A Tale of Two Publisher Previews

This past Saturday, we held the first ever joint publishers preview in Chicago. I worked with Sourcebooks, Norwood House, and the wonderful people at the Center for Teaching Through Children’s Books at National-Louis University to create an event which is sure to grow in future years and provide a great service for both the publishers and the teachers and librarians of Chicagoland.

“Librarian Previews,” as they’re often called, are very common in New York City where most of children’s book publishing lives. Publishers of all sizes invite the librarians and other opinionmakers from the greater tri-state area to their offices for a morning (or an entire day for the big guys). The editors and marketing people then share the upcoming books with the attendees — often 4-6 months before the books will hit the shelves. It’s a chance for publishers to get the word out early and for librarians to get a jump start on their collection development.

Since moving to Chicagoland almost two years ago, I’ve held a couple previews in the Albert Whitman offices and do travel to NYC for previews in restaurants and bars (including the ever-appropriate Algonquin Hotel lounge). However, I really wanted the librarians and teachers here to experience a big preview and for us to present to a larger audience. Thus the idea of a joint preview. If we could put together three local publishers and make the event longer and include a guest speaker, then it would be a more attractive program for librarians and teachers — and easier for them to count it as a professional development day. I had a “yes” from NLU, Sourcebooks and Norwood House almost immediately. NLU even offered CPDUs. (Thanks Gail, Junko, Toby, Linda and everyone else at NLU for coordinating.)

The event itself was just as it should be. We had a nice crowd about about 40 teachers and librarians (and a few local authors as well). In addition to a look at the Spring 2011 list from all three publishers — presented by myself, Melissa Wood at Sourcebooks, and Patti Hall at Norwood House — attendees learned first hand what’s happening in eBooks and why it’s not as simple as it might seem from Sourcebooks founder Dominque Raccah. Did you know that to create eBooks a publisher adds about 80 additional steps to the production process?  It is actually MORE expensive for a publisher to create an eBook than the print one. That explains why publishers are so nervous about the downward spiral of eBook pricing.

At the end we gave out goody bags (free books!) and a raffle prize. Attendees also had a chance to come look at the books (or early versions of them) and talk to us directly. Now, we’re getting ready to plan the next one for the Fall 2011 list — probably in March or April.

So, since this was to be a tale of two previews, immediately following the NLU presentations, I headed for O’Hare. On Monday, I presented our Spring 2011 list to about 160 librarians at the Baker & Taylor CATS Presentations. The Children’s and Teen Services department (thus “CATS”) hosts three days of presentations each season. There are a dozen or so publishers presenting each day with a guest author speaker (Monday was David Weisner – Wow!). The publisher reps sit in the back and chat amongst ourselves (and ask for copies of the coolest books from the other resp).

When it was my turn — after North-South and before Macmillan — I had 10 minutes to present (OK, so I probably took closer to 15) our books. So rather than the longer, more detailed presentation I’d made on Saturday when I had 25 minutes; on Monday, I let my PowerPoint slides do more of the details while I simply told the audience why I thought each book was cool or powerful or important or fun.

FYI, all of my jokes from Saturday worked again on Monday — so maybe a stand-up career is still a possibility.

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A Tale of Two Publisher Previews