One of the many midsize publishers selling titles directly to customers from its Web site is Dorchester Publishing. Online sales have been part of the Dorchester site (www.dorchesterpub.com) since it launched in 1997 and are "constantly growing, more than doubling in the past two years," said Leah Hultenschmidt, manager of Web site operations.
All books on Dorchester's site are sold at list price, although book club members get a 30% discount. The company charges shipping for the first eight books, but if a customer orders nine or more, shipping is free. Customers also get one free book for every five they buy. Because Dorchester publishes many of its titles as part of series, readers often buy in bulk, making Dorchester's prices more competitive with other online retailers, Hultenschmidt said.
Online selling is part of Dorchester's direct-marketing operation, which also includes book clubs and catalogues. With a direct-marketing fulfillment infrastructure already in place, it was easy to add online sales, said Hultenschmidt, noting that online sales account for about one-third of direct marketing's total revenue. The company aggressively promotes the site, listing it on the back of all its books and "on whatever advertising we do," Hultenschmidt said.
In addition to bringing in extra revenue, the online sales feature also serves as an indicator of how titles will sell in stores. "The direct connection to customers lets us know what they want and helps us predict how books will sell at retail," Hultenschmidt said.