By Lee Wind, IBPA Director of Marketing & Programming –
The 2017 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference (ALAAC17), held June 22-27, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois, provided an opportunity for librarians from across the country to gather with their peers, attend inspiring keynotes, share and learn during educational breakout sessions, cheer at award ceremonies, meet some of their favorite (and some new-to-them) authors, and check out all the library-related services and books on display in the exhibit hall.
Most of all, however, the ALA Annual Conference was about librarians finding and getting their hands on the latest and greatest books. Books, books, books!
On the first day of exhibits, Friday, June 23rd, librarians massed in front of the exhibit hall entrance waiting for the 5:30pm opening. For Terry Nathan, IBPA’s Chief Operations Officer, and me, standing ready in IBPA’s booth 3529, there was a palpable roar as the crowd rushed into the hall, heading for the big give-aways of free books. After only an hour and a half the show closed on Friday night, but librarians were already walking around with stacks of 10, 15, 20 books in their hands, bags, and rolling luggage.
IBPA Chief Operations Officer Terry Nathan (left) and IBPA Director of Marketing & Programming Lee Wind stand ready to receive librarians just prior to the exhibit floor opening on Friday, June 23rd.
Just down the aisle from HarperCollins and Penguin Random House, the IBPA cooperative booth gave all our members’ books an equal and very professional footing for an audience of more than 16,000 attendees. Over the show’s four days, eager, interested librarians snapped photos of our book covers, pulled titles from the shelves to look at more closely, selected bookmarks and promotional postcards, and picked up copies of our show catalog along with a candy or chocolate. Nearly everyone who visited the booth was delighted to let us scan their name badge, so we could send them an email with a link to download the catalog after the show.
Having their badge scanned also entered the librarians in our random drawing for a $100 gift card.
Our lucky winner?
Librarian April Dawkins, University of North Carolina in Greensboro (pictured at left). Congratulations, April!
Free Books and the Perception of Value
Unlike many other exhibitors, IBPA didn’t allow librarians to grab from stacks of books piled on the exhibit hall floor. From my perspective, this was a good call. A lot of the magic of marketing books and getting people excited about them is perceived value. Sure, the latest Nicola Yoon book can be stacked without taking a value-hit, but if you’re not a “name” that’s won some serious awards or spent time on the bestseller lists, just giving away your book is a risky proposition.
What IBPA did instead was provide a professional platform and structure for librarians to meet our members' authors and illustrators, and receive a free signed copy of their book. As librarians waited to meet the authors, they had nothing to do but check out all of our books on display (and get their badges scanned!) Those brief conversations and the personal connections that resulted will hopefully translate in the librarians prioritizing IBPA members’ books in their now gigantic to-read pile… In turn translating into IBPA members’ books reaching many more readers!
A line forms to meet Tyra Manning as she signs copies of WHERE THE WATER MEETS THE SAND (Greenleaf Book Group) in IBPA's cooperative booth during the 2017 ALA Annual Conference. IBPA's Lee Wind (center) scans librarian badges so the leads can be shared with Tyra and all participating members after the show.
IBPA member Brenda Faatz introduces her picture book, IT'S JUST SO... LITTLE, and its prequel, to a set of librarians at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference.
Another benefit of IBPA's in-booth author signings was that they generated tremendous foot-traffic to the cooperative booth, benefiting every book on our shelves. IBPA's booth experienced much more traffic than other exhibitor booths where there were books on shelves, but no interactive component. Knowing this, we’re looking to add more interactivity for future shows.
You can see (and download) the catalog of books exhibited here. And, you can explore the full IBPA photo album here.
IBPA's In-Booth Author Signings
Over ALAAC17’s four days, seventeen (17) IBPA member books were represented in IBPA's in-booth author signings. Many publishers signed up for more than one half-hour time slot. Author MaryTherese Grabowski and illustrator Michelle Graham Fricks signed up for eight signings in total (one hour on each of the four exhibition days) to share with librarians the latest chapter book in their series on civics: The Great Missing Flag Caper (Waypoint Press). During one of their signings, they managed to have a conversation with a librarian from the Library of Congress who wants to explore collaborating with them on a future book in the series – an opportunity they would never have landed if they hadn’t been there, smiling and signing books in the IBPA cooperative booth.
