Friday, June 06, 2008

What Librarians Wish Publishers Knew

The one workshop I attended at BEA was called "What Librarians Wish Publishers Knew." The panel included Librarians from Brooklyn, Chicago, Seattle and the University of California, Irvine, and was led by Nora Rawlinson, former editor-in-chief of Library Journal.

The most important thing I learned was just how important sales to Libraries in context of overall book sales are. According to the Book Industry Study Group, 10% of all book sales are to Libraries. 40% of Mid-List titles are sold to Libraries. Plus, Libraries really promote their books. They are as interested in attracting readers as you are and put a lot of energy into their websites and other promotional materials. If your book is chosen to be part of one of those promotional campaigns ("1 book, 1 community" for example) all that promotion can help you sell more copies in stores.

Think about it. If every Library system bought just one copy of your book, that's about 5000 copies sold. So don't disparage library sales as lost revenue.

Ms. Rawlinson provided a handout with information about a new, Library related information site called Early Word which publishers can access.

Overall, demand for audio-books at Libraries has increased greatly while e-books are not as popular. However this may also be related to location because the Librarian from Brooklyn stated audio-books are not as popular in New York. Libraries are not buying many print reference books anymore. Instead they are buying licenses for access to electronic materials which are updated regularly. More readers are using Library websites to look for books than ever before, and Libraries are changing their sites to keep up with that demand, making them more interactive and easier to use. Libraries use all Wholesale catalogues to find books, including Ingram, and it is very important to make sure your book's information is up-to-date and thorough. Libraries also use Library Thing and Good Reads to discover hot books readers will want.

Also, the rumor that Libraries don't like to buy paperbacks is false. Libraries buy what their customers request and most readers like to read paperbacks.

How to contact a Librarian to pitch your book depends on the Librarian, but the ones on this panel all prefer email. Also, most Libraries are part of a system with different "branches," so pitch to the Acquisitions Librarian. That person decides what books will be available for ALL branches. If you go to your local library branch and ask them to stock your book, they will send you to the Acquisitions Librarian.

When the talk ended, I jumped up and joined the crush of people pitching their books to the panel. At last, we had found the elusive Librarians! They were all generous with their time and answering questions. I gave a copy of Traveling Blind to a Librarian from San Francisco who had been sitting behind me, and another copy to the Librarian from University of California. My goal is to have Traveling Blind; Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers in every University in the country. Wish me luck.

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