I snuck into the hidden world of librarians by having a table at the ALA Midwinter conference. Here’s what I learned as a self publisher among giants. Now you won’t have to repeat my mistakes!
There are several publications that offer free reviews and paid reviews for libraries and school libraries, along with stalwarts like Publisher’s Weekly. The trick is they review books only in advance of publication, often several months out. Many will work with PDFs, you just have to reach them before you put out your work.
Why does this matter? Well reviews are always a big help in sales, but reviews are mandatory for some library purchases. Librarians justify their purchases with published reviews. No review, no purchase.
Ingram is the big daddy of catalogs, and every library orders from them. Libraries often need to do purchase orders, and they are limited from where they can purchase books. The Ingram catalog provides wholesale prices for resellers and stores, so libraries get a better price then direct purchase. If you’re not in Ingram, it’s just about impossible to make a sale.
Here’s how you get in. If you have a publisher, you’re their already. If you self publish you can distribute your books via Lightning Source or Ingram Spark. Since they are both Ingram imprints, boom, you’re in. Lightning Source is now difficult to get into, but Spark is easy.
Ingram Spark will provide print on demand copies for you and to Amazon. You no longer need an inventory.
Use your own ISBN from Bowker, so your books are your own. Imprints like CreateSpace offer you ISBNs but those belong to Amazon and many bookstores won’t carry them. Doesn’t matter for libraries, but it does for library searches which use ISBN data.
Sure libraries have soft bound books, but hard bounds are more durable. Guess which they prefer? It’s worth an Ingram account just to have a hard bound copy of your book.
Library of Congress
Want to be in the main catalog that all catalog numbering systems are based on? Want your book available from reference searches? You need to be in the Library of Congress. You can have your independent book registered there if you have an ISBN and you submit a review copy prior to publication. Once it’s published, it’s ineligible for listing.
The midwinter conference is smaller, but a good sized show. And everyone you meet is a potential buyer of several copies. However, the annual conference is almost twice as big and has sections based on book type. They also have an artist alley and small press tables that are affordable, especially for the audience you get. There are also panels and talks you can register and be a part of.
That said, just being in the program for either show will get you contacts and awareness. I had people seek me out specifically, and they didn’t know me before.
Handouts and Giveaways
There are lots of freebies at these shows. Have something to give away. Bookmarks, catalogs, samples, pens, buttons, stickers, anything. It helps you be remembered and gets people to stop by. You also stand out (badly) if you don’t have anything.
This is a show with professional looking displays, so show up with good looking displays. I’ve gone through many companies and I’ve found TRT Banners to be reasonably priced and high quality. They also ship within two days if you have last minute needs. My entire table pictured below was printed by them and fit into a small carryon.
So now you know. Go get ’em tiger!