International book fairs are the comic con of the book publishing industry. This might be an overexaggeration; however, these fairs are how agents and publishers market their books to other industry professionals to spread the word about their backlist and frontlist titles. (Frontlist titles are the up-and-coming books of a publisher, and backlist titles are books that have already been published.) Promoting these books at conventions can be accomplished in many ways. The most useful of these methods that we use during these networking events are called book catalogs.
Catalogs are large documents (either print or digital) that have all the information an agent, publisher, or book buyer would need to learn about the titles you are looking to market or sell. These documents can be a standard, informational paper; however, most publishers will have elaborate designs to capture buyers’ attention. Catalogs have many uses, and not all these uses are exclusively for book fairs. Publishers use catalogs to present their frontlist and backlist titles to booksellers and buyers around the country so they may pick and choose what titles they want to sell.
Now, you must be asking yourself what goes into these catalogs. Throughout the industry, there is a set standard of elements that need to be in the document. Let’s go through some of the elements that should be included.
Obviously, the first thing a catalog should have is the book’s title to ensure ease and accessibility. They might even include a table of contents or section markers to ensure the catalog is easy to navigate. This is especially helpful if the publisher works with multiple genres.
Hook and Description
All catalogs have detailed book descriptions and hooks. This book description is a little different from what you would normally see on the back of a book or even when online shopping. When writing a book description for a catalog, you have to explain why a publisher or agent should be interested in your title. This is the section where publishers add any praise or awards the book has received.
ISBN, Page Count, etc.
Having things like the ISBN, page count, and word count in a catalog will provide agents and publishers with the important information they need to see if the particular title they are interested in is a good fit for the presses they represent.
Catalogs that are used by rights agents have a section that clearly states what rights have already been sold for each title. For example: if the Spanish rights for Love, Dance & Egg Rolls have been sold, the Ooligan Press catalog would state that in the rights section to make sure no agents or buyers make inquiries for rights that have already been sold.
Our goal here at Ooligan Press is to have our catalogs in these book fairs every year to spread the word about our engaging titles. That is why our rights coordinator and agent Sylvia Hayse, from Sylvia Hayse Literary Agency, has started to circulate our catalogs at these types of events. By having our catalog in these book fairs, we have the power to connect with publishers abroad.
Catalogs are often openly available to view by consumers. As a bookseller or even a reader, it might be interesting to poke around and see what goes into the business of book publishing.
You should all take a look!