From the man behind the Slice-O-Matic food slicer, the Ped Egg “no-mess” way to remove callouses, and Pocket Hose, “the amazing expandable garden hose,” comes a new product: physical books. In January, the so-called “king of electronic retail,” Ajit “AJ” Khubani, who founded TeleBrands Corp. 30 years ago, placed his first book in bricks-and-mortar stores: Who Knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions to Everyday Problems, published by TeleBrands Press.
Who Knew? is part of a series by former Barnes & Noble exec Bruce Lubin and his wife, Jeanne Bossolina-Lubin, that offers a variety of tips on everything from removing red wine stains to cleaning without chemicals. The stand-alone title is adapted from a larger Who Knew? series—including 15 books, 15 supplements, and various calendars—that Khubani has been selling on HSN and through infomercials. As of mid-May, the entire Who Knew? series has sold more than 4.2 million copies on HSN and through infomercials, according to Christie Miranne, v-p of brand product development at Ingenious Designs Ltd. (a wholly owned subsidiary of HSN).
Miranne described what HSN and TeleBrands do as “constantly re-creating the wheel,” and she credited TeleBrands with “creating new excitement in books. The success of Who Knew? has been phenomenal.”
Khubani, who is known for his ability to see the possibility in a variety of products that solve problems and save money, explained that the decision to launch an imprint seemed like a natural step forward. “We’ve been selling all these products, and I thought why not [books]?” he said.
Khubani tests all his products through infomercials before he takes them to retail, and his decision to move forward with his own publishing program is no exception. Last year the 30-minute infomercial for the stand-alone title Who Knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions resulted in sales totaling half a million copies. As Khubani asks, referring to the infomercial, “What other company spent $6 million on a book last year?” Lubin also has a strong PR presence and in recent weeks has appeared on Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda, The Steve Harvey Show, and the Hallmark channel’s House & Home, among others, to promote his brand.
Rather than sell into book sections, in large part because that’s an area he’s never sold to before, Khubani has been placing his books alongside his other As Seen on TV products in retailers like Rite Aid, CVS, and Bed Bath & Beyond. So far his electronic test marketing is paying off. In the first quarter of 2013 the TeleBrands Press edition of Who Knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions sold close to 300,000 copies, according to Lubin. Wal-Mart alone was selling 8,000 copies a week in May, and Walgreen’s moved it next to the register. TeleBrands has already gone back to press for another 275,000 copies, and that’s before the books even find their way into bookstores. In late May Khubani signed with Baker & Taylor to bring TeleBrands titles to the trade. Unlike other Who Knew? titles, Who Knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions is a stand-alone title only being sold from TeleBrands Press.
Despite bestseller-level sales, Who Knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions hasn’t been nearly as successful as other TeleBrands blockbuster products, which typically sell a million units in the first few months at retail. Khubani says that’s because “our retail customers were reluctant at first; we’ve never sold books before.” The other problem he’s encountered is that “retailers’ view on books is that it’s a dying category. Now that we’ve gotten over that threshold, we’ll do better.”
Between Who Knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions and Khubani’s two other recently released titles—Dr. Bader’s Pest Cures: Natural Solutions to Things That Bug You by Myles Bader and Grandma Knows Best: Great Kitchen Secrets by Chef Tony Notaro—the press will have shipped more than a million books so far this year. Khubani said that typically only one out of 10 products are successful, and in books he’s three for three. Not bad for a 30-year-old startup publisher approaching $1 billion in revenue. Who knew?