Why Writers Should Care About the ALA Annual Conferences
The American Library Association hosts two major events annually where librarians can attend world-class speaker panels, meet prominent authors, and see which books they'd like to purchase for their branch(es). Here's what we learned from buying a table at their recent 2018 Annual Conference.
- High-Level Exposure
- Small Competition Pool
Of all the literary events I’ve had the chance to be a part of, this is the only one where I didn’t have another author vending nearby. Meaning, virtually no next-door competition. The table to my left was a foreign rights organization. To my right, a documentary production company. Each of us having distinct offerings made it easier for passerbys to decide which booth they cared to visit.
Who is Your Competition?
- Big Publishers
Big publishing houses come in and set up impressive 12-foot tall displays of their offerings + mobile storefronts for attendees to browse their available books. In addition, a lot of them have hourly author book signings at the booth.
GREAT NEWS: If you’re looking to have your book picked up by a traditional publisher, this is an excellent opportunity to speak with people from the major publishing houses, build a relationship and ask if you can send material along for them to consider. This will likely give your work a better chance of avoiding the “slush-pile” and getting an honest look!
How Do These Major Publishers Impact Your Sales & Visibility?
In our experience, not at all. If anything, the larger publishers drew more people to our area of the convention. People who did stop by our booth, asked questions, shared information and often purchased books.
IMPORTANT NOTE: As an individual author at ALA you are one of a (relative) few. Mega-authors will come and go -- to do hour-long signings or join a panel/session. BUT, rest assured, you are unlikely to be sandwiched, full-time, between J.K. Rowling & James Patterson.
A GOOD THING!
Most librarians love the idea of discovering something new and noteworthy to share with their membership. Buyers were very kind and generous in their support.
Why Don’t Too Many Other Authors Buy Booths?
- Awareness - knowledge of the event and how it can boost their sales
- Price - the buy-in is $1,050 (USD) per table. And, that’s cheaper than the nearly $3K required for larger spaces. And still, if feasible, this event is worth every penny in my opinion
- Space - there are limited tables available @ the conference, and not a single vending station we passed was vacant. So, try to book early if you want to have a presence.
Who's at This Event?
School District Buyers
Book Marketing/PR Companies
KEY BENEFIT: You'll get a “closed-room” opportunity to make rare connections, exchange contact information and ask important questions to difference-makers in the industry.
Why Sell to Libraries?
- Purchase Price - Libraries typically buy books at RETAIL price. Most bookstores want a discount (at least 40% off your retail price).
- Low Return Rate - Libraries RARELY return books. Most Bookstores want your book to be listed as ‘returnable’ so if they don’t sell them all; they can send the remaining inventory back to you for a refund.
- High Bulk-Order Potential - Let’s check out some numbers. You speak to a district manager who likes your book. This person has 10 libraries within their district. They'd like 10 copies of your book for each branch...You just sold 100 books via a single contact/conversation.
NOTE: Most of the 16,000 librarians who attend ALA have buying power. A lot of the ones we met had their purchasing Credit Card on them in case they see something they really like. So, have your mobile card readers tested & ready to help you succeed.
- The 2019 American Library Association Annual Conference - June 20th-25th, 2019 (Washington, D.C.)
- The 2019 American Library Association Mid-Winter Conference - January 25th-29th, 2019 (Seattle, WA)
If you would like to enter to speak or be on a panel at the conference, you’ll need to create a login on the ALA website HERE. Then, you can present your case to be a speaker or panelist!
Why Consider This?
Securing a speaking segment or a spot on a panel can offer more visibility and credence at the event.
IN CLOSING: I really hope this information helps writers and booksellers. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about the event before making your decisions.
Here's the application for ALA's 2019 Annual Conference happening June 25-29th, 2019 in Washington D.C.