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AI (Advance Information Sheet) Guide

An AI is a tool for selling your book to retailers and wholesalers. You might also use it to persuade a distributor and/or a Sales Representation Team to handle your book or your list. Sales Representatives use AI’s to sell books when meeting buyers and buyers are used to receiving them via mailings.

What should an AI have?

To work well and compete with other AI's all trying to get buyers attention they need to be;

  • Concise, simple and presented on A4 paper
  • Produced at least 4 months ahead of publication
  • Include a cover image

Include all relevant bibliographic details; Title, Author(s), Editor, Price, Publisher, No. of pages, Subject Areas covered and Publication Date

The book trade works in advance, not arrears. So you need to get details of the book you are publishing into the trade, well BEFORE publication of the book. Most sales reps work 4 months or more in advance of publication date - so when they visit a shop in March, they are showing titles due to be published in June or later.

An Advance Information sheet should be no longer than one side of A4, and should include all bibliographic data, plus clear, concise blurb about the title, and a little information about the author (eg if the author is an academic, say where they lecture and list any other books by her/him). You should always include a book jacket for the reps to show buyers, even if the cover you present to the reps is not the same as the one that eventually appears on the book.

Sales Representatives are given very little time to convince a buyer to take a title, so they rely on high quality materials to sell the book. It is worth remembering that sometimes the Sales Representatives will not be able to see a particular buyer for a subject area and will have to leave sales materials in the shop, for the buyer to read at a later date. Booksellers have very little time and small budgets - they will want to know why they should buy your title instead of someone else's. If your Advance Information sheet (A I ) is long-winded and there is no cover image included they might choose to spend their budget instead on the title with a snappy, concise AI outlining key sales points and eye-catching jacket.  You can view two example advance information sheets by clicking through AI for Central Books: a brief history (word file) and AI for Extra Mile pdf).

Keep your Distributor in the Loop

Whenever a publisher produces an AI for a book they should send it to distributor as well as the Sales Representation Team. It is not usually your Sales Representation Team’s job to make sure the distributor knows about your book. At Central Books when we receive AI’s we look at them, check the books are on our data base and the price is correct. In some cases we pass AI’s on to relevant shops that Sales Representatives might not have access to. If publishers forget to keep us in the loop, regrettably, we do lose orders because we receive electronic feeds that do not match up to a title on our database.

Bibliographic Data bases

Getting the bibliographic data for your titles on to your distributor’s, Bowker's and Nielsen’s databases is probably the most important thing you can do to sell your book. You WILL lose orders if your titles are not logged on to any of these databases well before publication.  Waterstone's branches will not order any title which they cannot find on Nielsen, they are not alone which means sales are lost. You should now log titles on to these data bases at least 6 months in advance of publication - this will ensure that your details are on the system by the time the reps get into the shops.  See http://www.centralbooks.com/kbase/bibliographic-databases.html for more details.