewal rates.)”
  • How to push down costs without sacrificing quality

    Mailing costs are important to consider. Before you design the mailing, it’s well worth your time to visit the post office and ask about regulations and cost. Once a prototype of your mailing is complete, take it to the post office to be weighed. A fraction of an ounce can translate into hundreds of dollars of unnecessary postal expense, which can be averted simply by dropping a page, changing size, or using lighter-weight paper.

    To minimize printing and postage expenses, publishers should use a standard-size envelope and paper size. A four-page letter, reply card, envelope, postage, stuffing, and copying costs about $1. Also, seek several printing bids and produce only a modest quantity until you’re sure the offer is long-term. But don’t skimp on appearance. A cheap-looking package leaves an impression of a fly-by-night firm and turns off prospects.

    Finding a great list

    Before you embark on a full-blown direct-mail campaign, research your market so that you can describe your audience with precision to a list broker. Literary Marketplace lists seventy such brokers in their 2004 edition. Where do you get a good mailing list? There are a lot of list brokers out there willing to sell names to you, ranging in price from ten cents to eighty cents a name. The more criteria you give for a name—income level, house owner, gender, occupation, etc., the more each name costs, but the better your “pull” or response will be. The better you’ve researched your target market, the better you will be able to define a list that will work for you.

    Here are a few mailing list sources to consider:
    1. Governmental Agencies: Government agencies possess a wealth of information. They’re typically willing to give you the names and addresses of government employees and agencies, but not always the names and addresses of private citizens whom they serve. They include courts, register of deeds, county clerks, state departments of transportation, and federal bankruptcy courts. Show What You Know® Publishing sends flyers to school libraries and school districts, the biggest customers of the Ohio, Florida, and Washington proficiency tests preparation book series. Free review copies of the book go to the curriculum director or building principal, as well as to teachers, but always with a follow-up phone call for an order.

    2. Catalog Companies and Stores: Visualize exactly the kind of customer, in every detail imaginable that would be apt to buy your book through a catalog. Now research the catalog companies that are targeting that same customer and ask to rent or buy their list. For ideas, visit Catalog Age Weekly's website ( There you'll find an offer to subscribe but also sample newsletters. For example, the January 13, 2005 issue contained articles about holiday catalog sales at the close of 2004, L.L. Bean's new women's catalog, and insider details about Nautilus' plan to launch a full-color, 52-page, 160-item catalog of home fitness products.

    3. Libraries: If you’re low on money and have tons of time, go to a metro library and cull company names from phone books that cover your targeted geographic area. It pays to make a phone call to get the right name of an individual in each firm as time permits. A mailing with individual names pulls far more strongly.

    4. Nonprofit Groups: These groups are a wonderful resource for lists, but often you’ll have to negotiate for use of the list, i.e., offering their members a special discount, promising not to sell the list to anyone else, etc.

    5. Other Publishers: If another publisher sells a book to an audience similar in profile to yours, propose sharing names of active respondents. Or consider a co-op mailing with other publishers or manufacturers of complementary products. Here is some more good advice from Wally Bock: "To have a good partnership, you've got to have clear, common interests, a clear way to make decisions, and a real business purpose." Two of the most well-known vendors that put together mailing lists for publishers are Twin Peaks Press (360) 694-2462 in Vancouver, Washington, and Publishers Marketing Association, (310) 372-2732) or check out their website,

    If you buy a list, you can use it forever with no penalties. Rented lists can only be used once. Don’t try to use a list more than once because list brokers plant tip-off names to catch offenders. However, the names of people who order your books or query for more information or a catalog are yours for the keeping, even if they're generated through a rented list. Always ask when the list was last cleaned. A cleaned list has been updated for accuracy, and dead addresses have been removed. When you ask for a list from a broker, try to be as specific as you can about the target customer’s characteristics. The more you can accurately narrow down your potential buyer, the greater your response. Specify income level, hobbies, gender, age, homeowner, parent or childless, frequent catalog buyer, etc. Writing the direct mail letter

    Wally Bock credits the great response he receives from his direct mail offers to these key guidelines:

