Some years ago when Thinkers' Press' publishing business was going full tilt I was often asked this question, even by my own father. Yes, it is a key to GOING someplace, you have to have customers.
For one thing I did a lot of traveling on the ground, to various tournaments. For another I advertised in Chess Life classifieds.
But the third thing was the most elusive. I had books in bookstores such as Borders and Barnes & Noble (and other places). That is hard to do anymore since Borders is gone and B&N prefers to sell online as opposed to what most of their stores carry in the chess line.
Word of mouth was a biggie or some piece of news plastered somewhere. One morning we got an order for 5 of the same title from different parts of the country. How do you explain that? The only thing I can think of is that someone, somewhere, posted some positive comment and people liked what they read and voila! It wasn't easy to get that commentary and it definitely didn't come from bigger organizations such as the USCF because they jealously guarded their sales to members. They hated competition so much that when I put a display ad in Chess Life for MY books they put a competing ad on the opposite page for the very same books! Someone who knows nothing about business might say "What do you care, your books are being sold!?" Well numbnuts, my ad was placed with the idea that I would get all the profit, not just a smaller percentage PLUS I paid for the ad!
Potential authors would go through the chess section of various stores, see my books there and contact me about doing THEIR book. If they also bought regular chess books from me they would definitely get more consideration but some of these non-business authors never seemed to think of that... it would be more FUN for TPi to promote their book, to my own customers, IF they were also one of my customers. This used to happen a lot!?
Loyalty in Sales
Today with the internet, blogs, and lots of people writing about things they know little about, it is much more difficult. There are buyers who love what is done at The Chess Butler but who won't tell their friends and my guess is: they don't want them to know about this "secret" source--or they are afraid I will tell their friends what their friend is buying (in the openings section)--not realizing I have to schedule time to hit the john I'm so busy. Speculation can run rife. I once sold $1400 worth of books to someone preparing for a title shot at Kasparov. This guy was serious and knew I would keep this secret.
I recall an instance where a player at a local club disappeared for 6-8 months. He was throttling around 1400-1500 and when he came back his rating started growing 200-300 points (no joke). Not one of them could figure this out. One came to me and said, "What happened to Mr. B?" Turning to the befuddled petitioner I said, "It's obvious, he's been getting coaching." Of course they wanted to know by who. I remember saying something like, "Well it's clear it isn't from anyone at this club (that was a joke)." I had an idea who it was because TPi was a seminal collector of chess info from around the area and region. I talked with people who talked with me. One day I ran into the supposed "culprit" at Borders. He was reading one of the "Predecessors'" books by Kasparov. No board or men, just reading the book. He was a strong player, at least stronger than the ones around here and I knew he had played in a Chicago Futurity at one time. I commented asking him if he would EVER buy the book he was reading and got a grin back... of course not... too cheap. He was the tutor.
But there was one other secret. The person who skyrocketed had bought two CDs from me and that HELPED his rating climb like a mountain goat! A few wanted to know what the CDs were. Now that he no longer plays I could probably reveal it, but instead I just replied, "You don't have the iron discipline to study those CDs because they are a pain in the ass." I knew that fellow did because he really was tired of being humiliated (we never felt that way, he did) at the club.
Connections AND an OFFER
It's important to assess and reassess all connections, former and hopefully future. But I am going to make an OFFER to the 30 people who are registered (in reading this blog) and to the many who read it and won't register....
IF YOU REGISTER (or are already registered)... I will give you FREE a copy of the CHESS GANGS OF NEW YORK (Lasker, Blackburne, Alekhine, Pillsbury, Capablanca, Petrosian, or Larsen) if you will send me the name and email address of a chess guy you know who would be more than a little interested in hearing from TPi (or The Chess Butler). If that person starts buying from TPi or The Chess Butler (my retail arm) I will send him his choice also! $26 plus postage given away for a "free" but "valid" referral. That's being SERIOUS.
It's insanity, but, I like that at times. It gets people's attention! I do want THEIR business, and yours.