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July 2011

Catalogs and Industry Events: What Do Those Have to Do with Me?

Eric Grimm, of the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association), joins me in sharing industry knowledge with ACFW authors. Building our knowledge of the publishing business helps us become better partners with retailers in selling books and interacting at events. But what do industry catalogs and annual events like the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) have to do with our writing?

Angie: Can you detail how many catalogs one book might be in to reach the bookstore owner?

Eric GrimmEric: (right) The distributor, wholesaler, and publisher are the primary catalog sources distributed to retailers for purchasing decisions. Sales rep groups also have catalogs, but they depend primarily on their client catalogs. There are about three of these groups in the Christian retail channel, who primarily represent smaller publishers that don’t have a field-sales capability.

Angie: What is the timeline from the first catalog to the last?

Eric: Each company is different and many have parallel schedules. Some publishers might have two annual catalogs supported by supplements and seasonal lists, some might have four seasonal lists with fliers to boost new releases or promote specials. Wholesalers and distributors have quarterly catalogs with interim promotional fliers.

Some publishers work a year in advance to create a catalog, coordinate sales training, and execute a sales cycle.

Some publishers work a year in advance to create a catalog, coordinate sales training, and execute a sales cycle to ensure selling begins six months before a release date. “A-list” authors receive a lot more planning and support while other titles might be built around the “A-list” author releases. That means some titles fit into catalogs as planning and production progress.

Angie: How does a show like ICRS affect sales?

Eric: All trade shows are changing in purpose, especially in this area of buying. Buying at trade shows is now driven more by the product type than new book releases.

Angie: So a new book release isn’t as much a factor as the planning that goes into the marketing. Are buyers like designers buying next season or six months ahead?

Eric: Larger retailers typically have a six-month merchandising cycle. The longer cycle enables them to fully prepare for promotions, sales, catalogs, etc., and ensures a coordinated effort puts the right stock on shelves when catalogs and marketing kick in to avoid disappointed customers.

Angie: So an author jumping in one or two weeks before their book release to set up a signing is really interjecting a problem in the ordering and operation of a bookstore?

Buyers like to see how new releases will be supported with publisher marketing and merchandising.

Eric: Very likely. Because of the Internet and B2B e-commerce, retailers order differently now. Major chains, marketing groups, and large independent bookstores are well taken care of by publishers who visit these key accounts. Publishers use shows like ICRS to engage at multiple levels for key account marketing and operations. Buyers like to see how new releases will be supported with publisher marketing and merchandising.

Publishers also use trade shows to meet with smaller retailers they may not see often during the year because of travel costs or not having a field-sales team. The trade show provides an affordable way to meet a lot of customers in a short time and continue the business relationship. These customers usually buy heavily at ICRS because of attractive show specials and stocking for the third- and fourth-quarter selling seasons with shorter merchandising cycles.

Another factor affecting the sales process is increasing dependence on lean-inventory management. Retailers generally will buy directly from publishers for popular titles for sure sales because larger quantities get better discounts. They buy from wholesalers and distributors to replenish smaller orders. The key-account buying process is more detailed and may also include more attention to scheduling, promotional support, and logistics as much as just purchasing. That’s why meeting at ICRS is more efficient.

Cynthia Ruchti and Sherrie Ashcraft at ICRS 2010Angie: How important would it be for an author to attend ICRS or shows like it? (ACFW members Sherrie Ashcraft [left] and Cynthia Ruchti [right] at ICRS 2010.)

Eric: Authors attend ICRS to learn about Christian stores, meet with publishers and retailers, and with other authors. ICRS is where the industry meets for networking, dialog, and training that could also benefit authors. Don’t forget the Christy Awards, Golden Scroll Awards, and other events that honor authors’ works.

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