Getting Your Book into Campus Libraries and More!

Getting Your Book into Campus Libraries and More! 1024 576 Reader Views

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Author of the multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

I used to run a question and answer column in my Sharing with Writers newsletter, but the subject of getting books (including fiction) into university bookstores comes up so often, I thought it might be a good idea to give the topic a little broader exposure and Reader Views is just the right place!

The first time I received a request, the email used “Regarding university bookstores”  as the subject line:

Here is the body of that email:

I know that Random House had my book in their catalog targeting educational sellers. Is there more than that I can do? How would I:
1. identify them and
2. approach them?

Of course, the best way to tackle a specific question like this is to ask for specific information from the publisher—or better ask them at the same time as you offer an idea for follow up with the producers of the aforementioned catalog or the acquisition librarian. Big publishers rarely if ever share their contact lists with their authors. It is up to authors to start building their own contact lists right now—whenever “right now” may be.

That doesn’t mean there is nothing the author can do independently. I am going to use my husband’s experience with his book, What Foreigners Need to Know About America from A to Z as an example because he was so successful with the process. 

He put together a form letter. He tweaks it depending on who he is sending it to. He goes online and finds areas on campuses—any old campus will do, but larger institutions tend to have more departments that could use his book. For his book that includes: 

1. Libraries
2. International Student Programs 
3. International Student Course Teachers 
4. Campus Bookstore Buyers
5. ESL classes through extension

You must be the judge of campus entities or instructors that might use or welcome your book as a resource. This process is easier for authors of nonfiction but fiction writers who have taken my advice to reread their own book with their marketing hats on may find aspects of their novel that appeals to many different instructors—from those who teach writing skills to those who teach a variety of other topics.

Lance spends about 30 minutes a day sending the letter to the person he feels is more likely to be a decision maker in any given department. Sometimes that’s only one contact. Some days, when research goes well, he finds three or four to send a letter to. He’s had some amazing successes like having his book chosen as gifts/recommendations by the university that hosts the Fulbright Scholars in the US each summer.

There is a cost to this process beyond time. He offers a free book to those influencers who show an interest. Sometimes these contacts thank him. Sometimes he sees a sale of many copies at once and usually attributes that to a classroom recommendation. Sometimes it’s crickets. He uses those occasions to check with the contact to see if he or she received the book or if they need more information or would care to reprint parts of chapters at no cost—each complete with a pitch and links for students to buy the complete book on Amazon. He also occasionally offers a bookstore discount (usually 40%) to educators who order more than 20 books directly from him. His top sales was 59 copies.

Be aware, that if you find an instructor who recommends your book or uses is at class reading, the bookstore often stocks the book automatically. But not always. It doesn’t hurt to mention in a separate query or phone call that your book was ordered for a specific class or that Professor X showed an interest in your book.  

One more secret. He keeps at it. 

Here’s an alternative that isn’t as frugal and not as effective because the contact is not personal (but it’s a lot less time-consuming!): IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) has a catalog that they send to libraries, a separate one to university libraries, and one to reviewers.  I’ve used that program. It can be good…or not. Depending on the title. 

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including the first edition of the third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter , first published in 2003. It is now in its third edition published by Modern History Press. You’ll find more on building great contact lists like the one mentioned in this newsletter and a special discount from Modern History Press at https://modernhistorypress.com/frugal.

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