  • In the headline, say specifically what benefit the book offers: “Here’s what you need to potty train your child in one day: a doll, a big bag of M&Ms, and my ten-page booklet.”
  • The copy needs to include a story about somebody who has a problem or anxieties or fears about something that’s bothering them. To solve the problem, this person has read the book and received very specific, marvelous benefits. This person should be similar in profile to the person who’s reading the letter.
  • Support the person’s emotional decision with data and other kinds of anecdotal proof.
  • Give consequences if the prospect doesn’t take action: “If you don’t get this book, your child’s potty training ordeal may stretch over several months with tears and endless accidents.” Get real people and credible organizations to echo your claims of proven results.
  • Explain why this is the best deal the market has to offer in terms of price, quality and convenience (and it should be!). Be sure to say the book is not available anywhere else, if that’s true. A real disincentive to order by mail is an absurd charge for postage. There’s absolutely no incentive to buy a book by mail at full price plus postage fees if the book is available at a bookstore.
  • Ask the person to act now. You’ll need to give the person a specific reason, whether it’s free shipping, a specially discounted price, a $3 coupon on a potty seat, or a free special report on a related subject—“Ten easy and ultra-cheap kid projects for a rainy day.”
  • Offer a guarantee of satisfaction. This gives your prospect more confidence, and, statistically, few people return a product.
  • Lend credibility to the offer by providing background information about yourself and your firm. People need to trust you before they send you their money.
  • Repeat the book’s benefit on the order form. “Yes, I want to learn exactly how to potty train my toddler in one day.”
  • Make it easy to order by accepting credit cards, having an 800 number to call, and a postage-free envelope.
  • Mail to the same lists every two to three months. The results of a second and third mailing are often as good as the first mailing. When you fail to make a profit, it’s time to find another list.

    And finally, consider this advice from C. Richard Weylman, of The Achievement Group: "Speak the prospect's language in every promotional letter and mailer that you create. This develops a sense in recipients' minds that you know them, you understand them, and you can truly identify with them. Use words that grab prospects' attention because the words are in their vocabulary and they are used on a day-to-day basis. As an example, when you're writing to doctors, use the word 'practice' not 'business.' Using their words also demonstrates respect for who they are and they, in turn, will respect you more."

    Test marketing

    As Harris suggested, before embarking on an expensive, full-blown campaign, test your list and your copy with 2,000 to 5,000 names. If you get a response of less than one percent or excessive “nixies” (wrong addresses), rework your copy or get a new list. Keep careful track of your costs and project your total profit. A revenue ratio of 2.2 times the money you spend should be considered minimum, said Tom and Marilyn Ross in The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing.

    Tips for a successful appeal

  • Hand-addressed letters get opened more frequently than labeled letters. Also, boost your chances of the envelope getting opened by printing on it a statement about the book’s benefit, “Open this envelope if you want to learn how to get your finances under control forever.”
  • The better your list, the better your response. Develop a system to keep the list up-to-date. Make a separate list of those who responded to the offer for development of your own “house list” of qualified buyers, which you can then rent to others and use for small-scale, highly targeted mailings. Purge any names that haven’t responded within the last year.
  • Maintain your house list diligently. To keep track of new addresses, make sure each piece of mail goes out with “ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED” below the return address. That way, the post office will place its address correction sticker on it before returning it to you. That allows you to update your database and minimize wasted postage.
  • What offers pull the most? A letter sent first class (it gets much better treatment from the post office, yet it costs more), an offer with professional artwork, a reply card with a shaded background, longer letters (to save money, print on both sides of the paper), letters that offer special discounts for a short time, letters that look like real letters, and promotional material that features artwork of the book cover.
  • Colored papers offer flair without the accompanying higher printing cost for an additional color.
  • (The full version of this section of Insiders Guide also discusses other direct selling strategies such as speaking engagements, seminars and television infomercials).


    If a publisher has good business judgment, direct marketing can be one of the most satisfying aspects of selling a book. Your success is dependent on your business savvy as opposed to market forces beyond your control. Likewise, you control your expenses. Just keep in mind, before investing a substantial amount of money in this channel, that it is imperative to conduct small market tests to gauge your ultimate success.

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    Jerrold Jenkins is Chairman and CEO of Jenkins Group, Inc., a custom book publishing services firm specializing in the production and marketing of independently published books for individual authors, corporations, associations and PR firms. His co-authored books include: Inside the Bestsellers and Publish to Win: Smart Strategies to Sell More Books. Jerry is known for delivering creative and enthusiastic sales and marketing solutions to a wide variety of publishing audiences, inspiring authors, publishers, and marketing professionals to profit in the $25 billion book industry through motivation, on-target insights, and humor.

    To purchase or learn more about the Insider’s Guide visit our Special Market Sales site at