As we begin to settle into a post-pandemic world, it’s important to reevaluate how and where we sell our books. For many consumers, shopping habits changed dramatically during the pandemic and for some, their new habits are becoming more permanent. With the supply chain impacting our ability to produce books quickly, now is a great time to find alternative ways to sell books and ensure that we can meet consumer demand in ways that make the most sense for the world we live in now.
The Way We Shop Is Changing
Consumers have begun to shift the way they shop. Many in our industry have seen the effects of these shopping habits with a shift to online shopping and a reliance on social media to find new items rather than browsing in the store. #BookTok is a great example of this new shift in consumer habits. In 2021, social commerce in the United States grew by 35.8%, and this number is projected to grow even more in 2022. It’s important to incorporate social commerce into your current sales strategy. This could be by setting up a social storefront on Instagram or Facebook for consumers to buy direct. You can also set up reading lists on Bookshop.org to promote online during key holidays and new book launches. Encourage authors to do the same.
You can also tap into BookTube, #BookTok, and Bookstagramers to promote your titles. Consider reaching out to influencers in niche markets to promote nonfiction books as well —giveaway partnerships are a great way to create buzz around a book on social media. Not sure where to start with influencers? IBPA offers 15% off on PR by the Book’s Author to Influencer Accelerator program as a member benefit, which provides great resources for tapping into social media promotion.
In the same way niche influencers can sell individual books, niche shops can do the same. I’ve personally found success selling our book The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil to online shops that sell olive oil related goods. Online-only stores are a great way to reach the consumer directly within a particular market. Consider setting up special terms and sell sheets for this market segment. Also, consider requesting leads from your authors during the planning stage of your marketing to better prepare and outreach. Many online stores have a great social media presence and may be open to a virtual event to promote the book as well.
Subscription boxes that cater to a specific niche are also a great way to get books in the hands of your title’s love group. Consider reaching out to boxes outside of the book box community; there is a subscription box for almost every niche. Many boxes buy in bulk and plan in advance. Request a schedule of their upcoming themes in order to pitch and plan your inventory accordingly.
Your Mission Matters
Now more than ever, consumers care about the company they are buying from. Ethical shopping is a growing concern for many. In a recent study from Ernest & Young, 17% of consumers said that sustainability mattered most to them when shopping. Many also said they would not shop with businesses that behave socially or environmentally inappropriately. Consider how your mission can be a selling point to consumers and buyers. Are you dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Do you have a sustainability goal? If you haven’t defined your mission, now is the time to do so!
New publishers like Row House are tapping into this consumer interest with a mission focused on equity and transparency in publishing. In a 2021 Forbes spotlight, founder Rebekah Borucki said her business model was directly influenced by the #PublishingPaidMe viral campaign. Through this type of social listening, she was able to crowdfund her launch, creating a dedicated following for her publishing house. Consider how your mission fits into the current social landscape.
Digital Sales and Beyond
With paper shortages and supply chain issues continuing to throw a wrench in our planning, it’s important to consider alternative ways to sell books. E-books and audiobooks are gaining readership (and listenership) with both formats continuing to grow more than 10% year-over-year. Consider releasing backlist books in digital formats to give them a second life. Promotional e-book platforms like BookBub are a great way to breathe new life into stagnant backlist titles.
For publishers of children’s content, consider video e-book platforms like Vooks and MakeMomentos to bring your books to life in a new and exciting way for young readers. Digital books also provide a unique opportunity for accessibility. Consider adapting your children’s books into described and captioned media. The nonprofit Imagination Videobooks can help make that happen.
For business and self-help books, consider working with your authors to create webinar series or digital reading clubs around the books. Creating a community around your title will not only help with word-of-mouth reviews, but also creates a following you can tap in to for the author’s future projects. Book summary apps are also gaining popularity with platforms like Blinkist and MentorBox gaining millions of users each year. MentorBox goes a step beyond summarizing and also turns your nonfiction book into a short course in collaboration with the author.
As indie publishers, we are at a great advantage in our ability to pivot and try new methods of getting our books to readers. Now is a great time to begin shifting the way we think about sales and the channels we sell into. Through social listening and creative marketing, we can open new doors for our books and grow our sales.