Ingram Book Group has collaborated with OurSelves, a new newsletter and Web site (www.ourselves.com) aimed at women between the ages of 45 and 65, to develop a merchandising program to reach women baby boomers, a demographic group of significant book buyers. Amy Lynch, OurSelves publisher, commented in a recent press release, "OurSelves is designed especially for educated, self-aware, midlife women -- in other words, for readers. There's no better place for a woman to discover OurSelves than at her local bookstore." The first issue of OurSelves will be available in March.
The new program, which is only available to independent bookstores, features five titles per issue, all selected for their significance to women in midlife. Six of the 10 annual issues of OurSelves will feature book reviews. These reviews, which will be written by OurSelves staff, form the basis of the marketing effort both in-store and on the Web site.
Ingram has produced special OurSelves publicity kits composed of color displays for each title and up to 300 copies of the issues containing the reviews, to be distributed free to customers. A yearly subscription to OurSelves will cost consumers $39.95. (Currently, the OurSelves Web site notes a promotional offer of $29.95.)
Readers who discover OurSelves online will be directed to a local bookstore, through their zip code, and can then order books through that store's primary Web portal (BookSense.com or other).
Audrey Seitz, vice president of marketing for Ingram Book Group, and a former bookseller, told BTW, "There is no financial commitment on the part of the booksellers. There's no minimum on orders. Booksellers agree to feature the titles in some way -- with only five titles, they could use a small display case or endcap in the appropriate section. We provide all the display materials. They also get a nice giveaway -- the newsletter is free for customers, by paid subscription for others. OurSelves has its own publicity program, and its Web site, so this is providing a completely new avenue for people to find the way to their local independent bookstore."
Seitz described Ingram as the "matchmaker" in the program. "This is a nice relationship-building tool for the booksellers and a great repeat business tool. Customers will come in looking for the next newsletter." She noted that OurSelves was slated to feature "a nice balance" of titles, and added, "We don't want all midlife health books nor do we want every issue to include fiction about a woman who's 45." While Ingram might make suggestions of titles to the OurSelves staff, Seitz noted that OurSelves has "the final say in choosing books and their editorial staff writes the recommendations and reviews -- we won't use the publisher's annotations."
An important goal for Ingram, said Seitz, "is to include books that might not ordinarily get a lot of attention." One of the books featured in the first issue is Pinstripes and Pearls by Judith Richards Hope (Scribner), which Seitz described as "perfect for our audience. It traces the 15 women [out of 513] who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1964 beginning with their first classes up to the present." Other upcoming featured titles include With Pen in Hand: The Healing Power of Writing by Henriette Anne Klauser (Perseus Publishing); Navigating Midlife: Women Becoming Themselves by Robyn Vickers Willis (Allen and Unwin); and a collection of short stories, Irish Girls About Town (Pocket Books) that includes works by Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes, among others.
Seitz explained, "The list will strive for balance. We plan to include the new Jacqueline Mitchard novel in the spring, and the June issue will highlight leisure reading. We want booksellers to be excited about these titles, to bring in books that will sell. This is not a profit-making program for Ingram -- we are doing it to further interesting and creative relationships with the independents. We have very high expectations for this program. I think that booksellers will be real happy." -- Nomi Schwartz