Selling Books to Business Buyers? Think Small.

special-sales marketing

Special-sales marketing offers an opportunity to sell books outside of typical book retail establishments. Whether it’s specialty retailers or business buyers, starting small is a prudent approach.

Special-sales (non-bookstore) marketing offers an enormous opportunity to sell your books in two segments. The first is through retail stores, such as airport stores, supermarkets, discount stores, and gift shops that sell books (fiction and nonfiction) off the shelf. The second is selling mostly nonfiction books to non-retail buyers in corporations, associations, schools, etc. These organizations do not resell books, but use them as employee perquisites, teaching tools, or as premiums and ad specialties to promote the sale of their products and services.

The largest potential for book sales is the corporate segment, where large buyers can purchase tens of thousands of books at a time. However, some authors do not sell to this segment because they are intimidated by large-company marketing professionals or the prospect of a boardroom sales presentation. If that is the case with you, start small. Begin your non-retail selling journey by calling on buyers in small companies.

Small businesses represent approximately 80% of all companies in the US and they have the same needs as their larger brethren. Help retaining and motivating employees — in the form of your content — will often be graciously accepted (and purchased). These businesses also need other benefits of employee engagement: increased profitability, greater customer satisfaction (and loyalty), and reduced absenteeism. And, of course, small businesses want to increase sales and find new customers.

Start by showing them how your content can help solve their problems, then move up to larger companies as you experience success and gain confidence. Here are a few of the major advantages of starting small.

  • You learn how to make an effective pitch. Making a successful sales presentation takes practice. You can try different presentation styles on potential buyers in small companies before you make a major presentation to a large corporate buyer.
  • Mistakes won’t impact large orders. Mistakes will happen, and it’s better to make them when the consequences are not significant. Learn from your mistakes so they do not occur when pitching to a large corporate buyer.
  • You’ll learn how to handle common objections. There are many reasons why buyers will not purchase your books and there are numerous ways in which to respond to them. Practice handling objections when the pressure is not as great as when trying to close a large sale.
  • You can better understand how to read buying signals. There are four typical reactions prospective buyers will have to your presentation: indifference, skepticism, objection, and acceptance. As you learn to read the different body language of these responses you will become more successful in dealing with them.
  • You can keep it local. You may have to travel a great distance to meet with a corporate buyer, increasing the time, effort, and expense of making the sale. You can probably find small businesses locally and call on them personally. For a list of these prospects go to
  • You’ll uncover (and solve) problems. The essence of special sales is to solve a buyer’s problem with your content. Learn and practice asking questions that will reveal the “pain points” and lead to a discussion of how your content can address them. An example is to ask, “If you were to hire a person today, what would you want him or her to accomplish in the first 90 days?”
  • There’s less stress. While nobody likes to fail, it is better to lose an order that is not a major blow to your income. And since the pressure is off, you are more likely to experiment with different sales techniques.
  • You can meet directly with the decision maker. There is less red tape and fewer layers of management in the small-business decision-making process. When calling to make an appointment, it is more likely that the decision-maker in a small business will pick up the phone and talk with you. This can reduce the time it takes to make the sale, as you are interacting with the person who will make the buying decision.

Selling your books to people in small businesses is a good way to learn the ropes of special sales. Once you gain skills, confidence, and momentum you can move onto buyers in larger corporations. You may also find your niche in the small-business segment and continue selling to these buyers.


  1. […] they buy, WHERE they shop, and WHY they need your content. Apply the same questions to prospective buyers in non-retail segments (corporations, associations, schools, government […]

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  3. Hi Brian,

    Always good to read your input. Was wondering if you had some action steps for finding and talking to those prospects.
    For instance, many of my books are in the ESL genre and though i know there is a huge market for such books for incoming non-native speakers, I’m not sure of how to find the right people in the corporation and what they might be looking for other than the blanket promises of better productivity from international staff. Would love your input.

    Peter Liptak
    Exile Press


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