Why I Don’t Show Books at Library Fairs Anymore

It appears to be that time of the year. Emails and cold calls from people looking to show your books for a fee at various library book fairs. There was a time during the beginning of my authoring days where I bought into that scam. I sent copies of books and money to display them at shows all over the country.

What you will find is that nobody attending the library book fairs has any intention of ordering books for their library(ies). They are there to get free stuff. Namely, as many free books as they can walk out of there with besides free food (if there is any). The stories told to each of the display services attending is that “They hope to be ordering books in two months as soon as the funding is approved for this quarter.” It’s not an actual lie. They will probably be ordering then. It will just be through the one big vendor they have always bought through and not a book being shown here has a prayer.

Every young or new author is wooed by the massive numbers of libraries. You spend money to get onto a library mailing lists and have 4 color fliers of your books sent out on those lists. The simple truth is, if your book isn’t being handled by one of those massive library sales machines it won’t be bought. Quite frankly you don’t even want it to be bought. Those vendors have locked into the library market by selling to them at half of wholesale. If you have a $90 book, the typical wholesale price is around $40.50 for your distributor and whatever they mark it up to retailers. The library is going to pay half of the $40.50 meaning $20.25. The vendor handling the sale will pocket at least half of that. In other words, you sold your book at or below printing costs so the vendor could make your printing costs and pay you at least 6 months after the sale.

The other dirty little secret about sales to libraries is they rarely, if ever, generate additional sales. You are always told to view the sale at a loss to a library as a marketing expense. In the technical book market, people check your book out of the library long enough to solve the problem they are working on, return it, and never think about owning their own copy.

If there is a particular library where people you know go to find books and you want to impress them, simply donate a copy of your work to the library. It will get put on the shelf and you will get whatever ego trip you get out of it. Selling books into the library market (especially technical books) is a business plan for living on the street.

Roland Hughes started his IT career in the early 1980s. He quickly became a consultant and president of Logikal Solutions, a software consulting firm specializing in OpenVMS application and C++/Qt touchscreen/embedded Linux development. Early in his career he became involved in what is now called cross platform development. Given the dearth of useful books on the subject he ventured into the world of professional author in 1995 writing the first of the "Zinc It!" book series for John Gordon Burke Publisher, Inc. A decade later he released a massive (nearly 800 pages) tome "The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer" which tried to encapsulate the essential skills gained over what was nearly a 20 year career at that point. From there "The Minimum You Need to Know" book series was born. Three years later he wrote his first novel "Infinite Exposure" which got much notice from people involved in the banking and financial security worlds. Some of the attacks predicted in that book have since come to pass. While it was not originally intended to be a trilogy, it became the first book of "The Earth That Was" trilogy: Infinite Exposure Lesedi - The Greatest Lie Ever Told John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars When he is not consulting Roland Hughes posts about technology and sometimes politics on his blog. He also has regularly scheduled Sunday posts appearing on the Interesting Authors blog.