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Selling to 'Books Are Fun'

by Linda Matthie-Jacobs   


For anyone hoping to land a huge deal with Books are Fun, the largest direct marketer of hard cover books in North America, this week's feature by Linda Matthie-Jacobs is a must-read as she details her experiences with the company. Be sure to stop by the website of Linda's company, The MJM Grande Publishing Company Ltd., publisher of The Fire 'n' Ice Cookbook - Mexican Food with a Bold New Attitude and Light the Fire - Fiery Food with a Light New Attitude!

To those that are unfamiliar with this company, Books are Fun are a wholesale buyer of books that market in bookfairs set up in schools and corporate locations. The type of books that they tend to look for are general interest, adult gifts, reference, sports, best sellers, cookbooks and their biggest area of specialty are children's books (interactive, educational and storybooks).

Books are Fun buy at a deep discount (70 to 80% off list price) because they purchase tremendous volumes of books when they order and they afford a deep discount to their end buyer (discounts range from 41 to 70% off list price on the list that I have). The prize in selling to Books are Fun is VOLUME and the key to success is PATIENCE.

If Books are Fun are interested in your title, they will place a test order (normally ranges from 400 to 600 books) and run concurrent tests across the country in a number of locations. Based on the overall success of the test, they will proceed with an order of 40,000 to 120,000 books.

In January of 1997, I had contacted a local Books are Fun (was Reading is Fun at that time) franchise owner after seeing a book fair in a downtown business foyer. He offered to present our first title, The Fire 'n' Ice Cookbook, to their head office buyer while at a conference in San Diego. In March of 1997, their buyer (Jill Weiss) in Fairfield, Iowa called and we negotiated the terms of a test order. In April, we shipped 600 copies to them and waited patiently (or impatiently!) for the results of the test. Unfortunately, our books hit the bookfairs just prior to the summer holidays, so the test results were deemed inconclusive and testing was continued in the fall. In October, we learned that The Fire 'n' Ice Cookbook had performed well in some areas, but unfortunately not pervasively well, and they decided not to pick up our title.

At the same time that we started negotiations with Books are Fun, Diane Pfeifer (http://www.strawberrypatch.net/) started dealing with a different buyer. Fortunately, her test was pervasively successful and Books are Fun ended up placing an order for 90,000 copies of one of her titles! Her deal was only closed a few months ago, so these deals really do take a lot of time to pull together and put closure to. Patience and persistence are definitely required.

I sent a galley copy of our new title, Light the Fire, down to the buyer I've been dealing with in June with a question as to whether or not they would be interested in seeing a finished copy as soon as it came off the press. She responded immediately and I sent her a finished copy as soon as they were available (which was in the first week of August). Just this past week, we finalized negotiations on the pricing for a test order of 400 books and we shipped the order out on Friday to Baltimore. Believe me when I say that we have everything crossed (fingers, toes, arms, legs, eyes, etc.!) for success in the testing process this time around! Books are Fun pay net 90 days and their purchase orders are as good as gold.

In summary, if your book is in one of their target genres, if you can afford to discount between 75 and 80% off your retail price and still make a profit, and if you're prepared to dance the dance for awhile, the prize at the end of such a deal is well worth the time it takes to put together. Books are Fun are a huge organization that see a huge volume of books. Bearing in mind that yours is just one of thousands, you really must be very patient and softly persistent in order to succeed.

Books are Fun, Ltd. are located at 123 North Main, P.O. Box 2370, Fairfield, IA 52556 and their main phone number is (515) 472-8301. Good luck in your dealings with them.