Spring Break Is THE Time For Authors to Sell to Universities

I have just returned from my nearest component of my state’s University System to sell my most recent books to libraries and arrange speaking events with the library and two University Departments. Although fewer librarians and faculty members will be present, those that are there are often senior department members who have time to talk to authors that that would likely not happen when classes were in progress. Timing my visits between semesters also gives time for instructors to plan to have visiting speakers and/or arrange special events.

To be successful the author must be ready to refute every possible argument that a librarian can raise to buy your books. These usually range along the line of:
A. “I cannot purchase from you, but only through a distributor.” In my case my books are available not only from Amazon.com as softcover and audio books, but also from Baker&Taylor, Barnes&Nobels, Gardners, and other book distributors worldwide.
B. Something along the line of, “How do we know that this book is worth putting on our very limited shelf space?” I responded by leaving them with copies of favorable reviews from Kirkus and the U.S. Review of Books. Kirkus called my business book “worthy,” and the U.S. Review listed it in their “Recommended Category.”
C. “Do you really expect us to arrange an event for a largely unknown author from the sticks who is not a graduate from our institution? We don’t have any program to support local authors.” My reply is, “Why don’t you?” In this library’s case they make much to do about a famous author with countless examinations of her works, biographies, thesis, dissertations, etc., but give no support to living local writers. A library’s greater purpose is not only to be a warehouse for books, but also to disseminate and promote the gathering of knowledge. While it is traditional to learn from and promote dead writers, we living writers have interesting and useful twist to the craft that have never been seen before because of modern technology.

Some of my personal innovations have been the publication of a first draft of a novel in e-book form, something never done before to my knowledge. Then I wrote seven iterations of screenplays and received criticism from them. After that was done I rewrote and published “Until Death Do You Part: An American Family Meets Their Sicilian Cousins” and another version of the screen play now being marketed under the title of “Blood Ties.” This a new approach to writing and developing a novel.

D. “You are just some hick who doesn’t know what he is writing about?” I hold two degrees from two U.S. universities have studied at two others, worked for decades in the geographic area I describe in my novel, am a decorated Army Engineer Officer, and visited Sicily where a portion of my novel is based. I have also held 17 different jobs, worked for international companies, defined and made my own position, owned a store-front business and operated in the gig economy.

E. “You have just written these two books?” Yes I have written those two books but also 18 others on a variety of topics including geology, architecture and seldom covered outdoor topics such as bow-fishing, muzzleloading hunting and crossbow hunting. My outdoor books include topics that are seldom covered in the outdoor press, and are among the most comprehensive books on those subjects ever published. Some of which you already have in your collection.

I said that I would be willing to speak before the library board and felt that I could offer a compelling case that this, and all University libraries, should support their local living authors by stocking their new titles and offering speaking opportunities.

Approaching The English Department

To this standard toolbox of arguments I had to come up with a new approach when I spoke to the head of English Department. Considering that I failed my own English 101 class, this would seem to take some balls to presume that I had anything to offer a Professor of English or his students. New thoughts require new words and that word is “crossgenre” writing.

The nature of university systems is to divide instructional segments into smaller and smaller categories as the student progresses through school. This tends to leave the student with the concept that novelist can, and should, only produce novels, poets, poetry, etc. Few writers in modern times can make a living working this way. A wise man once told me, “An outdoor writer is a man whose wife has a good job.” This is very close to the truth. The market is small, the pay is little and often late. Poets have it even worse and often must pay to have their poems published.

Crossgenre writing is the path that I have followed and the one that I would recommend to those who would hope to earn a living from the craft. I write non-fiction books, novels, newspaper articles, magazine articles, white papers, copyright materials, help draft patents and most recently screenplays. These I supplement with social media with blogs, tweets, Linkedin, Facebook, radio shows, international speaking and YouTube videos. My message to English majors and those who write is to expand their reach beyond rigid categories to expose their works across as many platforms as possible.

I left with the impression that my message was well received. In fact, the Dean assumed that I was asking for a staff position which I was not. What I would like to do would be to be a visiting lecturer who would give class presentations at appropriate times in conjunction with the instructor. If I were to propose a new positon, it would be Professor of Crossgenre Writing.

Approaching the Business School

In this case the Dean was absent, but the department secretary was in. In case you are not aware, these secretaries can exert considerable influence on faculty members so do not overlook the potential of making your best pitch to them. From her I learned that the department sponsored an Entrepreneurial Club which often featured outside speakers. This would be an ideal platform for me to make what I call my “One Hour MBA Lecture” which briefly presents the information in “Make Your Own Job: Anytime, Anywhere, At Any Age.” She was left with copies of the Kirkus and U.S. Review reviews and also took photos of them with her phone.

Women are the most significant buyers of Romance-Adventure novels, of which “Until Death Do You Part” is representative. I also pitched this novel to her and briefly traced the storyline. She was interested, particularly in the e-book version which she said she would listen to on her commute to work. Her listening to this and enjoying the 7-hour masterful reading where Fleet Cooper voices 70 characters will remind her of my work and its potential significance to the department’s students.


To make a successful pitch to Universities, work not only the library but also the various departments during Spring Break when the staff has the time and inclination to potentially entertain new thoughts and offer new possibilities for their students. Have reviews, something physical to leave and alter your pitch to fit the person receiving it. Never, ever, give books away. That implies that you do not value them, and they will treat them with equal disregard.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a former Military Engineer, the author of more than 20 books, a Professional Geologist, novelist, playwright, producer of nearly 900 YouTube videos and international speaker on environmental and business topics. He lives in central, rural Georgia.