We’re all acutely aware that February 14 is Valentine’s Day. Retail establishments began reminding us as soon as they cleared away Christmas decorations. Did you know that in Australia they also celebrate Library Lovers’ Day on February 14? Since we at SPARK Publications also love libraries, we decided to celebrate with the Aussies by sharing a few key tips for marketing books to libraries (in the US anyway).
1. Know Your Audience
Marketing to libraries will be similar in many ways to marketing to independent bookstores. Each library operates independently with its own needs, budget, and collection development policy. This policy is influenced by the wants and needs of the community it serves and, particularly where school libraries are concerned, state and local regulations. So the more you know about the libraries you want to get into, the better you can tailor your plans and messages.
2. Plan Ahead for Reviews in the Right Places
Some collection development policies require acquisitions to have been reviewed in specific, reputable sources. Such sources include Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, among others. To even have your book considered for such reviews, you’ll have to meet their requirements for when your book is submitted. Booklist, for example, requires galleys to be submitted at least fifteen weeks prior to publication and no later than you submit them to other prepublication reviewers. Publishers Weekly likes to get them four months before publication.
For a lot of authorpreneurs who seek the quick turnaround of custom-publishing solutions, waiting the requisite four months to release their books is tantamount to torture. But reviews in the right places are worth the wait. And you can use the time to get the rest of your marketing program in place.
3. Distribute Your Books through a Wholesaler
Libraries are unlikely to buy your book from your website. They buy from trusted wholesale vendors and from large publishers. The economics of wholesale distribution are tough on custom-published authors. Your best bet is to use IngramSpark’s print-on-demand and wholesale distribution services. Your books should have a good wholesale discount (55 percent is good) and be returnable.
4. Get Some Face Time
Exhibit at library industry conferences to get your book physically in front of librarians. The American Library Association and Public Library Association have several conferences each year that draw thousands of librarians from across the country. And most states have regional library associations with regular meetings. If a solo exhibit is cost prohibitive for you, cooperative exhibits for the larger conferences are available through the Independent Book Publishers Association (of which SPARK Publications is a member) and Combined Book Exhibit.
5. Mail Your Heart Out
Send your one-page sales flyer directly to libraries. This sheet should include all the whos, whats, wheres, whys, and hows about ordering your book. A membership mailing list is available from the American Library Association, and your local library may have a copy of the American Library Directory for you to peruse.
While it doesn’t carry as much weight as a review, you can advertise to get your book in library and book trade journals. Members of the Independent Book Publishers Association (again, that’s us) even get discounts in some of them. The more often librarians see positive messages about your book, the more likely they are to buy it.
Few things in life are guaranteed, but chances are if you do nothing, you’ll get nothing. Contact us when you’re ready to custom publish your book and begin to strategically market your book to libraries.