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Library Approval Plans

Library approval plans are a way to get thousands of libraries to buy your book--automatically. Here's how it works: Many libraries today don't make their own acquisition selections, or at least don't make all of them. Instead, they subscribe to a library approval plan which sends them a selection of books targeted for the constituents of the particular library. The upside for the library is better discounts; the program also frees up the personnel budget which would otherwise be spent on an acquisitions librarian (the funds for which can then be spent on books or other programs.) The downside, of course, is that it cuts out many independent publishers, who may find it difficult to get into this program (not to a small extent because they've never heard of it.) However, if you've got good reviews from major journals, you can get in.

* The two largest and most important of the library approval plans are those coordinated by Yankee Book Peddler and Blackwell's.

* YBP takes its inventory from Baker & Taylor. (You must be registered with B&T to get into YBP, but they don't take all the books B&T carry.) YBP's market is exclusively college and university libraries, so only presses with a focus on the academic market will be accepted (though their definition of academic is fairly loose; my first independently published book, "The Infertility Diet," made the cut.) In addition, YBP only accepts presses that publish at least *ten* such titles per year. Their core subject areas include:

* art, architecture, photography
* business, economics, management
* education
* fiction and poetry
* gender studies
* humanities
* law and criminology
* library science and reference publishing
* medicine, psychiatry, health sciences
* multicultural topics
* museums and galleries
* music
* religion and theology
* science, technology, and computers
* social sciences

* Blackwell's is not any more interested in small presses than YBP, and is even harder to contact except via mail. They also only accept academic presses doing more than a certain number of titles per year.

* If your press isn't eligible, you can still get into the system through the backdoor (of course :*) Persuade a local librarian to request your book from one of the plans directly. That will force your book into the database, which will then permit other libraries to get it that way. In addition, write to both companies and tell them the details of your book--ISBN, author, price--and include info on good reviews you've gotten, particularly from library journals. Then ask to be put on the list.

The addresses are online, and on my "Hot Contacts" sheet (which also has addresses for top magazine editors and talk show hosts, etc, with the announcement of my books conveniently on the back :*) If anyone wants a copy, just email me your snail mail address and I'll pop one in the mail to you.

Fern Reiss --
The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days
The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days
The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days
The Publishing Game: Kids Publish!

To which Mike Tribby adds:

Fern's advice is sound. I would add that since many libraries' approval plans are by subject, small press titles can often be included. The trick, of course, is getting your small press material into the distributor or distributors fulfilling the individual library's approval plan. Also, approval plans differ from standing orders in that the library may well send back some of the titles sent to them on approval. If the distributor runs the approval plan prudently this should not be much of a factor.

We service some libraries that actually specify that they want small press materials. So do B&T and the rest, but sometimes the bigger distributors have trouble with their fill rate on small press materials. Perhaps this is an issue that can be monitored and addressed by publishers in concert with their distributors. Even better than an approval plan, although harder to negotiate and somewhat rarer, is a standing order plan. Again, we have libraries that request small press materials on standing orders, usually with some subject guidelines attached.

Many libraries, especially but not limited to larger ones, *are* interested in small press materials because of the immediacy and the willingness to address current issues and interests. Once you get into the library market, if your product is reliable and well done, your business can increase as other libraries become aware of your material. A caveat, though: we are still experiencing a reluctance on the part of many libraries to acquire POD books. As the technology improves print, binding and graphic quality, this situation may change. Good luck to all.

Mike Tribby, Senior Cataloger
Quality Books Inc.

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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