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Old 11-24-2012, 10:43 PM   #1
ChelseaWriter
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"library" publishers?

(Please move this to the right place, if needed. Wasn't really sure where to put it...)

I've submitted my novel to a couple of publishers (legit, long-established) whose primary market is public libraries. These publishers also do sell books on Amazon and B&N, etc, but their books (as far as I'm aware) are not sold in bookstores.

I have some questions to put "out there" to those who might know:

* What might this (library market) mean, in terms of scope for the author? I mean, I'm not sure how vast and far-reaching the library market is (I assume it's still big, but dwindling, thanks to digital books)? Also, what would be the difference, in terms of selling books to libraries vs. bookstores (the obvious difference would be selling maybe a couple of copies to libraries to be checked out over and over again, versus dozens of copies sold to bookstores, to be SOLD -- but I'm assuming if a publisher has a good reputation with libraries across the country, that would create a steady/sure source of income?).

* If I wanted to look up a title's ranking in the library market/world, how would I go about doing that? I know how to look at Amazon sales and at least get an idea of those rankings. But when it comes to how a certain title is faring in libraries (both with being sold TO libraries and then how they're doing inside the libraries), I'm lost. Don't know if that info is even available anywhere. *shrug*

Thanks in advance for any ideas/input...hope these questions aren't too elementary or confusing. I'm not new to researching publishers -- but I am new to this library market, from the perspective of a writer. I'll take any advice/help I can get!
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Old 11-24-2012, 11:03 PM   #2
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Avalon, before it was bought out by Amazon (I believe, although I'm not sure about the details of the deal), sold almost exclusively to libraries, with occasional foreign rights deals. They paid a flat fee to authors (subject to additional payments if there were foreign rights deals and some other adjustments, I believe, perhaps if enough individuals did buy the books, but there wasn't any advertising, so how would anyone know they existed?) of about $2,000 for 50K-word romance novels. At least, that was the amount the last time I checked. I'm not sure if the payment for mysteries was the same or not.

There were also strict requirements with respect to the romance being "sweet" -- no swearing, no sex, no alcohol, not even allusions to swearing, sex or alcohol. Also, very strict slotting -- they released exactly two romances a month (if I remember correctly) and had a similar schedule for mysteries.

Bottom line: not a lot of money, not much chance of making extra royalties, but very short word count, so possibly a living wage for someone who writes quickly, assuming the publisher would take six or ten books a year (which, actually, doesn't seem likely -- I don't recall Avalon ever publishing that many from one author in romance -- so perhaps more of an adjunct to other, better-paying work).
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Old 11-24-2012, 11:07 PM   #3
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This really helps, Jan -- in fact, Avalon was one of the ones I'd submitted to...

You've brought up points I hadn't even considered. Thanks!
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:14 AM   #4
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Robert Hale specialises in publishing for the library market in the UK.

From what I've heard, print runs of just 200 is common, with reprints only happening once firm orders of at least 100 copies are in place--which rarely happen.

The binding is usually high-quality and robust, but the price is correspondingly high.

Consequently, sales are very, very low. It's unlikely that you'll earn anything more than your initial advance (which is low) but if your book sells well in the limited market available, chances are you'll be asked to write more books.

Whether it's economic for you to do so is another matter, of course.
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:26 AM   #5
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Thanks for the info, Old Hack. It helps a bunch!

Yeah, I noticed that when these library publishers offer their books on Amazon, they're typically hardcover, very expensive (for the reasons you mentioned, I'm sure).
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Old 11-25-2012, 12:41 AM   #6
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You can inspect Avalon books at your local library. Mine is pretty small and doesn't get all of them (I think larger libraries were almost on a subscription basis, where they bought them all, as they were released), but I did find a handful, mostly with links to my state. I was curious about their mystery line at the time, and did a search on my library's holdings, with the publisher as the search term.
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Old 11-25-2012, 01:07 AM   #7
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Most of the library market publishers specialize in a niche, like library binding and archival paper reprints, or large print, or series category fiction.
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Old 11-26-2012, 09:20 PM   #8
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In children's, it's the school and library market. These books are sold for classroom, as well as library, use. They are often packaged, but not always. If your work has an educational bent, you can earn a living in this market. Many major publishers have school and library imprints, including Scholastic Book Clubs. The books are sometimes sold in stores as well as to the institutions.
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:29 AM   #9
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Just one more "bump" for this thread, to see if anyone else has had experience publishing with library-exclusive publishers.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:51 AM   #10
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I have never been published by a library publisher but I am a children’s librarian in Nebraska. The library market is much smaller than the regular market. To break it down if every library in Nebraska bought two copies of your book (which a lot of them won’t, unless you have a recognizable name or if they have patrons requesting the book) you will end up with around 700 copies sold.
But Nebraska is a small state, if you look at it on a larger scale there are 17,000 public libraries in America. That’s it. That’s a pretty small market, that is getting even smaller every day. As some people have posted above if your book is a children’s book then you might be able to make a living, there are about 99,000 school libraries in America.
But public libraries…well to be honest most librarians (I talk to quite a few at conferences) do there ordering through Baker and Taylor or Ingram. To use myself as an example: I order about 80% of my stuff through Ingram, getting patron requests and larger name authors first. I make a monthly order to Penworthy for picture books, and board books (they have awesome bindings), we get the monthly Junior Library Guild selection, then I spend what is left my budget by glancing through the 18 or so other catalogs I get a month and order a few copies here or there, maybe 5% of my budget. Your chances are a little better if your publisher had an actual vendor who goes library to library, but not much.
Sources: http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet01
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:55 PM   #11
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Ajrobe - thanks for weighing in - that really helps. It's so hard to research these library publishers online (as opposed to, say, digital publishers) because the library market is so different and vast, and so dependent upon just what you said (budget concerns, how well the author is already known, vendors, etc).

Really interesting.

I actually asked the librarian at my school (community college) about her experiences with publishers, and she said she used to order directly from them all the time, but that now, she acquires 95% of her books via Amazon. I have no idea what all that means, in terms of library publishers, but I thought it was interesting.
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:10 PM   #12
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Chelsea, why are you so interested in library publishers? As one can publish either with a library publisher or with a trade publisher which gets its books into bookshops, I can't see the attraction unless you've exhausted your options on the trade publisher front.
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:24 PM   #13
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I've got a library publisher reading my book right now, and I'll hear something soon. So, I just wanted to be more prepared in my research.
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Old 02-17-2013, 09:10 AM   #14
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My publisher's primary market is libraries, but the books are also available online. You won't see 'em in bookstores.

Once my hardcover contract passes one year after publication, I get rights back to go into other formats, so I can then self-publish the electronic version. So it's not such a bad thing.

They've been good to me. No complaints, and I've sent my followup novel to them.

My story was essentially this: you need an agent to get a foot in the door at the big houses, and I contacted 70-some-odd agents with no luck. That process is extremely frustrating and time-consuming, considering how many want exclusives and yet may never even bother to respond (or will respond 8 months later). I went to this publisher representing myself and they liked the novel and accepted it.
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