Using Publisher Co-op to Strengthen Your Web Site

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For many booksellers, publisher co-operative promotions are an essential and cost-effective tool. As Dave Kaverman, co-owner of the Little Professor Book Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, explained in a previous BTW piece last fall, utilizing publisher co-op allowances can help a store fulfill several goals at once: increasing a store's marketing exposure while also adding money to the bottom line.

Importantly, for some stores with a Web presence, co-op funds are helping support and develop their Web sites.

BookSense.com Associate Project Manager Patti Neske is also a long-time employee of The Putnam Book Center in Carmel, New York, where Neske continues to work weekends for owner Hank Jones. (Some readers may be familiar with Jones, as he is the developer of the innovative in-store kiosk called TitleSmart.) And while Neske -- like most independent booksellers -- wears a multitude of hats in the store, her primary responsibility is to claim co-op funds to help support Jones's BookSense.com Web site, www.putnambookcenter.com.

"By featuring certain titles," Neske noted, "I've been able to claim enough in co-op to cover the entire cost of the $100 monthly BookSense.com fee. And I'm fairly confident I'll still be able to claim enough to cover the increased fee of $175, or close to it each month."

Over time, Neske has become familiar with different publishers' stated co-op policies, and has learned where the real opportunities exist. For instance, she noted that "Random House and Little, Brown each offer $50 for featuring a title with the jacket cover and a 50-word blurb in your online newsletter. Farrar, Straus & Giroux offers $25 for the same."

Neske said that other major houses, including Simon & Schuster and Penguilitn/Putnam, also offer reimbursement when their titles are featured on store Web sites. "Talk to your sales rep or telephone rep, or call the publisher's co-op department. Most of the big houses have staff assigned specifically to the management of the publisher's co-op programs."

In claiming co-op for the Web site, Neske most often looks for publisher co-op specials. "You'll often see a title carrying double co-op," Neske said. This means that the money you'll use to support your online effort won't come out of your main co-op pool. "By taking advantage of such specials, booksellers won't have to cannibalize funds they might use for other promotions or advertising," she said.

Like any kind of co-op claim, the publisher needs to see proof that you have promoted their title. But unlike claims for print or radio ads, claims for online ads are usually very straightforward. According to Neske, "You simply mail the publisher screen shots of the pages on which the books were featured, and where the links to those pages were on your homepage. If you need to justify the cost -- and usually I don't because it's a set fee, like the Random House $50 per title -- you can show them your credit card bill with your BookSense.com charge."

The bottom line is that in order to defray some of the expense of maintaining a Web site, booksellers with a Web presence can earn revenue by working with their publisher partners to promote books that booksellers want to promote to their customers.

For many booksellers, co-op remains an untapped resource. "Now, more than ever, this is one of the best times to take advantage of co-op," said Little Professor Book Company's Kaverman. Chain stores have long known the power of co-op and have been savvy in extracting as much they can from publishers. "If you're not making use of it, you should start," said Kaverman. "You can be sure your competition is."

And with more and varied ways of promoting books, future success will be greatly enhanced by including a plan for claiming co-op.

Booksellers with questions regarding claiming co-op for their Web sites can e-mail Patti Neske at patti@booksense.com.