I would imagine most of you are just about at the end of
your heavy season of mailing catalogs and shipping books like
I am. Now it's up to the retailer to get the books sold from his
shelves over the holidays while I take some time off before
getting started on next season.
This issue contains the usual end of the year chitchat and bits
of information to carry everyone into the new year with a
workable marketing plan and incentives for prosperity.
Because it's the holiday season and on everyone's mind right
now I've included an older article on the retail bookstores
Christmas catalogs in this issue. The time to start planning to
use any catalog or distributor is January, Feb. and March or you
won't get your books listed.
Let me recap the routine most publishers go through every
year by quarters. The first quarter is for planning our product
line and designing the books, flyers, new product title lists,
POP, (point of purchase) displays like posters, add cards, our
freebie book markers and so forth. While this is happening, the
S&SPMA is gathering the copy, photographs and other material
from members for the catalog. The second quarter is of course
manufacturing and printing, so the retailers and chains have
this information in hand to place orders before the end of
summer. The third quarter is normally filled with taking the
orders and shipping as fast as is possible. This is an average
year, trying to get everything in place for the sales push of
published products by the holidays. The last quarter holiday
sales make up more than 80% of any publishers total income.
The Marketing tools and software columns this time addresses
the shrink wrap machine to stop so many so called damaged
and shop worn items being returned to us and an easy, quick
label program. There's a tremendous savings to us by stopping
the possibility of so many returns that cost us dearly over time.
There is simply no reason for us to have to take such losses
from people leafing through books in the bookstore then putting
it back and buy something else or a fresh looking one of ours.
This shrink wrap machine avoids that by having a cover on it
that in affect says unwrap this book and we consider it sold.
There is also a short history lesson in this issue that is part
of the Christmas catalog information. It tells you how the small
press distributor came into being and how they have been so
successful in selling to the library markets and large chains.
That's about it from me this time. Let's get on with the first column.
The use of a Shrink Wrap Machine is not as expensive as
most people have been led to believe. The one we use only
cost us $250.00 originally. The rolls of 75 gauge shrink wrap
are about a foot in diameter and depending on the width are
about $60.00 each. When I bought the machine I ordered the
long-arm model so we could use any size roll of shrink wrap.
We can use 10 inches all the way up to 18 inch wrap on the
same machine. No matter what product or size book we need
to wrap, it's only a matter of changing the roll on the machine.
It only takes a few moments to slip on another size roll of
shrink wrap. The rolls of plastic used on a shrink wrap machine
is double the width you order. In other words a 10-inch roll of
wrap is really a 20-inch wide sheet of plastic, folded over and
rolled onto a cardboard core. With the machine in front of you
on a work bench you would slide the roll of plastic onto the bar
behind the sealing arm. You slip the plastic under a guide on
the base to hold it in place.
To seal a book is a simple matter. One person can shrink
wrap hundreds of books in a day with ease. The front edge is
always sealed from the last book wrapped or factory sealed on
a new roll. Flip the toggle switch to turn on the machine and
heat the sealing wire under the front bar. You slip a book into
the doubled over plastic. Next you pull out the wrap toward you
to the length of the book, pull the sealing arm down, pressing
for about five seconds to seal the end and separate the cut
made with the hot wire. At this point three edges are sealed.
The left side is the folded side. The front was sealed from the
last book and you just made the third seal that separated it.
You just turn the book lengthwise and seal the last side. All
that is left is to take a heat gun and shrink it in a uniform manner
to tighten up the plastic evenly on the book without warping it.
You don't have to buy the expensive heat guns these companies
advertise, a hair dryer does just fine, it just doesn't last as long.
I've seen so called shrink wrap SYSTEMS at trade shows
that will cost you over two thousand dollars in a package deal
that includes all sorts of supplies and heat gun to go with the
machine. It's just too large an investment at one time for a
small press. I go with the simple is better mentality and only
buy what I need right now, and in the quantity I need.
Pre packaged systems & bulk supplies sit around too long
before they are cost effective for a small press, not to mention
your supplies gradually shrinking from the normal heat of
storage. If you're a one person operation and have children,
let them do your shrink wrapping. It will give them a sense of
self worth and build confidence. They'll also have fun helping
you out. It's great training and therapy for young people. The
price list of supplies I have is two years old. You might want
to call for an up to date price list. They'll ship your machine
and supplies COD if you wish. I use COD a lot because I can't
stand paying out money and waiting for someone to get around
to sending me what I paid for. I would rather use it right now,
when I pay the delivery person even if it does cost a bit more.
