General Marketing Approach
The particular history of IPG and its acquisition by Chicago Review Press helps explain the attitudes and goals that continue to guide IPG today. Although Chicago Review Press now generates only a modest share of IPG’s total sales, IPG continues to be run as a vehicle for independent presses such as CRP rather than as an end in itself.
Much of IPG’s consistent growth (25 percent yearly on average) has come not by adding more publishers and titles to its lists, but rather by its success in supporting and encouraging the growth of its client publishers by opening new sales channels and by greatly expanding the number of marketing support services offered to them. The attitudes and goals that characterize the IPG approach can be clearly seen in several specific policies:
- IPG is very selective in terms of the new publishers it takes on for distribution.Typically about two percent of the publishers who approach IPG for distribution are accepted. This selectivity ensures that each new list is of high quality—so that weak titles do not dilute the presentation of the strong ones—and manageable in size, so that the reps can give each title the attention it deserves. IPG’s goal is to make every title profitable for its client publishers.
- IPG continues to field a large and highly sophisticated rep force to cover independent bookstores. It is often said that since a few very large customers now account for 85 percent of the book trade, small stores can be ignored or sold through telemarketing—in other words, they can be neglected. But smaller bookstores are especially important to independent presses because they typically have a lower rate of returned books than the chain bookstores and a greater ability to support long-term backlist. IPG reps sell actively to the smaller stores, and when these accounts are not neglected they can easily account for 30 percent of an independent publisher’s trade sales.
- IPG has adapted to the changing structure of bookselling by aggressively opening new sales channels outside the traditional book trade. IPG is a top supplier to museum stores, the gift market, warehouse clubs, and catalogs, to name only a few. To better serve the specialty markets, IPG produces, in addition to its general catalogs, dozens of catalogs targeted towards particular subjects or genres. Some examples are: Gardening, Cooking, African American, Mystery, Regional Books, Art Books.
- Any member of the IPG sales team can quickly produce a printed or electronic specialized catalog—four-color pages with cover images, text, and reviews. Since many professional buyers will not wade through a general catalog, specialized catalogs often generate much better orders.
- IPG offers more channels through which books can be sold, and more marketing support, than any other distributor. By selling through many different sales channels, distributing broadly to many accounts in each channel, and never overselling any account, IPG greatly reduces the market risk of unsold copies and high returns for its client publishers and increases their chances to thrive.
- IPG emphasizes targeted marketing. Since more than half of the total sale of books is now outside of the ordinary book trade, IPG operates six different distribution programs to meet the particular needs of various kinds of publishers and market segments.
IPG is the premier distributor of independently published titles in North America.
Trafalgar Square Publishing is the largest distributor in North America of titles published by the best UK and Australian publishers.
IPG’s Spanish program sells Spanish Language titles to a growing North American market.
River North Editions sells provocative titles for intellectual pursuits. It represents publishers from around the world with titles that appeal to an academic-minded audience.
Art Stock Books sells highly illustrated art, architecture, and high-end travel books, from around the world, into the U.S. and Canadian markets.
Small Press United is a distribution program created to give new and very small publishing companies quick access and a highly effective and affordable sales effort into the U.S. and Canadian markets.
Each of these distribution programs has its own catalog and a “look and feel” created to enhance the appeal of the titles included. But all of these programs benefit from IPG’s very powerful back office and IT capabilities. All of the titles in each program are sold to accounts in and out of the trade, and when appropriate, are marketed to academic and specialty markets, displayed at trade shows, and featured in specialty catalogs and marketing pieces.