Tender Buttons Press, Selling Paperback and Hardcover Books Direct-to-Consumer (D2C)

Congratulations to Bernadette Mayer, the author of Sonnets, and to Tender Buttons Press! Mayer is a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow and a Firecracker Award Nominee, and we are delighted to see Tender Buttons’ success. Tender Buttons is a new client for Bookmobile’s book printing and Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) fulfillment services. The press was founded in 1989 and is named (obviously) after Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Fittingly so, because the founder, Lee Ann Brown, is dedicated to publishing the best in experimental women’s writing. I first started talking with Tender Buttons a year ago, and we started printing their paperback and hardcover Books, and handling their printing and fulfillment in the Fall of 2014.

In early 2014, Tender Buttons acquired a new title for publication, Dear Alain by Katy Bohic, and in the process, Katy came on board as Director of Tender Buttons. To commemorate their 25th anniversary, a new edition of Sonnets was published with archival material included, with more backlist titles slated for re-release. Katy updated the press’s website and set it up to sell books D2C, which of course is where Bookmobile came in. (Though I only just had the chance Lee Ann and Katy in person last week at the AWP Conference.)

With Bookmobile’s Automated Replenishment Program (ARP), Tender Buttons can concentrate on acquiring and marketing their titles, and not spend their very valuable time managing inventory or fulfilling book orders. Unlike “true” POD, Bookmobile does not print one book at a time. We print paperback and hardcover books in small runs, so that we can maintain quality control and offer our publishers more options, like nonstandard trim sizes and cover stock options. But like POD, the publisher does not pay for the printing of the book until it’s sold. Bookmobile takes the risk on the inventory. Bookmobile determines the optimal number of books needed based on the sales history, prints and stores a large or small inventory, manages that inventory, and reprints as needed.

D2C is a great choice for a small poetry press, by comparison to traditional distribution. Poetry has a niche audience that’s well connected, so it’s a good fit for selling direct. Also, few bricks-and-mortar bookstores stock a wide range of poetry,  so there’s not a strong need for print distribution to the trade.

Tender Buttons titles are sold through the Tender Buttons website, Small Press Distribution, and Amazon. For all of the book sales (including bound galleys, event copies, and author copies), Tender Buttons uploads the orders to Bookmobile’s eFirst portal. We fulfill orders within 48 hours, report shipping confirmation and tracking numbers, and bill for the printing of the books sold, fulfillment costs, and shipping. As Katy describes,

Tender Buttons has been dedicated to 25 year of poetry “publication” as an extended poem where each artist is part of the family and each book and aspect of publication an extension of our art. Nicole and the team at Bookmobile work with us seamlessly in our “boundless practice,” essentially becoming part of the family, creating with us on the fly in fun, flair, and generous ways. It has been a real pleasure for which we are grateful.

Because Bookmobile is taking care of the print management and order fulfillment for Tender Buttons, they can focus on publishing more great poetry by devoting their time to the acquisition, editing, design, and marketing of new titles.

Interested in ARP? Printing paperback and hardcover Books? Contact me!