aerial view of a busy bookstore

Catalogs: A Useful Tool Selling Book Rights

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.

Rights Sold

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!

Two business people use both hands to exchange business cards.

How To: Tips and Tricks for International Book Fairs

As booklife states, international book fairs such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, the Beijing International Book Fair, and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair are some of the largest industry events in the world, which means they’re excellent opportunities to branch into new markets or sell your publisher’s rights. They’re also excellent opportunities to get hopelessly lost, confused, and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people and amount there is to do. If you want to make the plane ticket and entrance fee worth your while, it’s important to prepare before you land.

  1. Set a few easy goals, one or two moderate goals, and one pie in the sky.

    The easy goals can function as part of your daily to-do list. These goals can be “talk to two agencies” or “attend a panel and speak to the host.” Some moderate goals can be “pitch a catalog to three publishers” or “make a connection at a new distributor.” Your pie in the sky will be specific to the fair and your own professional aspirations, but it might be to acquire the rights to a famous author’s new book or strike a deal with a new press.

  2. Decide which panels and events to attend.

    As with any conference, cool events are scheduled concurrently. Really pore over the schedule beforehand to determine which events will be most worth your time and which ones you’ll regret not attending. Don’t forget to schedule time to eat and rest!

  3. Block out time to mingle.

    For rights agents, one of the most lucrative areas in any international book fair are the tables in the rights hall. There, agents, publishers, authors, and distributors meet, pitch, and exchange contact information with each other. Rights licensing is still a very face-to-face kind of job despite the advent of Zoom, and the face time with these industry professionals is invaluable to all agents.

  4. Take breaks to take notes.

    Meeting so many people back-to-back can easily become overwhelming. It’s near impossible to remember what was promised to who, which publisher is interested in which catalog you showed, and whose business cards you grabbed because they were interested in what you had or because you’re interested in what they had. Taking notes while talking to people can sometimes be considered rude, so be sure to stay engaged in the conversation, then step aside to write yourself a quick note. Later on when you have more time, write more detailed notes on what exactly was said and promised.

  5. Bring an organizational tool.

    You’ll be handed a lot of papers. Flyers, catalogs, business cards, notes, marketing collateral, and maybe a tipsheet here and there. They’ll all be different sizes and supremely difficult to maintain. I recommend a folder or binder for the larger papers, a notebook for your personal notes, and endless paper clips to pin the paraphernalia to the relevant note. Figure out what works best for you so it doesn’t require much thought to put away all the little bits of essential papers you’ll acquire.

  6. Research foreign customs.

    When visiting another country, it’s always a good idea to brush up on polite phrases and basic manners. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that international book fairs will have people from all around the world. Researching Italian customs for Bologna won’t be enough; it’s critical to also look into business practices with anyone you plan to meet. Mistakes can be made and forgiven, but deals will always go smoother with less bumps in the road. It’s best to be prepared.

All in all, book fairs are fun, lively events that can really jumpstart your career or that of an author you represent. They can be overwhelming, but with these quick tips, you can make the most of your time and money. Have fun and good luck!

Image credit:

“Yuka Nakamura Exchanges Business Cards” by U.S.-Japan Council is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0