Company Name: Usborne Books & More
Costs: $75 (plus tax and shipping)
What Is It?
A fairly unusual MLM that focuses on selling children’s books.
Usborne Books & More does have a number of advantages over most MLMs, especially as the company seems to have a fairly decent selection of products, which seem to be fairly popular. At the same time, the company also offers more options than normal for selling products. Nevertheless, this is still an MLM and suffers from the considerable limitations of that model.
If you’re looking for a fairly unique MLM, the Usborne Books & More certainly does fit in that category. Most MLMs focus around products like health and beauty or jewelry but that’s not the case here. Instead, as the company’s name suggests, the MLM sells books.
Specifically, it sells children’s books.
Without a doubt, there is a market for children’s books and it’s likely that any parent with young children will be somewhat interested in the products. But, what about the books themselves?
Well, the company does have quite a large selection of different books, catering for babies all the way up to middle-grade children. There are around 70 or 80 books (at present) that are unique to the company, like the ones below. The rest of the books on offer are available in other places as well, although they may not be common.
There is a lot of variation in the prices of the books and in what they cover. So, there are both fiction and non-fiction books in the mix, as well as ones that are activity-based and lift the flap books.
Overall, I was rather impressed with the selection and the number of books would rival what you see in many bookstores. At the same time, the amount of variation would mean that people have lots of options to choose from. Some of the books even seem to be especially relevant for homeschooling, which may also make the products appealing for some.
The prices for the books vary considerably but, for the most part, they seem fairly normal for books – although I admit that I don’t buy children’s books, so guesses might be a little inaccurate. But, I did find many books for less than $10 and even the ones that were higher seemed like they would be worth the extra price.
The pricing and variation would be enough to get people buying the books, to some degree at least. But, the quality of books is also important, especially if you want to get people to make multiple purchases.
From looking online, it certainly does seem like the books get decent reviews, such as these reviews for one of the doodle books that the company sells.
I found a similar pattern of reviews for other Usborne books on Amazon and also on other sites. Now, reviews for products are often biased to a degree but I found relatively few negative reviews, which suggests that the products are better than most.
In fact, various comments on blogs suggest that there is a passionate following for the books, which is an advantage over many other MLM companies.
The company provides a lot of information about its products but relatively little about the opportunity behind it. I imagine you are supposed to find all of this information out from whatever distributor recruits you but personally, I’d rather know beforehand.
The opportunity offers a few different approaches to earn money, including selling products at home shows, directly, online and through book fairs. The commission levels vary widely, from 15% to 30%, depending on the approach, the amount of sales and your rank in the company,
The company estimates that the average person earns between $75 and $100 profit per show – but it’s always difficult to know how accurate that estimate is. Often, you’ll find that figures like these are skewed by the high earners and the calculation often ignores anyone who isn’t earning at all.
The various options for selling is another advantage with Usborne Books & More but all of the approaches still require a decent amount of legwork on the part of the distributor.
At the same time, the company is an MLM, so there is a strong focus on recruitment. So, your income is tied to the people that you recruit. The larger your team, the more bonuses you get and the more potential you have for increasing in rank within the company. As with most MLMs, there is a host of different bonuses and requirements associated with your team, including commissions from the sales that team members make and bonuses for recruiting.
I’m not going to go into the specifics in much detail because the same patterns can be seen across every MLM and they get complex fast.
Overall though, the idea is to create a large and strong team. This includes ensuring that your team makes a decent amount of sales and there is also an emphasis on getting team members to advance through the ranks.
The company does give one example of how this can all calculate out:
At first glance, this sounds great, especially as you would be earning commissions yourself too. But, this example is for a team of 250 people and those people sell $350 in product a month.
I would estimate that much less than 1% of distributors for the company get a team that is anywhere close to that size. I mean, 250 people? You don’t have to recruit all of them yourself but that’s a whole lot of people to recruit, especially as most people don’t have the time or money to be dedicated to a company like Osborn Books & More.
What Makes Usborne Books & More Different
In their FAQ, the company also talks about what makes them different than other MLMs. This is what they had to say and it’s the only difference that they give:
For one thing, most MLMs sell products that people are interested in. After all, there are so many companies selling health and beauty products because the demand is so high.
I’ll agree that books are an important product but I wouldn’t go as far as putting them in the same category as food and clothing. Additionally, if you desperately needed books, buying them probably wouldn’t be your first choice. I mean, that’s what libraries are for. Plus, it’s fairly easy to find cheap second-hand books, as parents tend to sell them as their kids grow up.
