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Why You Should Attend Trade Shows

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Just got back from the Public Library Association Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, where more than 8,000 acquisition librarians gathered to attend seminars and look for new product. The attendees of a library show are people who love books; therefore, when you leave this show, you are on a high note, since they love your product almost as much as you do!Here’s some information from the convention I’d like to share with all of you:1. One librarian stated that they loved ordering from Quality Books and other jobbers who offered them a sample copy of the book for review so that they could look at the product before they ordered for all their branches. Question: What would PMA members think of making this type of an offer to some large public libraries? Would you be willing to participate in a free-book offer with the possibility of either getting large orders for their branches (15-30) or the other side of the coin would be having your title rejected but probably not returned?
2. A review from one of four magazines is the stamp of approval that is needed to write a purchase order. The magazines are Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Other magazines are read, but one of these four will definitely influence a purchase. Therefore, if you have received a review in any of these publications, please make sure it is prominent in any promotion you send to the library.
3. Many librarians stopped by our booths to tell us that they love receiving our material monthly. To paraphrase many, “We find books in your packets that we can find nowhere else.” While many indicated that they can purchase throughout the year, others stated that they save information on books that they want to buy during their “big purchase time.” This purchasing period coincides with when they get their governmental dollar allocation for the year and is near the end of their fiscal year (the old “spend it or lose it” syndrome). Most also indicated that while budgets could always be better, they have enough money to purchase most of the books they have wanted this year.
4. Librarians love personal visits from the publisher. One PMA member publisher drove his car from Florida to Missouri, stopping along the way to meet with various large libraries. He planned his route home in a different direction so that he could continue the visits with different librarians. The library market is an important one to him and he shared that the visit from a publisher really gets their attention, more so than a visit from a distributor or sales rep.
5. Several librarians commented that they visit PMA’s Web site often. They like the fact that they can search by subject matter and find that our publisher listing is always current so that they can reach each publisher rapidly. Therefore, make sure all of your information on our Web site is correct. (We didn’t realize that it was being used so frequently by this group of people. We knew we had lots of activity in the member listing, but we thought it was members checking specifically on their listings. Nice to know it’s being used by buyers!).The PLA is an every-other-year show. In the year 2000, it is planned for Charlotte, North Carolina, in mid-March. More than 8,000 librarians attend the show and approximately 1,500 exhibitors, not a bad ratio.
Several publishers worked from the PMA booth at PLA. It’s really interesting to watch the variety of styles in working a booth. Some are very comfortable talking to librarians, but they are not very comfortable selling themselves and/or their product. Others are a bit shy and really have to push themselves to work a booth comfortably. Still others are out-and-out promoters and were able to sell their product to librarians who were passing by. It’s enjoyable working with all PMA members.
Charlie Braman from California definitely attracted the most attention at this convention. Charlie has a collection of cartoons that all contain references or depictions of Abraham Lincoln. Now Charlie, a former history professor, also resembles Abe Lincoln … a lot. Passers-by all stopped to talk with him, and Charlie was walking the floor all day long talking with reporters, librarians, and other people in the media who were enjoying a brief visit with “Abe.” At one time, I looked up from the booth to see Abe talking with another persona who was also walking the floor at this show – Elvis Presley. Abe, dressed all in black, and Elvis, dressed all in white, were a sight not to be missed! As you can see, besides selling books, trade shows can be a lot of fun!

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor April, 1998, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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