Chapter 6: Marketing Your Book


Our marketing and sales groups have the same goal as you do: to sell many copies of your book. This chapter gives you an overview of where we sell your book and the kinds of questions we'll ask you to help us make the sales.

O'Reilly Sales Channels

O'Reilly Media has some unique marketing strengths as a publisher, as a result of our grounding in the technical community. We have strong corporate ties--we concentrate on selling books in volume to manufacturers wherever possible and we develop books with corporations who are working with exciting new technology. And, we market strongly to individuals, through catalogs and other mailings.

We are also developing traditional retail and distribution channels, and in recent years, have increased bookstore sales dramatically, with several books appearing on national bestseller lists. Most bookstores now see us as the most important UNIX publisher and perhaps even the most important computer book publisher.

How do we sell our titles?

  • Direct mail. We have a huge database of repeat mail-order customers. We mail catalogs and newsletters to these customers several times a year. (We are now experimenting with more frequent and targeted mailings.) If you haven't seen one of our catalogs, please ask to be put on our mailing list, so that you can keep apprised of what we're doing.

  • Corporate sales. Books in our X Window System Series have been shipped as documentation and/or recommended by over 20 major workstation manufacturers, like Sun, IBM, and HP. Many of our other books are also sold in volume to corporations. Our corporate sales staff also works as a liaison between corporations and editors to develop new books on developing technology.

  • US/Canadian Bookstores. Technical and non-technical bookstores stock computer books. We now have approximately 3,200 stores as customers plus the major bookstore chains, such as WaldenBooks and Barnes & Noble/B. Dalton's. (Our books are of course not appropriate for many of the smaller mall stores, but are carried where appropriate.) In many of those stores, our books are prominently featured, often face-out, and frequently populating window displays because of their popularity, and their distinctive covers. Our retail salespeople work with our top bookstores to maximize sales by checking inventory, arranging in-store promotions and co-op advertising, giving information about titles, occasionally arranging in-store author appearances, etc.

  • US/Canadian Distributors. Distributors such as Ingram are the preferred ordering source for many small bookstores. Our books are carried by all of the major US distributors.

  • Overseas distribution. We sell books directly in the US, Canada, South America, and Japan. In 1994, we started separate companies in Germany and France to develop local language titles and to market our English-language books there. To get greater exposure in the large computer book market overseas, we have tapped into some existing technical book distribution networks. Woodslane distributes our books in Australia, and International Thomson distributes our titles in the rest of the world.

  • Education/Training. More of our books are being adopted for courses. We send information to professors, trainers, and college bookstores.

  • Trade shows. Shows give us direct customer feedback, new customers at a reasonable cost, and editorial and corporate contacts. We attend both technical and publishing shows. In 1994, we attended Usenix, LISA, UNIX Expo, InterOp, Internet World, Xhibition, SIGGRAPH, Fed UNIX, Sun Expo, Uniforum, and a number of smaller conferences. In the publishing world, we attended the Frankfurt Book Fair, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) show, as well as numerous regional ABA shows.

  • Reviews/Mentions. We have a first class operation, and regularly get dozens (if not hundreds) of reviews of our books in both technical and general publications, as well as on the net. Our books, authors and editors have been quoted frequently in national publications such as Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

  • Online. The O'Reilly website contains an online catalog, list of new and upcoming releases, online magazine, and assorted product and topical information centers, all of which feature our books. We design online promo pages and online ads for new books, and announce them across the Net (on Usenet, mailing lists, and to targeted Web sites).

    We also maintain gopher and ftp servers, and use direct-email (to people who've requested it) to keep people informed about our new books.

An Author Questionnaire

When your book is in draft form, marketing will send you an author questionnaire. Your answers help us to sell your book.

Why do we need you to tell us how to do our job?

You're the one person who knows the most about your book--not only the subject matter, but also about the audience. The people that we want to reach--the people who will want to read your book--are a lot like you. They are likely to read the same journals, attend the same conferences, respect the same experts as you do. They are also likely to have the same needs that led you to want to write the book in the first place. To find out about the book's audience, we start by finding out about you.

After you've written a first draft of the book we'll send you an author questionnaire that asks questions like the following:

  • Personal information. We'll ask how you want your name to appear on the book, a short biography for the back of the book, and how to get in contact with you. We'll also request a black-and-white photo (passport photos are fine) for our newsletter and for fliers about author appearances.

  • Your affiliations. We'll want to know where you went to school and where you live. (Bookstore buyers like to know; they often promote "hometown" authors.) We'll ask what professional groups you are a member of, what corporate contacts you have, who you might know at publications, what influential people in the field you want to receive complimentary copies, etc.

  • About the audience. What is the audience for the book? Why is the subject matter important to them? ("The" audience is often several groups of audiences. For example, Computer Security Basics would be of interest to VARs selling to the government who needs to understand the Orange Book; managers in any business that uses computers; system administrators who want to educate themselves with an overview of security technology; or system administrators or MIS managers who want to educate others in their company about the importance of security.) We may want to do different mailings/ads/press releases to the different audiences.

    If the book has an audience outside our traditional markets, tell us as much as possible about that audience: what journals they read, what trade shows they attend, and any other details you think might help us to reach more potential readers.

    If there are any noted experts in your field, be sure to let us know so we can send them advance copies, and perhaps receive favorable review comments.

  • What appearances/writing you would like to do. We'll ask for your plans to attend/speak at trade shows (in the US and overseas), your willingness to hold informal Q&A sessions at our trade show booth or at bookstores, what sections of the book could be spun off into articles, etc. Let us know if there are any technical bookstores in your area at which we might be able to arrange a special promotion, such as a book signing.

  • Other ideas/leads. Finally, we'll ask a few open-ended questions. You might well know of leads for specific corporate sales, college courses, etc. that we can pursue. Or, you might have some great idea for promotion that we would never think to ask.

Before Publication

We'll give you and the editor a marketing plan for the book, which will include plans for PR, author appearances, targeted mailings, ads, catalog description, announcement of the book at trade shows, net announcement, and other activities. (And yes, we'd like to get feedback about these plans.)

If You Have Questions

If you have questions to ask us, during any part of the process, please speak right up. You can send mail to marketing and sales with the aliases and

Marketing Communications. Ask us general questions and we'll try to answer, or at least steer you to the right person to ask. Also ask us specific questions about articles for publication, author appearances, book reviews, catalog descriptions, ads, Net announcements, etc.
Sales (for questions about corporate sales, bookstore sales, educational/training sales)

Marketing and bookstore sales people can be reached at our Sebastopol address; corporate sales (and East Coast bookstore sales) people can be reached at our Cambridge address:

O'Reilly Media, Inc.

1005 Gravenstein Highway North
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Phone: 707-829-0515
Fax: 707-829-0104

90 Sherman Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
Phone: 617-354-5800
Fax: 617-661-1116

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