Help Desk: Marketing Your Books to the Academic Community

Heard of American Philosophical Association?  American Library Association?  How about the Association of Study of Higher Education? 

Did you know these associations and others host about 352,300 conferences and meetings a year? All attended by professionals who can make purchasing decisions, such as making a wholesale purchase of your book? 

Conference Exhibiting is another way to knock on a backdoor market to reach your readers. But, unfortunately, if you’re only exhibiting your books at book conventions, you’re missing out on quite a few opportunities. 

For example, from June 22-27, the American Library Association will have its annual conference in Chicago at McCormick Place. 

ALA Officials boast as one of the top trade shows where “More than 8 out of 10 librarians that see your exhibit have the power to put your products and services into their libraries.” 

Are you a primary researcher on a single subject book? Then, team up with a few other scholars and exhibit your monograph for course adoption at a relevant academic conference, convention, or seminar. 

If one professor adopts your book title for her course, that’s guaranteed sales of a minimum of 20 books per class. On the other hand, sales could be well over 100+ units sold if it’s a popular class.   

 Fiction titles can win a sales contract too.  Small publishers such as David R. Godine list more than a dozen novels that professors have considered for course adoption.    

Major brand trade book publishers such as Penguin Group (USA) have an entire department for academic services.    When I started my career in publishing, I put together cost-effective exhibits for Penguin’s Academic Marketing and Sales department. And I also served as an exhibitor at many conferences.  

A few tricks of the trade to exhibiting books at academic conferences include:


1. Attendance| Determine who will be in attendance? Remember you are looking for a back door to your readers. Will decision makers, wholesale book buyers be in attendance? What is the overall expected attendance?

2.    Exhibit Space | Size of booth or exhibit space. Is it high traffic area or out-of-the-way? Electrical outlets ideal for a charging station to gain a captive audience and for social network live feeds. Who are the other exhibitors near your space? Are they competitors or possible partners?  Note: Conference exhibits are also great venues for IRL networking.

3.    Shipping | Intrastate or Interstate costs?  Air travel & local transportation cost – If you prepare well in advance of the conference, ground shipping is the best option,

4.    Event Marketing Collateral:   Display equipment, signage and storage; premium incentives; flyer/catalog production/ advertising in conference guide, books for giveaway and sales; postcards, business cards, etc..

5.    Accommodations/Entertainment| Hotel, dining, local transportation; admission to popular event for more networking opportunities.

Also, keep in mind, major brand trade publishers such as Penguin have storage space for large exhibit displays.  Renting a display and signage may be a more expensive option initially, but over time, you’ll save on storage rental.  Also, small, self and independent publishers should look to the vertical market or other small publishers for partnerships to share the costs.  

For more on upcoming conferences, check out allconferences dot com.


Sell Your Story, Not Your Book

Want to get on Oprah or some big-name popular talk show? Forget you ever wrote a book. Like most new authors, when seeking media appearances, they want to talk about their book.

Wrong move.

Just as new mothers are quick to learn, “no one thinks your baby is cute but you” – the same goes for authors and their new books. We don’t want to hear about your book – there’s no reason we should invest our time in it. Talking about your book is boring and is probably why you rarely see unknown authors on Oprah.

What we do want to hear, most of you probably don’t want to tell us anyway. So why do you want media coverage again – to ask us to buy your book? Do us a favor buy an Ad instead.

Consider the following for the rest of you who understand that media is a two-way street. And this includes books and broadcasts.

We always hear about the Oprah Effect, but on November 16, 2009, we found out about the Sarah Palin Draw. Say what you will about the former Vice-Presidential candidate, but you should include that she can move a crowd.

When Harper Collins released Palin’s book “Going Rogue: An American Life” on November 1, 2009, readers bought up more than 460,000 copies in the first week, according to Nielsen Bookscan. By the time Palin sat down on Oprah’s ‘proverbial’ couch –readers had already purchased 700,000 of the 2.5 million copies in print.

So what could Oprah do for Palin? Wait, flip the script – what could Palin do for Oprah?

As my friend Donna Marie, the Celebrity Editor, said, “when it comes to media, that’s like asking what you can do for God.”

Sarah might as well have been a media evangelist because she brought Oprah plenty of viewers. Palin came on Oprah’s talk show, and instead of selling a book, she told her story.  Palin talked about her daughter Bristol’s baby-daddy Levi; she spoke of hurtful moments on the 2008 campaign trail and how she felt about Tina Fey’s impersonation of her.

In short, Sarah Palin told her story, and it made for good television. According to Nielsen Media, in several key markets (cities), viewer ratings for the Oprah show increased as much as 128%! In case you didn’t know, ratings equal money in the broadcast television business.

So yes, maybe Oprah is a philanthropist, but first, she is a businesswoman. And she helped Palin go platinum before the month’s end – selling an additional 300,000 copies.*

This brings me to this, for those authors who say they want to be on Oprah’s show or on any TV/Radio show, column, and/or magazine, answer this – “What’s your story?”

One word of caution, though, make sure your story is true. Or your writing career could be shattered like that of James Frey, author of “A Million Little Pieces” if you lie to Oprah.