One of the main services printers need to offer to their short-run digital book customers is help with marketing. To that end, Bercaw advises his customers to look for associations within their profession which they can readily join.
“For example, a guy wrote a book on a completely vegan diet. He’s a DO, a doctor of osteopathy, and also a doctor of chiropractics, so he’s a part of these different associations. Secondarily, who’s your target market? Who are the ones who are going to benefit from this manuscript? Then marry the two of those together.
“If you aren’t a part of any professional associations, look for them. They’re out there. From there, you can glean, just like you would from a Chamber of Commerce, a whole mailing list,” he states. “You look for bookstores—independents, in particular, that specialize or have a leaning towards this kind of material. Hey, these days, Google it!”
He concludes, “The critical question for these guys is, ‘Who is the one that will pick this up and buy it?’ Then work it from there.”
Of course, before you can begin providing all these services and marketing answers to self-publishing authors, you have to find them.
One that made this niche a natural for Sir Speedy Scottsdale is its location, which puts it squarely in the heart of the self-publishing movement. Arizona has the second largest population of self-publishing authors in the country. Only Florida has a larger pool from which to draw. The reason for these concentrations, of course, is the number of retired people in those two states. “So we have a target-rich environment,” Bercaw observes.
However, even if your company is not situated in one of those ideal states, there are potential clients all over the country. Bercaw recommends locating and getting involved in your local writer and publisher associations. “Contact them. Ask for permission to attend,” he urges. “Sit back, say nothing unless specifically spoken to—from there, it’s just a matter of word of mouth.”
That involvement takes time to cultivate and Bercaw suggests volunteering and truly becoming active in the groups. Over the years, he says, he has sat on the boards of a number of these associations. In the beginning, he personally made the contacts, but now he has reached a point where he has been able to turn the activities over to members of the company’s sales staff.
Working with authors and publishers is different from working with other small business owners or corporate representatives. Their concerns are quite personal and they are extremely serious about what they are doing. “They are a very closed group, a very tight knit group, they are a very loyal group. But once you have gotten into the inner sanctum, there is an immense amount of work to be done.”
Another resource Bercaw recommends to printers in other parts of the country is Dan Poynter, whose website (www.parapublishing.com) is a primary resource for self-publishers. When the Bercaws were first getting started in this niche, Poynter visited their shop to evaluate its equipment and operation. After giving the company his approval, he listed it on his website’s index as a production house.
That listing is an ongoing source of potential clients, Bercaw says, and Poynter’s endorsement can be an invaluable asset to any printer hoping to pursue digital short-run book publishing. “In times like we’re in right now, there are fewer shotgun blasts; fewer RFQs (request for quotes) going out,” he observes.
He makes the point that it is better to fill out the RFQs only for customers who are within a two to three day UPS freight transit time. Beyond that, he cautions, the freight costs become a deal breaker. “There are still local shops around that can do a very good job, even if they have to broker one or two components of it,” he says.