Distribution Partners for Library Sales
by Brian Jud
The library marketplace is made up of almost 120,000 locations and is divided into many segments. In addition to the more than 16,500 public libraries and their branches, there are academic libraries, religious libraries, hospital libraries, prison libraries, military libraries, niche libraries, and more. Typically, libraries do not return books unless the books are defective or the orders were processed incorrectly.
It is possible to market directly to libraries but more common to work with a distribution partner or partners, since distribution companies offer many services that librarians have come to expect and that individual publishers usually can’t provide. In addition, the fact that an established distributor is working with you gives you credibility in librarians’ eyes.
Here are some of the services distribution partners provide to libraries:
Automated cataloging and processing. Most distribution partners handle the details of cataloging and processing and provide a range of processing options, including shelf-ready books or loose components for processing at a library. They know what the librarians want and the forms in which they want it.
Machine-Readable Cataloging. Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) lets computers exchange, use, and interpret bibliographic information, and MARC data elements make up the foundation of most library catalogs used today. Some distribution partners provide MARC records for books shipped in a variety of formats compatible with a library’s management software.
Online services. Online ordering is fairly common these days, and distribution partners’ systems typically allow librarians to search online for title information, and also to check status and availability.
Electronic data services. An order should be easy to enter, with as little information as an ISBN and the quantity. Distribution partners’ databases are normally updated to reflect the most recent changes in book status and availability, which makes quick and easy ordering possible.
Collection development. Distribution partners can assist schools with core-collection development and curriculum support because they have access to awards lists, bestseller lists, and review sources. Once a library provides selection criteria, the distribution partner can provide a customized selection list based on its requirements.
Suggestions for new schools. Opening a new school library is a time-consuming process that involves a number of complex tasks. Distribution partners can help librarians get through every step of the process by suggesting a complete selection of titles.
Your distribution partner can be most helpful if you establish a regular and consistent communication channel. Let the person in charge of your account know about your upcoming titles, changes to old titles (pricing, binding, etc.), and details about your promotional plans. And look into advertising in your partner’s magazines or newsletters if it offers such an opportunity.
Three different types of distribution partners serve the library marketplace:
The marketplace giant. Baker and Taylor, a leading full-line distributor of books, videos, and music products to libraries and retailers, dominates today’s library market. It maintains one of the largest combined in-stock book, video, and music inventories in the United States, offers the advance notice programs mentioned above, and provides other services, proprietary data products, customized management, and outsourcing.
Ingram Book Company is the dominant distributor in a variety of book marketplaces and a leading distribution partner in the library market, especially to public libraries, K–12 libraries, and academic libraries.
For more information:
Baker and Taylor, Director, Publisher Relations, P.O. Box 6885, Bridgewater, NJ 08807; 908/541-7460; btol.com
Ingram Book Company, Ingram Library Services, Inc., One Ingram Blvd., LaVergne, TN 37086; 800-937-5300; ingrambook.com
The sales organization. Instead of waiting for library orders to come in, two distribution partners work to generate library sales. Quality Books and Unique Books sell on consignment, which means that you get paid when your books actually sell. Their sales people know what librarians are looking for and when they want it. If you can arrange to work with them, you can take advantage of these relationships and also get national exposure for your titles.
For more information:
Quality Books, Inc., Manager, Publisher Relations Dept., 1003 W. Pines Rd., Oregon, IL 61061; 800/323-4241; quality-books.com
Unique Books, 5010 Kemper Ave., St. Louis, MO 63139; 314/776-6695; 800/533-5446; uniquebooksinc.com
The services provider. The third type of distribution partner performs valuable services for publishers but waits for libraries to place orders. Companies in this category include Book Distribution Partners (for public libraries); Brodart Books (for public and school libraries); Coutts Information Services (for public libraries); EBSCO Book Services (for corporate libraries); Emery-Pratt Company (for academic, public, and hospital libraries); Matthews Medical Book Company (for medical and science libraries); and Rittenhouse Book Distributors (for libraries in the health sciences and scientific and technical fields).
For more information:
Book Distribution Partners, Inc., 1847 Mercer Rd., Lexington, KY 40511; 859/231-9789; 800/888-4478; bwibooks.com/index.php
Brodart Books, 500 Arch St., Williamsport, PA 17705; 800/233-8467; brodart.com
Coutts Information Services, 1823 Maryland Ave., P.O. Box 1000, Niagara Falls, NY 14302; 800/263-1686; couttsinfo.com
EBSCO Book Services, Division Headquarters, 5724 Hwy. 280 E., Birmingham, AL 35242; 205/980-5623; ebscobooks.com
Emery-Pratt Company, 1966 W. Main St., Owosso, MI 48867; 517/723-5291; 800/248-3887; emery-pratt.com
Matthews Medical Book Company, 11559 Rock Island Ct., Maryland Heights, MO 63043; 314/432-1400, 800/633-2665; mattmccoy.com
Rittenhouse Book Distributors, 511 Feheley Dr., King of Prussia, PA 19406; 800/345-6425; rittenhouse.com
No matter what kind of content you have to offer, you can probably find a distribution partner that specializes in providing it to the library market. Look for one with experience in your genre. Then work with it to provide the best materials and services to its library customers.
Brian Jud, president of the consulting firm Book Marketing Works, is the author of Beyond the Bookstore and other guides for publishers. This article is derived from his new book, How to Make Real Money Selling Books (Without Worrying About Returns), from Square One Publishers, Inc., which includes additional information on reaching library markets. To learn more or to order, visit squareonepublishers.com.
K–12 School Libraries
The critical factor determining the selection of books for K–12 school libraries is the credibility of the title in relation to the school’s curriculum. And just as the composition of patrons varies from public library to public library, the curriculum varies dramatically from state to state.
Titles that work for public libraries may not work for school libraries, so the process of marketing to them is different. Schools may purchase books independently, or their school system may have a centralized purchasing system.
Since you have to research the proper procedures for each school system, it makes it even more beneficial to market to school libraries through wholesale distribution partners.
In addition to Baker and Taylor and Brodart Books, the following two distribution partners deal specifically with the K–12 marketplace:
Follett Library Resources, 1340 Ridgeview Dr., McHenry, IL 60050; 815/759-1700; 888/511-5114; flr.follett.com
Mackin Library Media Services, 14300 W. Burnsville Pkwy., Burnsville, MN 55306; 952/895-9540; mackin.com
Innumerable libraries are devoted to amassing collections for specific niche markets. For example, say you have a children’s book that you want to get into libraries. While most grade schools have libraries devoted to their students and public libraries have children’s sections, there are other ways of reaching this market.
One example: Books for Kids (booksforkidsfoundation.org) creates and furnishes libraries within existing children’s centers. It purchases and donates library-bound books to create a lending program that familiarizes children with standard library practices. Each of its libraries includes a core group of standard titles among books selected to reflect the backgrounds and life experiences of children in specific communities.
You can find a great many more sales opportunities by searching online for libraries related specifically to your book, and being creative.