Mark Leslie Lefebvre. 2019. An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores. Waterloo, Ontario: Stark Publishing Solutions.
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
As an author, I triage my time between writing, editing, and marketing. In each activity, I must constantly learn new things because the writing world evolves quickly and life interferes. In 2014 I sold mostly paperback books in person. Since I took an advertising class in 2017, I have sold mostly eBooks online. When I tire of writing, I often focus on learning new marketing tricks.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s book, An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores, focuses surprisingly on marketing your books in libraries and bookstores (11). The surprise comes perhaps because many authors focus primarily on social media advertising or the particular niches suggested by their agents and publishers. Even self-publishers often limit themselves to the Amazon.com in the United States, where most sales online occur. Among the writers that I meet in author clubs, most are unfamiliar with cataloging in publication (CIP) data or worldcat.org, where U.S. libraries cite their collections online, and they ignore much of the world market for books.
Background and Organization
Lefebvre lives in Waterloo, Ontario and is a college graduate and author who first published in 1992. He has extensive experience in the Canadian book world, as evidenced by his having been President of the Canadian Booksellers Association. He has worked for Kobo and organized their online service, Kobo Writing Life—among other things. For those new to international book sales, it is significant that Canadians read more and buy more books per capita than U.S. residents. This makes Lefebrvre’s background and experience interesting.
Lefebvre writes in a conversational style drawing on his extensive bookstore experience. The major divisions in his book are:
- Basics of How Libraries and Bookstores Work
- Working with Bookstores
- Working with Libraries
- Tips, Ideas, and Strategies for Successful In-person Book Events
His publication date in 2019 is pre-pandemic so he writes before many retailers closed and before the border between the U.S. and Canada closed—something my Canadian relatives remind me.
While I knew that the largest bookseller in Canada is Indigo books, I did not know that Rakuten Kobo (an anagram of book) is a Canadian business although it is owned by Japanese company, Rakuten. I also did not know that Kobo also distributes books and offers advertising to authors that distribute with them. This is a significant point because it is difficult generating sales without advertising—organic sales are usually meager. Lefebvre convinced me to look closely at Kobo Writing Life where this all takes place. I also bought another of his books, Killing It On Kobo (2018), to learn more.
Lefebvre’s discussion of online booksellers is priceless because it is hard to know from the plethora of online services what to pay attention to. For those of you who have tried to find links to your books online in developing a book landing page, it is hard to get a list quickly. Draft 2 Digital offers those signing up with them a free service, a universal link, that accumulates a number of these links for you (84-85). Myself, I registered and spent a day updating my publishers’ website (T2Pneuma.com).
Lefebvre’s conversational style apparently follows from his extensive bookstore experience, which offers a lot of helpful background information on the industry. I often talk about the difference between offset and print-on-demand (POD) printing (65-66), but most of these conversations are accompanied by blank stares. This distinction, however, drives the differences in traditional and indie marketing because offset printers generate inventory while POD printers do not. Details that your spouse might want to know!
If you go to OverDrive.com and search on your name, you will generate a list of your books and the libraries that stock your book electronically. Sadly, almost none of my titles appear on this list because I frankly did not know how to get them there—another item on my to-do list.
Lefebvre suggests targeting reviews to library-centric publications: Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Voya (147). I have actually done this for Living in Christ, albeit unaware! He also suggests perhaps coming out with a large-print edition, something that I never really considered, but which be done with distributors like Ingram Sparks.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre’s An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores is a fascinating read for Indie publishers wanting to publish wide. It is helpful to read this book in front of a computer because many of the references offer immediate online application.
Lefebvre Publishes for Bookstores and Libraries
Other ways to engage online:
Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com