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Copyright 1999 Carol Ann Waugh

The library market is a $5 Billion market and many publishers ignore it because they mistakenly believe in some marketing fables that have been circulating around this market for many years. It's time to take understand the facts – not the fables!

FABLE: We don't need to market to libraries because they don't order from the publisher and their wholesalers supply all their needs.

FACT: Wholesalers sell their services – they don't sell individual titles. Wholesalers offer a valuable resource for libraries with one-stop shopping, discounts, recommended lists, standing order tracking, cataloging, and more but they cannot create a need for your title in the library. Only you can do this by advertising, catalogs, obtaining reviews, and all the other time-tested, librarian-responsive marketing channels.

FABLE: Librarians hate "junk mail" and most of it ends up in the wastebasket.

FACT: Of all the people I know, librarians are the least likely to throw away information. Catalogs are information. Catalogs tell the librarian what's newly published. What information is currently available to their patrons. Librarians not only don't throw away catalogs, they circulate them to other librarians, file them for reference, and refer to them for up to three years after the catalog is mailed.

FABLE: Librarians are serious buyers. They do not respond to "gimmicks" or "sales".

FACT: Nothing could be further than the truth. Librarians are consumers just like everyone else. They want to "get a deal" because it stretches their budgets so if they save on one thing, they can afford to purchase something else. One publisher I worked with had a lot of microfilm locked in their vault that had never sold one copy in 3 years. Not only was this product very "esoteric" but it was also expensive – priced in the thousands per title. I suggested they put all of this product into a sale catalog and price it at 50-75% off the regular price. Within a year, this one catalog generated over a million dollars from the library market.

FABLE: Librarians won't buy a book that hasn't been reviewed.

FACT: While reviews are extremely important for some libraries, the simple fact is that most books don't get reviewed because of the editorial policies of the review journals and the limited space of librarian-oriented magazines. Librarians do purchase un-reviewed books if they fill a gap in their collection. If you have difficulty getting reviewed, then obtain endorsements from your library customers and use this in your promotional copy.

Marketing to libraries is one way to increase your total sales of books, software, and other published materials. Don't let fables cloud your judgement!


This article was written by Carol Ann Waugh, President of Xcellent Marketing, a marketing and new business development firm specializing in the educational and library market. Xcellent Marketing offers a variety of marketing services to help publishers increase their revenues and profits from identifying new markets, providing critiques of web sites and marketing communications such as direct mail, catalogs, advertisements, etc. as well as developing effective traditional as well as Internet-based marketing plans. Carol can be reached at (303) 388-5215 or at


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