We sat down with Christine Dillon and the rest of the Premium & Diversified Sales team, part of the Special Markets department at Penguin Random House, to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how they sell many of our authors’ books in unexpected venues.
What are premium and diversified sales?
A premium sale can be a small or large quantity of books, either sold from stock or customized, which is ultimately gifted to the end recipient. We may sell the books directly to the organization giving them away or through a distributor who resells them to another distributor. But in the end, the book is not sold to the consumer for profit; it’s delivered as promotion of a product or service.
In Premium Sales, we sell across all imprints to virtually any company in the United States. Most of our business is generated with new accounts and is often considered by the purchaser to be a “one-shot” need. We obviously want to land that one sale, but we also work hard to convert a new relationship into an ongoing or multilayered one.
Carnival Cruise Lines is a great example. The relationship started with a corporate marketing partnership and a retail opportunity for one of our children’s brands in their shops. Now we do a quarterly restock of their on-ship libraries as part of their amenity offerings to passengers. Next, we might pitch a bed-pillow gift or a kids’ club idea or books for staff development, and so on.
“Diversified” is a purposely general-sounding term that encompasses the rest of what we do. Primarily, it’s two categories: display marketers, who set up pop-up shops in corporate lobbies for those employees, and author sales: sales back to authors like you.
Can you take us through some of your key categories and how your reps sell in?
Our sales reps manage accounts that require daily strategy and care. Our categories are based on industries and our accounts reflect a large variety of them. Some of our top accounts fall within the sectors of travel and hospitality, health, finance, tech, packaged goods manufacturers, toys and games, appliances and cookware, media, and sports.
Within a category, the expert is tasked with making proactive pitches as well as receiving and acting on leads or affiliations that make their way to us from you all. We create sales materials, like our business catalog or industry-specific pitch decks, that are in constant circulation. In these presentations, we are often selling the idea of books first and getting to the specific titles later.
We also have a separate dedicated Special Markets team focused on selling books to charitable organizations that promote literacy.
What is another unique category that your team manages?
In partnership with the higher education team, we work to secure Common Read programs (sometimes referred to as FYE, or First Year Experience) with colleges and universities. The schools order books in bulk to give away to students and faculty. They may mail the books to incoming students over the summer or have them available at orientation sessions, and sometimes they distribute the books to students at author events or other on-campus moments.
Typically, students read the book before they arrive and come to campus prepared to engage with other students and staff about the text. The books selected for these programs are often nonfiction, available in paperback format, and about a key topic that the school wants to explore within their community.
Premium distributors are a growing piece of your business. Can you tell us why they are so important?
We’ve seen impressive growth of our premium distributors in the last several years. These are companies that buy books from us and resell them to organizations who give them away.
These extraordinary partners have an online presence, vet the opportunities, and provide special services. Each distributor has a unique focus, like the military, corporate sales, literacy organizations, or promotional product companies.
Thanks for all of this information! What can authors, literary agents, and others do to support this sales channel?
If your editor or publisher asks you for partnership contacts or brand affiliations, hopefully you can now see that this information will be used by our team to encourage giveaway or promotional pitches.
If you secure a new corporate connection or partnership, please be sure to update your publishing team and they will in turn let us know.
To route a lead to our team, please email the inquiry to email@example.com or leave us a voicemail at (800) 800-3246.
If you aren’t sure if it’s a premium lead or not, ask yourself: Are the books for resale or giveaway? Any context around what the buyer plans to do with the books is very helpful. These details will assist us in getting the opportunity to the right person and securing a sale!