IBPA Report from the 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference
By Angela Bole, IBPA Executive Director —
The 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference brought 13,000 attendees and 5,500 exhibitors to Las Vegas from June 26 – July 1, 2014. This was down from the previous year’s 20,000 attendees, but up slightly from 2012’s 12,500 attendees.
Perhaps Vegas had something to do with the downward shift in attendance. It was hot. So hot! Anyone spending time outside the convention center or hotels risked melting into the pavement. The last time Las Vegas hosted the ALA Annual Conference was in 1973. I’m pretty certain Sin City won’t be placed back on ALA’s return list any time soon.
Luckily, your IBPA staff didn’t have to spend much time outdoors. Instead, for the 26th year, we were pleased to set up and host a cooperative booth for member titles on the exhibit floor. We proudly represented 223 unique books and hosted 15 successful author signings. In the photo below, author Sanjay Nambiar signs copies of his book, The Super Duper Princess Heroes: How It All Started, from IBPA’s cooperative booth. Sanjay also displayed books from his A Little Zen for Little Ones series.
Focus on Transformation
The theme of the 2014 ALA Annual Conference was Transforming Our Libraries, Ourselves. This theme was showcased in multiple ways during the conference. According to Library Journal (LJ), “While LJ staff could not get to more than a tiny fraction of the 2,500 program items offered, those that we did see were connected by an emphasis on embracing change; an expansive and interactive definition of libraries’ mission; and a focus on embracing technology and making it welcoming to all.”
One vendor told LJ that the mood of attendees was looking up. “People no longer start the conversation with “Don’t talk to me, I have no money,” he said. We experienced that same positive energy in the IBPA cooperative booth.
As with most trade shows, the ALA Annual Conference is primarily an information gathering venture. When librarians weren’t attending one of the 2,500 educational programs, they were “shopping” on the exhibit floor. We met many of them in our booth. In fact, over the four exhibit days, we spoke with nearly 500 librarians and distributed over 400 catalogs. Most librarians discussed specific holes they needed to fill in their collection; they were looking for just the right fit.
Each IBPA member who participated in the cooperative booth will receive an Excel spreadsheet containing the contact information of all the librarians we spoke to. These contacts can be added to the member’s marketing database for follow up over the coming year. Of course, when communicating with these types of leads it’s important to remember that they represent inquiries rather than leads/prospects. A soft sell is better than a hard sell! For example, a few weeks after returning from the May 2014 BookExpo convention, I found an information packet on my desk that I thought was especially well done. All’s fair in love and marketing so I’ve included a photo of the packet above. You can click on the thumbnail to enlarge it.
In addition to getting the tone of a marketing pitch right, it’s also important to remember how libraries buy.
How Libraries Buy
Libraries purchase books through such distributors as Baker & Taylor, Ingram Library Services, Emery-Pratt Company, and other book suppliers and wholesalers. In fact, two-thirds to three-quarters of book sales to libraries come from a jobber or distributor or wholesaler. In the coming months, we are hopeful IBPA members will see benefit from their participation in the ALA cooperative booth through one or more of their distribution channels. See ALA Library Fact Sheet 9 – Library Products, Services and Consultants for online and print resources which compile names of library vendors, including book jobbers, distributors, and wholesalers.
In the meantime, all books displayed in the cooperative booth were either given to conference attendees who specifically requested them or donated to ALA’s charity benefiting literacy. If your book was reserved and picked up by a conference attendee you will receive the contact information of this person. This will provide a great opportunity to revive the lost art of a handwritten thank you note!
If you have questions about the charity donation, please let us know. We’re happy to help.
A Spirit of Collaboration
One of IBPA’s much publicized mottoes is “Helping Each Other Achieve and Succeed”. It’s during a convention like the ALA Annual Conference that we truly see this motto in action.
To the left of IBPA’s cooperative booth, for example, five members came together to share booth space reserved for them by the IBPA office. By doing so, they were able to considerably cut the costs to display their own work outside of the cooperative booth. Many thanks to Red Rock Press, Pardey Books, Cooperative Press, Probitas Press, and Tiger Tales Books for participating in this way. In the photo below, Barb Knight, Sales Director of Tiger Tales Books, can be seen doing a fabulous job (wo)manning the Tiger Tales booth.
Not to be outdone, the cooperative booth was a helpful place, as well.
IBPA member Paul Aertker, self-published author of Brainwashed: Crime Travelers Series #1 (photo right), met the IBPA team on booth-set-up-day and organized the bookmark/postcard table for his fellow members. Thanks, Paul!
And, secure in the knowledge that a rising tide lifts all boats, IBPA member Cheryl Flippo of Humboldt American Press (publisher of The Sagebrush Singers) could be seen more often than not passing out copies of the full cooperative catalog to interested librarians. Great to see!
Finally, when it came time to break down the booth and pack up the supplies, IBPA member Kate Tews of Opsimath Press (publisher of Welfy Q. Deederhoth: Meat Purveyor, World Savior) stuck around until the bitter end, packing boxes and otherwise helping to close down shop. Kate is pictured below (left) next to me (middle) and IBPA Project Coordinator, Molly Farragher (right), on the final day of the convention.
Looking to 2015
The 2015 American Library Association Annual Conference will be held June 25-30, 2015 in San Francisco, California. We again look forward to bringing members’ titles to the exhibit floor. I hope you’ll join us!
More information about IBPA’s Trade Show Exhibit Programs is available here.
About the Author:
Just before Angela Bole became IBPA’s Executive Director, she was Deputy Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG), which fosters conversation and consensus across all sectors of the book business. Before that, Angela served for two years as BISG’s Associate Director and two years as its Marketing and Communications Manager. Angela also serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of IDPF, the International Digital Publishing Forum.