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Selling to the Elhi Market: Part 3, Simpler Routes to School Sales

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Selling to the Elhi Market:
Part 3, Simpler Routes to School Sales


by Linda Carlson


You know your books belong in
schools—with students, teachers, or administrators—but you’d probably like a
less complicated and faster sales route than state or district adoption.


This series of articles has looked
at how reading incentive and assessment programs influence school and classroom
library purchases (see the June issue) and at the typical public school
approval and adoption process for textbooks and supplemental materials (see the
July issue).


The final installment of the
series focuses on how independent publishers—even startups—can market to:


·         public schools, once publishers
have approvals

·         private schools

·         others who make purchases and
recommendations for the school market


Also, it discusses how other
publishers might handle the sales job for you.


Marketing to Public


Most school districts buy some
publications that have not been through the lengthy and complicated approval
and adoption process. Often, these are supplementary materials such as
workbooks, or books for classroom, school, or parent libraries.


Your best contacts for these sales
may be district curriculum directors, librarians, academic department heads,
classroom teachers, or such specialists as school psychologists, parent
educators, and newsletter editors. How do you reach them? In much the same ways
you probably reach other prospects: through direct mail, email, advertising,
publicity in appropriate publications, sales reps, and industry conferences.


Stacey Kannenberg, whose
Wisconsin-based Cedar Valley Publishing issues two books on preparing children
for kindergarten and first grade that are now used in 350 districts nationwide,
credits most of her sales to email sent by commissioned reps.


“They do one email at a time,
which is a slow process, but it gets them past the spam filters—and the
business grows bigger and better each year,” Kannenberg reports.


Her advice on finding reps and
distributors? Google! “Honestly,” the publisher insists. “Search by ‘school
distributors’ and then research each name that comes up; many school
distributors will not distribute products that they have not published.”


Kannenberg’s emails to prospective
distributors are short and simple. She offers two things: review copies and her
75-second video trailer. If you don’t have a video, get one, says this newbie
publisher, citing four reasons: “It gives you instant credibility; it lives
forever on YouTube and in other cyberspace settings; it increases media interest;
and having it to use as a backdrop for television appearances makes you appear
media savvy.”


Cedar Valley also advertises in
three education-industry magazines, which provide advertisers with mailing
labels for readers who have requested additional information on products. The
magazines are Learning,
a for-profit North Carolina publication (<span
); <span
distributed free to every U.S. K–12 public school (see the rate card at <span
and Principal,
published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (<span


“Responses number in the hundreds
for a smaller ad and in the thousands for a larger ad,” Kannenberg says,
adding, “The first order might be for a single copy of each book, but those
single orders have turned into repeat orders for 50 and even hundreds.”


One example: Green Bay Public
Schools, which has used Cedar Valley’s books since the company was founded in
2004, received a Title 1 grant this year for 1,000 copies of its <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Let’s Get Ready For


Kannenberg is also enthusiastic
about leads that don’t turn immediately into orders. “Even if they don’t
purchase, I still have a ‘warm lead’ for my database,” she notes.


Publicity is another valuable
marketing tool for publishers pitching the school market. “I run two campaigns
each year where we target national media to increase awareness of my mission,”
says Kannenberg. “It’s the story behind the story that has become the key for
me—the story of a mom who believes that if two brothers from Ohio can change
the face of aviation, a mom from Wisconsin can tackle education.”


Conferences facilitate school
sales for the Oregon-based Math Learning Center, which sells K–5 materials. The
company exhibits at 12 to 15 conferences annually, and Center staff try to get
themselves on conference programs with presentations about professional
development that generate interest in its materials and increase booth traffic.


Research about attendees helps the
Center staff choose which conferences to target. “For example, we sometimes go
to reading conferences simply because that’s where you’ll find a lot of
elementary teachers,” says Rick Ludeman, vice president of communications.


What if you’re publishing books
for teachers, not students? Gordon Burgett, at northern California’s Education
Communications Unlimited, approaches principals, the boards of education
associations of each state, and teachers’ unions and associations, along with in-service
programs, which often buy 20 to 30 copies of a book.


Burgett has a different strategy
for books for administrators. Get review copies into the hands of the college
faculty members who teach courses for administrators, he advises. “Maybe 25
percent follow through and adopt the book right away, and an additional 15
percent may decide to use the book later.”


At New Jersey’s Windsor Press and
Publishing, Jim Franklin reports a similar marketing scenario. When promoting a
trade book about a veteran prison guard at a corrections convention, he and his
partner were invited to speak at a community college class where the instructor
wanted to use the book as a supplemental text.


With this impetus, they attended a
corrections and law enforcement education association meeting, ran an ad in the
organization’s newsletter, and did a mailing to correctional educators in their
state. The result? Some one-time orders, some repeat customers—and all sales
made direct to the college bookstores, with no wholesalers (or discounts)


Marketing to Private


Private schools usually fall into
one of four general groups: religious, independent, educational philosophy, or
specialty. See below for some leads to schools within these categories, and see
the Council for American Private Education Web site (<span
for leads to other kinds of private school groups. Also, be aware that some
state education departments list private schools on their Web sites or sell
directories that include private schools. For example, you can find several
Washington private schools via <span
; California schools via <span
and Massachusetts schools via <span


Catholic Schools


The Roman Catholic Church is the
single largest private educator in the United States, and each Catholic diocese
makes recommendations to its schools regarding textbooks, but a recommendation
does not necessarily lead to sales. Except for religion courses, local Catholic
schools can choose the books they prefer.


