Creative Book Packaging Creates Repeat Buyers
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.