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FEATURE TOPIC: Discussion of the Library Market in 2004

Q: A Discussion of the Library Market in 2004

There’s been a lot of concern recently about cuts in library funding. The following is an interview with GraceAnne Andreassi DeCandido, writer, editor, and part-time lecturer in children’s literature at Rutgers. She runs Blue Roses Consulting, a company that specializes in research, writing, web content, and other “word tools for libraries.”

Q: We’ve heard a lot lately about budget cuts in the library market. How are school libraries faring compared with public libraries?

My feeling is that school libraries are the worse off. It isn’t just that the money pot grows ever smaller; it’s that school libraries seem consistently underappreciated by school administrations. What libraries do, what libraries are for, how much they support students’ learning, seems to be fuzzy at best in the minds of those who hold the finances? I am on a handful of school librarians’ lists, and this comes up over and over again.

Q: Do you have tips for authors and illustrators who’d like to set up events at schools and libraries?

Schools and libraries love to have author visits! Be as clear as possible about what you can do (e.g., talk for half an hour, answer questions) and cannot do (autograph five hundred books). Be upfront about your fees. Work with your publisher to get your books available to the kids you will see. If you have a web site, lay out your plan for author visits. If you only do local events, say so.

Q: Should authors and illustrators tailor events differently for school and public libraries?

Probably. School events tend to be tied more to the curriculum: what the kids are studying and learning about. Public library events can be more freewheeling. In a school setting, you know what grades and ages of children you will see. In a public library, you have less sure knowledge of your audience.

Q: Which publications have the most impact on whether a new title will be bought for a library’s collection?

Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal and VOYA. Notice I put them in alphabetical order! I did an informal survey of school librarians for ALA a few years ago that indicated School Library Journal and Booklist were at the top of their lists.

Q: Is it appropriate for authors and illustrators to send advance copies of their books directly to library systems and, if so, who should they contact?

Many library systems, perhaps most, do not buy materials unless they can find reviews of same. Unless you know that the librarian doing book selection would welcome your ARCs or new publications, this might be a frustrating exercise.

Q: Which categories or types of children’s books are most in demand in school and public libraries today?

There is always a demand for good books. That means many things. It certainly means good nonfiction: biographies, history books, and science books. It means quality fiction and lighthearted series stuff. It is vitally important to remember that books aren’t just “good for” study or learning or teaching. Books are good when they give genuine pleasure to readers, and that can be overlooked or forgotten at times. The pleasure of reading is a real one, and children deserve to be allowed to discover that.

Librarians and teachers and parents need to know that there are many ways of finding good books for children, that it isn’t a vast wasteland out there, and that the tools exist.

I also recently spoke with Fauzia Burke, founder of FSB Associates an agency specializing in Internet marketing, about strategies for promoting books online. Here are some tips from her experience with adult books.

1. Look for seasonal and holiday tie-ins as well as niche marketing opportunities.
2. Create an e-kit with an author bio, author photo, book jacket and short release.
3. Provide excerpts or tips that can be used to create an online feature.
4. Don’t do email blasts to purchased lists. Use lists you develop yourself.
5. Offer contacts review copies.
6. Develop 1 to 1 contacts and cater to their needs.
7. Search the Internet for placements that have been made for competing titles.
8. Get involved with topical list serves, but follow protocol to avoid getting flamed.
9. Use a signature file to promote your new book, so when you post a message, the book will be mentioned.
10. Don’t be intimidated. You can start by contacting 10 or 12 sites and, if successful, go on from there.