Book recommendations are made at
the diocese level by committees, which review at least one subject each year.
Sister Joyce Cox, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of
Seattle, says textbooks for courses such as mathematics and information
technology are reviewed frequently, as often as every three years; language
arts texts are probably reviewed least often.


For a list of the education
departments of the approximately 175 dioceses in the United States, see the
National Catholic Educational Association site (<span
) and select School/Dio


Many publishers also meet buyers
for Catholic schools by sponsoring continuing education programs and events at
national and local meetings of Catholic educators. The largest Catholic school
programs are in the archdioceses of Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles,
and the next meeting of the NCEA will be March 25–28, 2008, in Indianapolis.
(From www.ncea.org,
select 2008 Conference and then Convention Exhibitor Information .) For
information on local “Teacher Professional Days,” check diocese sites for
“school department” and events. Some dioceses also announce their events to
associations of textbook sales reps.


Christian Schools


Schools that describe themselves
as Christian are usually affiliated with fundamentalist churches. Some
incorporate biblical principles into even such subjects as mathematics and
science. The Association of Christian Schools International (<span
which claims more than 5,000 member schools worldwide, offers a variety of
marketing opportunities, including conventions, Web site links, mailing list
rentals, and advertising in its publications. For information about a similar
organization, the American Association of Christian Schools, visit <span


Other Church-affiliated


Several Lutheran organizations
have their own school directories. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
provides contact information at <span
. Select Resources
from the schools page for information on conferences. For the Lutheran Church
Missouri Synod (www.lcms.org)
school locator, select Directories.


Two organizations that serve
Jewish schools and have online directories are the Lookstein Center, which
promotes Jewish education and has a day school database at <span
and the Solomon Schechter Day School Association (<span
), which is affiliated with the
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, an organization that includes 76
schools in 18 states and two Canadian provinces.


The National Association of
Episcopal Schools (www.naes.org)
now provides more than 500 programs in the United States. By becoming a
“corporate subscriber,” you’re entitled to advertise in its publications and
use association-provided mailing labels. See “Support NAES” at its site.


Seventh Day Adventists operate
more than 900 schools in the U.S. For a directory, see <span


Independent Schools


Independent private schools
include Montessori primary schools, university lab schools, and the famous East
Coast prep schools. Some 1,200 independent private schools, enrolling almost
half a million students, are members of the National Association of Independent
Schools (NAIS), which invites publishers to exhibit at NAIS meetings.


The next conference—expected to
attract about 5,000—will take place from February 27 to March 1, 2008, in New
York City. For exhibit information, contact Michael Rease at 202/973-9740, <span
For information about advertising in <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Independent School
, the association
publication, see www.nais.org
and select Publications. To locate NAIS member schools, choose Go to Parents’
Guide from the home page.


A subset of independent private
schools, the Waldorf schools, includes 149 schools and approximately 100 preschools
and kindergartens. The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (<span
provides a Member School List with contact information for both the schools and
early childhood programs, and FAQs at its site provide background that may help
you determine whether your materials are a fit with the Waldorf philosophy.


You can find leads to Montessori
schools through the International Montessori Council (<span
That site also provides contact information about other Montessori organizations
and their meetings. For information about advertising in IMC publications and
exhibiting at its conferences, contact Tim Seldin, <span


Special Schools and


For schools that serve kids with
learning or physical disabilities, behavior problems, developmental delays, and
60 other conditions, contact the National Association of Private Special
Education Centers (www.napsec.org).
Through its Web site you can find about 500 programs. Although most serve
people aged 6 to 21, many provide services for everyone from babies to the


Members of the National
Association for the Education of Young Children (<span
) have child care centers,
preschools, and primary programs for children from birth through age 8. NAEYC
offers publishers of early childhood education materials opportunities for
exhibiting and advertising, through both the national group and the state


The National Association for
Gifted Children (www.nagc.org),
which provides information on programs for the gifted, runs national and local
conferences with exhibit opportunities and has publications and sites that
accept advertising.


The Council of International
Schools (www.cois.org)
lists contacts for 19 U.S. programs on its site.


Let Other Publishers Make
Your Sale


There’s another, seemingly
simpler, way to sell books to schools. Get them included in curriculum
supplement packages compiled and sold by the big players.


The challenge here is to find the
editors who select books for the supplement packages. Then you can send them
catalogs and links to your Web site(s) so that they can check to see if
anything you publish fits their needs when a theme is selected for a particular


Publishers such as Harcourt and
Houghton Mifflin, which have children’s trade imprints, are less likely to buy
from other publishers than publishers such as McGraw-Hill, which does not
publish children’s trade books. Its supplement packages include McGraw-Hill’s
SRA Reading for Information, which the company describes as a means of teaching
second through sixth graders to understand informational text. For each grade,
McGraw-Hill sells 24-title library packages. Its program is run in Columbus,
OH; call 800/468-5850 and ask for the editorial director.


Linda Carlson
(www.lindacarlson.com) writes from Seattle, where her <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Company Towns of the Pacific Northwes
(University of Washington Press) has been a required text for at least one
college history course.




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