ARTICLE Fall Newsletter


SOFTWARE & SMALL PRESS MARKETING ASSOCIATION

WINTER NEWSLETTER
EDITORIAL

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.


MARKETING TOOLS

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.

ADVERTISING
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 are unbelievable.
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 CATALOGS
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 continents 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 as it 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 profitably.
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.

CONTINUE