The weekend in Denver went quickly but I think it was really important. Libraries (public and school) are a massive untapped market for graphic novels/manga and our Manga For Kids line of books coming out this Spring are well poised to take advantage of the explosion in interest in graphic novels. Age-appropriate content for 7-12 year olds (grades 1-7) that grabs their interest and gets them reading regularly is the key, regardless whether it's prose, graphic novels or something else.
Last year when we were at BookExpo America and other industry shows librarians were asking what manga was. This year almost all of them know what it is and they want more of it, especially content that's properly age-marked so they can shelve them in the right sections.
The Manga For Kids website now has short previews of each of the titles as well as the covers. All of the info on the site is from the promotional pamphlets we were handing out at the library show in Denver.
The announcement party we held on Saturday night had 70+ librarians and industry people in attendance, getting together to grab galleys of the launch titles, give us feedback and have a drink and desserts. I did a short speech about why we picked these titles and our hopes for the line, which was well received. Hearing a crowd of female librarians full-on cheer when I said that one of our launch titles was "science-fiction... for girls!" was awesome. There was a sense of excitement and quite a few people came by on Sunday to thank us for the party and to grab more promotional material for their friends/colleagues.
Having the Diamond reps extra supportive of what we're doing obviously makes a huge difference. When you have librarians or book buyers coming by and asking them what's new/good coming out, the rep really can make or break a title to that market. They only have time to push a few titles in that brief conversation. A verbal recommendation cuts through backlists, articles and all the website material to just focus attention on that upcoming release. Regardless of what else they might order, those titles get extra emphasis and I'd expect that orders follow. When they're recommending a high quality title (a Bone, Mouse Guard or Scott Pilgrim, for example) there's an added push from happy customers, a passionate fanbase and reviewers online to help that along or convince the distributor to add even more momentum.
Talking to librarians is fantastic. At comic/anime conventions you feel like you're shilling, trying hard to make a sale right then and there. You tend to get demoralizing disinterest (people wandering by who don't want what you're selling) or annoying over interest (fans who hang around too long, blocking the booth or monopolizing the people there). It's not always like that but the bad interactions do tend to stick with you after awhile.
In comparison, librarians just love talking about books, are almost always open to hearing what you have to say and engage in intelligent discussion about what they're looking for and why. It's comfortable, polite and nice. Even librarians who probably won't carry our titles were worth talking to and had tidbits of useful information about the readership they oversee.
Most of all - librarians love books. I know that's fairly obvious, but that interest pushes past their biases. Many of them now see the potential for graphic novels to keep kids/teens/reluctant readers engaged. They're not here to impose their taste, they don't tell you which publishers suck or which modern superhero continuity rapes their childhood. They don't care which books are being circulated, just as long as people are reading and enjoying them. They tell you what books they like and are eager to find more great books. Simple, but that kicks ass.