Creative Book Packaging Creates Repeat Buyers
Adding a movie lobby card can enhance the value of a printed To Kill A Mockingbird.
By Renee Magriel Roberts
Last month we looked at the development of collections as a means for increasing the profitability of books in our inventory. Collections clearly add value to books and reward smart bookseller buying efforts, as well as intellectual expertise. In a highly competitive marketplace, it is important to not only differentiate the products that we offer, but also the skills and added values of the bookseller. In any sales effort, it is always hardest to get the customer to commit the first time; the cost of sales with repeat customers is considerably lower and value-added packaging can help create these repeat customers.
Another way to look at this same value-added effort is to consider how to "package" books. Value and even uniqueness can be established by attending to the way the book is packed, improving the physical attributes of the book, completing a book set or series, and marketing the book with related materials that add interest, value and uniqueness.
Let's start with the way the book itself is packed. I described a simple "how-to" pack in AE Monthly for May, 2005 "Confessions of a Compulsive Book Packer" (http://www.americanaexchange.com/NewAE/aemonthly/article.asp?f=2&page=1&id=259&m=5&y=2005). In addition to clean and secure packing efforts, I have seen some nice bookmarks and business cards as well as some gorgeous unexpected packaging (one, from a French bookseller on eBay made me immediately want to reorder anything). We have business cards and bookmarks in color and I always enclose a handwritten note or postcard to let our customers know that a real person has prepared their book and appreciates their business. It has always been interesting to me that many people comment on the packaging and notes as well as the quality of the books.
Insofar as the physical condition of the book itself, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making friends with skilled professionals -- particularly a bookbinder and paper restorer, if you do not have these skills yourself. Long-established shops may have their own binderies which add tremendous value to the books that they sell by doing everything from simple hinge and paper repairs, to a full leather re-binding of a work.
We also do completely custom binding and packaging work for clients who want to create special gifts. This may include unique lettering on the binding or unique boxes for materials. We think of binding as a profit center in our business. With certain titles, such as those we publish ourselves, we have set up special binding as a just-in-time activity; with just a few extra days time we can ship a custom leather-bound copy of a normally cloth-bound book.
Creative Book Packaging Creates Repeat Buyers
Movie photographs can also add value to the printed work.
Where possible or feasible we always attempt to complete sets of books or to sell our orphans to other booksellers. We were once contacted here on the Cape by a bookseller who had the second volume of one of our advertised rare books. After I purchased it I discovered it not only completed the set, but was the actual mate of the book we owned, right down to the matching marble endpapers and unique binding design.
A completely different way to think about packaging is to consider selling books that contain additional information. I have some customers who do not use the Internet. They really appreciate the fact that I enclose material about information related to their purchases -- an author's biography or bibliography, for example, or information about the history of the book's publication, or contemporary history. That "value-added" service takes me only a couple of minutes, but creates happy return customers who do not comparison-shop.
Related materials packaged with the book do not have to be limited to just a vertical file. For example, I once purchased a copy of the Playbill for "Death of a Salesman" that was signed by Dustin Hoffman on eBay. Later, we included it with a second printing before publication of Death of a Salesman at a package price higher than the value of either item separately. Books made into films can include signed photographs of principals from that film, posters of the film, collectibles, and any other items that would add value and interest to the book. Put them all together and you have a unique item to sell that cannot be compared to any competitor. Think outside the box! There is no reason to just sell plain vanilla books that can be undercut by any competitor walking in off the street from a local library sale. If you do not have a signed first edition you can still create an attractive high-priced package with related signed and specialized materials.
Sometimes the actual packaging is done after making customer contact. If I have some idea why the book is being purchased I can often suggest additional items or services to make the package complete. The idea is to stand out in the crowd, differentiate yourself with intelligent and thoughtful extra touches, add value to your inventory by creating multi-dimensional packaging and increase the level of customer service and satisfaction for repeat sales.