I also never use a credit card number or company check through
mail order or on-line services other than things that are an
absolute must have. The machine I'm telling you about is
available from, AJM, INC.
5180 Meridian Ave.
San Jose CA 95118
Telephone (408) 723-3701
Toll Free (800) 858-4131
Toll Free Calif. (722) 858-4131
I use the 18" model but they go all the way up to 32."The
machine comes with complete instructions and easy to follow
diagrams, trouble shooting guide, parts list, etc. The shrink
wrap comes in rolls of two thousand feet in six, eight, ten,
twelve, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and up to thirty-two inch
widths. The 10 inch I use most can wrap almost any book size
horizontally or vertically, one or the other. It runs $59.00 per
roll. The 100-gauge is the same price as 75 gauge. This film
shrinks up to 50% both ways. Give them a call for the
information package toll free and then you can call back to
order your machine, also toll free.
We seem to be hearing a lot about the advantages of going
on-line on the INTERNET these days. There is a great deal of
good and bad to jumping onto the world wide web at the moment.
For one thing, children are being able to access the wrong information in adult
sections and there is the ever present dishonesty that always
appears whenever unsuspecting groups of citizens gather. Law suits are
popping up, funded by big powerful organizations to censor what is
published over the Internet. Other
problems are time and money to find a space and advertise.
The web is crowded. The web is confusing. People are not going
to use their costly telephone time and carrier services to put in
hours searching for an advertising section you are listed on
and more hours going through thousands and thousands of
advertisements from around the world to buy something. It
will all be sorted out and settle down eventually, but it's not
going to be soon.
In the meanwhile there is another world wide web that doesn't
get all of the publicity. It's the FIDONET. These are thousands
of local and regional bulletin board systems all around you, no
matter where you live, that you can advertise on. These pockets
or groups of BBS's are linked all over the world just like the
internet with the same general services and information but
more convenient for our needs and much, much easier to
navigate and find things on. The World wide web of the
INTERNET is more expensive anyway. It's not so difficult to
design and maintain a presence on the network with your own
web page but the continuous expense and telephone charges
What is the alternative for the small press or software
developer today? The BBS. They're everywhere. They rely
on subscribers to stay in business. The more products and
information they can offer to prospective subscribers, the more
of an advantage they have to get those subscribers. Since they
need you, your products and software they will make life easy
for you. You can upload your computer disks of books and
programs to their system and only have to pay a small
percentage of the sales they get you in return. That's free
advertising. Since they charge such a small percent after
the sale, you've made a better turnaround than you could
through a retail outlet or distributor and it didn't cost you
anything to advertise and make the sale.
In general the way it works is this. Their subscriber comes
on line and begins to browse through the files to see if there is
a new program, book, or information they can download onto
their own machine. They will read your screen of advertising
copy about your book or product and have a choice of buying
it buy clicking a special box or moving on to another section.
If they activate the box after reading your intriguing, order
pulling, blockbuster copy, another screen will come up to get
the credit card or billing information from them for the SYSOP
(System Operator) to bill.
After the billing is taken care of the subscriber simply downloads
the book or information into his own computer using his own
blank disk. The only thing left is to wait for your check. This
sale didn't cost you any postage, printed material, packaging,
computer supplies or personal contact. The savings for you
of not using your own supplies and printed material in this kind
of sale also makes up for the small percentage you gave up for
advertising on the bulletin board. Doing this type of advertising
is not something you have to be an expert at. Bulletin Boards
are very helpful to the beginner because they need your material
in order to keep their subscribers interested. You'll find the local
ones near you in the computer classified of the newspaper. You
can go to any one of the dozens of computer software stores in
your area and probably get an entire list of Statewide BBS's. The
third quarter newsletter also had a list of Bulletin Boards
worldwide. There were some as far away as Tokyo and
Australia. This issue has some of the groups linked together on
the FIDONET, which I found in an old issue of "NETGUIDE"
magazine. You don't need an import export license for this
kind of international advertising and sales like you would with
printed books either. If you have built a computer disk product
like I detailed for you in the last newsletter, you are all set. If
you haven't, and want to try going international with your
products, go back to the newsletter and get started. If you
need personal help, send me some information on what you
are trying to work with and I'll see what I can do to help you.
