Each day, I receive many calls from our members asking if one of our marketing programs is right for them. A typical question is “How do I know if my book will sell into the library market?” And since Frankfurt is right around the corner (October 8-13), another frequent question I hear is “How do I know if my book is right for international rights?”
What Does — and Doesn’t — Sell Overseas
Addressing the latter question first (since it’s a bit easier to answer than the first and probably more pressing on members’ minds right now), I can give you some parameters.
A book is not salable in the foreign rights market if it’s too American, and by that I mean if the text within your book contains too many references to things found only in the U.S., such as “dollars”; recipes that use cups, teaspoons, etc.; pictures of U.S. people; mentions of places in the U.S.; or systems found only within the U.S.
While we can be wrong in the assessment of a book, our advice is usually right when we say the book doesn’t have a chance at Frankfurt. When people call and describe their book, I am as frank as I can be and I advise many people to save their money and not send their books to the Frankfurt Book Fair. When talking with our contacts overseas, we don’t want to have books that will be dismissed by the agents; we want to have books that will be considered. So look at your book or books carefully and use an unprejudiced eye if you can.
Books that have sold to foreign rights buyers in the past and still sell include just about all of our business books. The U.S. leads the world in new business themes and all countries come to our stand looking for these titles.
Parenting books have been very sought after lately as well. Years ago, when we first started going to Frankfurt, parenting books weren’t accepted. Time after time, we were told that the contents of the book were “too American” and that people from other countries didn’t have the same problems as Americans. Well, guess what! Here we are 10 years later, and I suppose parenting and children must have changed since buyers in many other countries have asked to see just about all of the parenting books we display.
Health books are still moving nicely, although some of the new diseases of years ago are no longer new, and there is competition from many foreign publishing houses that have books by local physicians and/or nationally recognized authorities.
Fiction is a difficult sell unless the author is known. Otherwise, the topic has to be intriguing to the country purchasing. There has to be a hook.
Assessing the Other Programs
For many of PMA’s other marketing programs, there are so many contributing factors that it is much harder to predict whether or not a title will succeed. With each of our programs, we track the recipients, asking the librarians, reviewers, and bookstore owners how they are using our direct-mail pieces. We ask whether any information is missing from what they receive. And when we get a suggestion, we consider it carefully and usually implement it in future programs.
Some members who have participated in our library, bookstore, and reviewer mailings have received fantastic results. Some have wondered why they spent their money. Many of the mailings are difficult to track. The best way to track any mailing to librarians and/or bookstores is to watch the reports from your wholesaler and/or distributor. You should see a spike in orders within three to six months after the program mails, although because of budgetary constraints within libraries, results may trickle in from three to twelve months after the mailing. Since orders are rarely placed directly to the publisher, you’ll have to watch the other reports.
We wish that all members could obtain terrific results each time they participated; however we know that many of our programs have what we refer to as the “one-third factor.” We seem to have one-third of our participants contact us to say they got great results; one-third see a modest increase; and one-third have nothing occur except exposure to the market.
For Best Results
So for the best answer to the question “How do I know …?” make sure that your title is right for the mailing in which you wish to participate, present your title or titles in the most professional manner possible, and we’ll all keep our fingers crossed!