MaryTherese Grabowski (right) and Michelle Graham Fricks (left) sign copies of their chapter book, THE GREAT MISSING FLAG CAPER, in IBPA's cooperative booth at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference.
IBPA member Nancy Doyle signs copies of her book, MANAGE YOUR FINANCIAL LIFE, in IBPA's cooperative booth during the 2017 ALA Annual Conference.
Author Nancy Doyle used the opportunity of signing her book on financial literacy for women, Manage Your Financial Life (The Doyle Group), to let the librarians know that she loves doing financial literacy programs for libraries, and had a hand-out ready to go on the different topics she offers!
Most authors ran out of books before their signing time ended, which we all agreed was a good problem to have. Often, librarians who missed out on getting a free copy would take a catalog (or even a photo of the title) to make sure they purchased one later.
One more note on perceived value...
On a quick break from helping with the author signings, I ran into some people I knew in the indoor lounge area. As we stood talking, someone came by holding two copies of their book in their hands, and with this intense, slightly desperate energy, walked around the space offering, “FREE BOOKS! FREE BOOKS!” No one in the area took the author up on their offer. The ‘selling point’ can’t simply be that a book is free. You have to be able to answer the questions.... What’s the hook? Why would a person want to read it? And, outside of a professional booth setting (like IBPA’s) how does a person know it is a professionally-published title?
Across the show’s four days, Terry Nathan and I scanned the name badges of over 600 librarians who came into the IBPA cooperative booth and expressed interest in at least one of our titles on display (and some were interested in multiple books!). Those scans gave us the name, email, position, and library information on each attendee, wonderful leads that we’ll be sharing with all the publishers who had a book in our booth.
And, speaking of multiples, many librarians came back to our booth multiple times, because there were other author signings and give-aways of other books they were interested in. A few apologized to me for showing up again, and I assured them, “We love that you’re back. It means you’re a librarian who believes in the power of independent voices, just like we do!”
IBPA's Twitter feed spiked with traffic as well, topping 7,900 organic impressions during the show. Follow us @IBPA, and you can see all the ALA show tweets with the hashtag #alaac17.
The over 600 librarians who shared with us their information via lead scanning will receive a digital copy of IBPA's 2017 ALA Annual Conference Book Catalog (pictured here) to explore when they get home.
All in all, ALA felt like a valuable opportunity for our participating members, and I already can’t wait to represent IBPA and our members at ALAAC18 in New Orleans, LA: June 21-26, 2018.
With ALA's annual conference the place for librarians to be – and the place for publishers and authors to have their books discovered by librarians – look for us to open up registration for participating in IBPA's booth at ALA's 2018 Conference and Exhibition soon.
A Final Word of "Thanks!"
A big “Thank you!” to IBPA members Carla Bass (pictured below) and Tory Hartmann (First Friday: How Virginity Almost Killed Me, Sand Hill Review Press) for not just signing their own books, but also volunteering in the IBPA cooperative booth and representing all their fellow members’ books to interested librarians.
Carla Bass signs copies of her book, WRITE TO INFLUENCE! (Gatekeeper Press), in IBPA's cooperative booth at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference.
Following the show, Carla wrote us to say, "THIS was THE place to be! I made so many connections, working (nicely) -- schmoozing -- librarians as we waited in bus lines, sharing information about the book as they sat waiting for the 0900 opening, and more. And, I was agog this morning to see that the paperback of Write to Influence! hit 29,000 yesterday on Amazon ranking out of 8 million. Previously, 125,000 was a great number; 325,000 - 400,000 was the norm. It occasionally dipped to 800,000. Unsure what all contributed to this remarkable (for me) turn... but doing handstands, figuratively, of course!"
And congratulations to everyone who participated in IBPA's cooperative booth at ALA's 2017 Annual Conference!