Most of our bookshop sales are via specialist stores and campus bookshops, where an interested reader is most likely to be browsing. We have always managed these accounts in-house, by sending out catalogues, information sheets and book information to the relevant buyers, and they have mostly ticked along without a great deal of internal involvement. High street book sales are rare as very few of our titles would be picked off the shelves by a casual shopper.
This summer we are publishing Speaking Up by Allyson Jule which is a book about language and gender that has mainstream audience unlike most of our publications which are aimed solely at academic researchers. To reach this audience, we need to ensure that the book gets visibility outside of the academic book trade. It is clear that we would not realise the book’s full market potential if we followed our standard marketing and sales procedures for our academic titles. So, from a marketing perspective, we have enlisted the services of an external PR consultant whose experience will get coverage for the book that might not have been possible by our own efforts alone. From a sales perspective, it is obvious that bookshop presence will be key.
This sparked a discussion about whether it would be sensible for us to take on the services of an external sales force, not just for this title but for all our books. This is something that we do in territories abroad, but we have always managed local relationships ourselves. Making the decision about whether to start such a partnership was not an easy one. Obviously, there are costs involved and the work of the reps needs to bring in enough extra sales to cover the expense of working with them. We had to assess whether there was enough of a market out there that we aren’t able to reach ourselves and if we are better outsourcing efforts to target this market rather than trying to reach the readers ourselves.
On balance we felt that there is more scope for bookshop sales for our books in the UK, especially for books such as those we publish on bilingualism for parents and teachers, and that the benefits had the potential to far outweigh the arguments against. As such, we are excited to now be working with Compass Academic and to make the most of their expertise and experience in the book trade.
Compass Academic is a team of book reps who call on bookshops, library suppliers, wholesalers and internet booksellers, and maintain relationships with all the key bookselling chains. They will now be taking information about our books to their meetings and will be actively promoting them to both existing and new customers on our behalf. The team will be covering a far broader range of booksellers than we could ever manage ourselves and have longstanding relationships with many of their contacts.
Just as importantly as presenting information about our books to booksellers, Compass will also give us regular market feedback on what is happening in the UK trade market in general and news from specific booksellers. This valuable information will help us better plan our publishing program and respond to developments in the industry.
The publication of Speaking Up was certainly the spark that made us take the leap but we are hopeful that the new partnership will benefit all our publications, across both our imprints.