One of the many benefits of writing nonfiction is that we can educate our readers. Whether we do that with a how-to guide, a memoir, history, science, or other kind of reference book, many well-written nonfiction books have the potential to be adopted into curriculum for college courses.
Getting colleges to adopt my books as part of the curriculum wasn’t something I ever planned on, but when I was contacted by a professor who wanted to use my first book (a business startup guide) in his course, I was thrilled. It was even more exciting to realize that at least 50 copies of my book would be re-ordered each semester just for that class—and that sales could be duplicated each time my book was adopted for another college course.
After agreeing to ship the required books directly to the college bookstore, and cutting out the distributor, the professor asked if I’d be willing to deliver a Skype interview during class time and answer questions from the students. I gladly accepted, and we scheduled the appearance toward the end of the semester. The students were eager to speak to me as the author, and asked compelling questions that were fun to answer.
Since then, I’ve had several arrangements like this for various books I’ve written. And guess what? You can, too!
How to Locate Key Contacts
It’s the course instructors and professors who ultimately decide what books to use in their curriculum, which means you have to identify who they are and figure out how to reach them. This requires some research.
You’ll want to seek out professors who teach the courses that align with your book. For example, if you’ve authored a book about career options for human resources professionals, then you’ll want to find instructors who teach HR-related courses. If you’ve authored a memoir on your experience in combat, you’ll want to find instructors covering military history.
You can begin by searching school faculty directories, which are almost always available online. Another way to locate names and contact information is through LinkedIn. Many course instructors maintain up-to-date profiles on LinkedIn.
A search on LinkedIn for “marketing professor” returns over 500,000 results. You may need to narrow down your search by city, state or specific college.
How to Contact Course Instructors
Once you locate a name, you have several options:
- You can mail a review copy of your book, along with a personal note.
- You can mail a postcard asking if the instructor would like to receive a review copy, along with instructions for contacting you.
- You can send an email asking if the instructor would like a review copy.
Regardless of how you reach out, you’re going to have to let them evaluate the book, which means sending out complimentary review copies.
How to Handle Book Sales to Colleges
Traditionally, colleges want their on-site bookstore to manage book sales. This means the store may want to order from a distributor like Ingram. They will always expect a discount, and that can range from 30% to 50% off of the retail price. Some may be willing to order directly from you as the author.
And because schools are evolving with the times, the instructor may even suggest her students to buy the book on Amazon or another online retailer. She may want it to be available in ebook and print formats. Be prepared for all kinds of scenarios.
Additional Tips for Success
Once you land your first college, you can mention that in your pitches to other schools, which only helps to build on your credibility. Also, make sure the instructor knows that you are willing to assist through a Skype interview with students or with some study guides or other materials. Make it easy for them to say yes!
If getting your books placed in colleges becomes a major focus for you, you might consider creating a special textbook edition of your book. It could include some compelling questions, a study guide, or be printed in full color. It can also be priced higher than a typical book since the textbook market has always been notoriously expensive.
Getting your books adopted by colleges can become an excellent recurring sales channel. But perhaps even more importantly, it can be incredibly rewarding on a personal level. When your book makes an impact on readers in such a powerful way, all that hard work you did to write, publish, and market your book can prove to be worthwhile.
What a useful article! I’ve found many publicity firms do not have avenues for marketing to colleges, so this how-to-do-it-yourself article was just what I needed.
Thanks for taking time to share feedback, Lucinda!
I am happy to read this article. It is very informative and I will take some of the advise shared to approach some colleges to adopt my books.
Excellent article. We are targeting universities and have put a list of 300 people so far, which is the tip of the iceberg. Wanted to know how to approach, as sending a press release does not have the best impact for this purpose. Have you written a follow-up article with more details?
Thanks for this unique article. This is what I am doing with my current book. Have created a database/spreadsheet of close to 600 contacts at universities who would be interested in the topic. Sending out personalized merged emails this week.
Question: If you ship the books yourself, are the sales counted so that you book sits high on sales lists as a popular title? How do you handle that? Or is that something you have to be willing to forgo?