Besides, saying that everyone needs books is a stretch, especially when the company only sells children’s books.
Realistically, most of the people interested in the products are going to be parents with young children, educators and possibly grandparents. Other people might buy books for children as gifts from time-to-time but they’re not likely to do so regularly enough to act as reliable customers.
In practice, this means that distributors have a fairly small audience that they can target with their products. If you don't know anyone with kids, you're out of luck! It’s also likely that some of that audience won’t have the money to buy books regularly or prefer not to buy books new.
Even though the products themselves might be good, you still have to be able to sell them, which brings me to an important point.
Successfully Making Sales
MLMs have an annoying habit of making the sales process sound easier than it actually is. In this case, Usborne Books & More talks about how you are ‘simply sharing your favorite books’ and how your enthusiasm will ‘speak loud and clear’.
Just being passionate about something isn’t enough to get people to buy it. You still have to convince them to spend money. That’s hard to do, especially as many people are fairly careful with their money. With the wide variety of books out there, and wider variety of parenting styles, are you sure that your friends will want to buy a steady stream of kids books from this company?
In many cases, distributors turn to their friends and family to make most of their sales. This can often work well at first and the first show or two will often result in a profit. But, that tends to happen because you are selling something new and exciting and because your friends are loyal.
As time goes on, interest in the products wanes and it gets progressively harder to make sales. In theory, the aim would be to continually get new people coming to your parties and interested in the products. This may be achievable, to some degree, by reaching out to acquaintances and friends through the schools your kids go to. This may work for a while, but you’re likely to run out of connections fairly quickly.
I don’t want to go into this in too much detail but the other major issue to consider here is competition.
Distributors for the company are selling books for kids. That’s not exactly a hard product to find and many of the books aren’t even unique to Usborne Books & More. This means that you’re competing against bookstores, libraries and websites that sell books. In fact, many of the products from the company are even on Amazon, often at a cheaper price than what distributors sell them for.
And… there’s still the competition from other distributors to consider. How much more difficult would it be to make sales if there were even one other distributor in the same area trying to sell the books? What about two or three?
But here’s the catch:
Making decent money with the MLM model involves recruiting others. It’s likely that some (if not all) of the people you recruit will be in the same location as you with a similar circle of contacts. So, you end up directly competing against the people you recruit. Sure, you earn money from their sales too but the percentage is pretty small compared to your own. All of that competition simply makes the process of making sales that much more difficult.
As a money making tool, MLMs work, but only to a degree. Some members manage to make money and some even make a lot. But, many other members barely make a profit or even operate at a loss.
Success in the MLM model really comes down to having an ability to develop and manage a team, sell products well and to keep finding new customers. These are all skills that people can learn but most people will find them difficult to master. At the same time, the company offers very little training to help people be successful in this area.
All of these issues mean that, for most people, the odds of making money through an MLM is very low.
MLM VS Affiliate Marketing
One reason for turning to Usborne Books & More might be that you’re passionate about books for kids. That’s a great passion but the MLM model majorly limits your ability to make money. Plus, you end up spending a lot of time focusing on recruitment and team building, rather than on the books themselves.
There's a better way to share your interest in kids books, or even something as broad as teaching kids!
You can actually use your own website as a way to promote books that you personally like. This gives you the chance to review them and to reach out the wide audience. Plus, you aren’t limited to books from one specific company or catalog. Instead, you get to choose from a huge range of books. In fact, you could even promote some of Usborne’s books this way, as many of them are sold on Amazon.
As a bonus, you aren't tied to a network marketing or direct sales company, which many people are wary of due to it's similarity to pyramid schemes.
There are a lot of great things about this approach. One of them is the fact that there is no physical stock/inventory to deal with. Another is that you don’t have to directly sell to people. That means no awkward parties and it also means that your sale potential expands far outside of your social network.
By taking this approach, you have the ability to develop a business that can grow and isn’t constrained by a complex commission plan or recruitment requirements.
Although I don't personally like the direct sales or MLM business model, I think this company isn't bad if you are interested in the products. Personally however, if I were to start an online business I'd rather do it under my own terms (described below).
Whatever type of product you decide to promote, it's important to own your own website to grow your business.
Parties only work if you have a network of friends with money in their pockets. Network marketing only works if your friends are interested in joining business opportunities.
With a website you can reach the entire world, and only promote great products to people interested in what you have to say. Plus, you open up doors to multiple streams of revenue like affiliate sales, ad click revenue, paid advertising, and even selling your own digital products.