By going on line with your products this way you don't
even have to worry about what machines your program works
on. The person downloading it could have an Atari, Commodore,
IBM, Macintosh or who knows what else. They can still buy from
you over the network and you have expanded your marketing
possibilities by millions of computer users. Some bulletin
board systems are a little cramped for space just like the
internet and will require you to send your products in a
compressed form to take up less room on the system. For now, find a few BBS numbers you want to try out,
or one hooked up to the FIDONET and call or send for information
on uploading your book or products onto it. Once you have the
details for that systems procedures you'll be able to conform to
it with your book and advertising. If you need my help, you know
where to find me.
A HISTORY OF THE SMALL PRESS DISTRIBUTOR & CHRISTMAS
In the mid to late fifties a quiet underground revolution was going
on in the writing community all over the United States. This
revolution was being supported and promoted unknowingly by
some of the most recognizable names in literature today.
Names like Henry Miller, "Tropic of Cancer" and Tropic of
Capricorn" and Anai's Nin, "Under a Glass Bell" and "The
journals of Anai's Nin", were considered mavericks, vulgar
authors, malcontents and rebels by the large publishing houses
of the era. The war and post war era depression was long over.
Hemingway had just won a Pulitzer Prize for "The Old Man and
the Sea." He and his group of adventuring souls were not
making the usual headlines by running amuck across the
European continent as they once did. Small pockets of authors,
poets' artists and dreamers were popping up and banding
together to protest the way of everything they were uncomfortable
with all over America. They would soon be called by many names
like Hippies, Flower children, Dissidents, Beatniks, and a few
other names not so pleasant.
On the other side of the coin, some of these authors along
with dozens more, were very familiar with the self serving,
protect and pump up the bottom line, ways of the European
publishers. They had been catering to the whims of these,
how many dollars will I make, editors for quite some time.
When they finally became discouraged with the way things
worked in the real world they began to publish and support
each other's work until the world would recognize their names
and give them the credit they deserved. The first two names
I mentioned aren't the best examples to use perhaps, what with
Nin and Miller carrying on a torrid love affair across both
and Nin not only involved with Miller but his wife June as well.
Then Nin, with her bigamist marriages causing her to have to
shuffle from the East coast of America entertaining one husband,
then off to the West coast and living with another was making
greater headlines than the publishing efforts they were engaged
in for each other. In fact some of the most valuable works today
of both Miller and Nin are the self published, hand
bound copies of Miller's book of hand painted water colors and
some of Nin's erotica prose done during those hard times in
Europe. Since this helping to get friends published was wide
spread and being done by well known authors of today it was
having another secondary effect here in the States. All the way
from Paris and back these persons were publishing highly
censored work and the consumer was grabbing it up as fast
could be printed. The big publisher wouldn't dare touch this
controversial material whereas these small press operators
could because they were selling direct to the man on the street.
Then everyone saw a big hole in the system they were building.
The large presses had the retail markets completely tied up.
There was no way to get past the large scale advertising a large
press did in national magazines to the tune of thousands of
dollars a title. The retailer had to buy those titles because
people were going to ask for them from the advertising. If a
person came in three or four times for something they had seen
advertised and the store didn't have it, that person wouldn't
come back. They would start going elsewhere. When the large
presses saw how effectively they had tied up retailers with
advertising, they used it to move slow titles telling the stores
they had to buy so many of one thing to get the ones with the
advertising blitz behind it. The retailers were forced to buy
more than they normally would just to stay on the good side of
the publisher who in fact was selling the books for them on a
grand scale through these expensive ads. There was simply
no room in the lives of the store owners to maintain a personal
relationship with thousands of writers and self publishers
knocking on their doors. It began to dawn on the dreamers of the
times, that some sort of a middle road was needed. They soon
figured out how they could stay in close contact with both sides
The authors and artists only wanted to be recognized and
sell their books and art to the people that wanted them. The
bookstores only wanted to save time and not be forced to take
the bad products to get the good ones being advertised by the
big publishers. All that these self created middlemen needed
to do was consolidate everyone's efforts through one central
location and thereby earn their piece of the pie. They did this
by giving the retail stores a choice of buying hundreds of new
, best quality books from one source, offering slightly more by
way of a discount than the normal 25 or30 percent or stay with
established practice. Most of the retail outlets elected to go
with both. That was so they could still get the sales from the
large scale advertising efforts done by the big boys and still
have the higher discounts available with the controversial
work of some of these young, new artists that had such a
tremendous, profit generating following wanting their books.