Bulk Sales And Private Branding Books

Earlier this week I had a nice phone conversation with the representative of a corporation that was interested in purchasing a several hundred copies of one of my titles, providing I would private brand the cover with their corporate info. I've never had any objection to private branding, publishing is a business for me, not an ego game. Book clubs often produce their own editions of bestsellers, with new covers, perhaps on cheaper paper in a smaller format, and I still regret that McGraw-Hill failed to sell the earliest book I authored for them to AOL ten years ago, for a private branded version. They were negotiating for 50,000 copies when the sale fell through.

On the other hand, I've never gotten excited about one-time scores in my self publishing business, even if the sale is well into the thousands of dollars. It's just not part of my business model to sell my time or services. If you take the taxes into account, you may also find that the bulk sales are only worth 50% or 60% of the gross profit when all is said and tithed. Of course, the beauty of private branded books in the Internet age is they won't (or shouldn't) come back to cannibalize sales of new books on Amazon, especially with a title and ISBN change. So, I told the intermediary on the proposal that I'd be happy to do the business if the terms worked out, and promptly lost the phone number of the decision maker (I think it went out with the recycling:-) It's not the first time I've had interest in private branding this title, one of the technical college chains that uses it as a text was interested, but decided in the end to just buy the regular edition of the book.

Since I'm using print-on-demand to manage my inventory, I never have any motivation to go for deep-discount bulk sales, and I've been pretty amused over the years by some of the offers I've gotten from Amazon booksellers that would simply take money out of my pocket. I guess they're used to dealing with large trades who still see deep discount sales as additive to their current quarter top line rather than subtractive from their longer term bottom line, thanks to the efficiency of the online marketplace. Even if I was using offset printing and had a garage full of books, I'd have to think long and hard about letting any out the door at a deep discount, as long as they were still selling new online.

I've worked in and around small business for my entire working life, and one of the strongest warning signs of impending doom (beyond the owner taking home all the office furniture and replacing it with leased furnishings) is chasing business opportunities that aren't part of the day-to-day operations. When the owner of a business starts believing that the grass is greener in somebody else's pasture, it usually means that his own pasture is in danger of flooding. In the publishing business, falling sales often lead to a radical overhaul of the business model, the attractive gamble on a new technology or market. But the key to success in any business is knowing what you're doing, and a sudden change in course usually leads into unknown waters.

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