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7 Things to Look for When Choosing a Subscription Agency

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This article was originally published in Library Works

When it comes to selecting a subscription agency, what do you look for? What traits and qualities are really important to you? What are some services that you must have? Having nearly 25 years of experience in serving libraries as a subscription agent, I know that everyone wants great value at an outstanding price coupled with a quick response, but let’s look at seven areas to consider.

For the sake of this article, the seven areas discussed are addressed to the type of libraries we focus on at Rivistas: public libraries and school libraries.

1. Look for a Subscription Agent Who Focuses on Your Type of Library

Look for an agent who is focusing company resources on your type of library. Every library type has certain distinctions when it comes to managing its magazines and periodicals. Some agencies are very focused on academic libraries or corporate libraries or medical libraries and their service is excellent there, but if you are able to tell their interest and services are geared for another type of library and not yours, you know you do not have an agency willing to go all-out to serve your specific needs. Find an agency that isn’t trying to be all things to all libraries. You will find better focus, better results and targeted services offered which are specific to you.

2. Look for a Subscription Agent Who is Simple to Use

We are all too busy to spend extra time trying to figure out quirky renewal and claiming systems, waiting for days for responses or just trying to get a price of a magazine. A subscription agency exists for the sheer purpose of taking the workload off you and your library staff. It has always amazed me how often I hear library staff complain about their agent and how difficult they were to use. Look for an agent who is determined to make ordering, renewing, claiming and discovering new titles simple. A few of the suggestions below address some specific items to look for.

3. Look for a Magazine Agent Who Provides a Variety of Ways to Communicate

I am a phone person so I get very irritated when I can’t reach someone by phone, or have to search and search until I can even find a phone number to get in touch with a real person. An available person is a must. And at 11 pm, I am an email person. Just let me send the facts by email and save the personal chitchat for another time – at least I can take care of things from my end. And a quick response to that email is a must. I always like having account information at my fingertips online. And in this world of instant web meetings, when an account representative will take the time to help me out via a web-meeting I know I have found someone who is truly willing to go out of their way to help me. Social media isn’t just for fun anymore. An agency should also engage their customers by Facebook and Twitter, too. A subscription agent should have a variety of ways for you to connect and communicate with them. It’s called being easily accessible.

4. Expect a Fast Response Time from Your Subscription Agency

Yes, I said expect a fast response time. What good are multiple ways to communicate if you do not get a fast response? Without a doubt many of the questions that come to an agent require getting in contact with a publisher or require a little research. But is it that hard to simply acknowledge your orders, emails or online claims? There are many organizational tools and technologies available to help agents with providing a quick response. Plus, it’s just common courtesy to provide your customer with the best response times available.

5. Look for Good Pricing

There is a saying “You get what you pay for.” But does that mean you can’t expect a good and fair price? Look for an agency that provides fair pricing and is competitive in the pricing it offers. Agencies serving libraries are expected to provide libraries with rates specifically for libraries; this is a must for an agency to maintain direct contracts with the publishers. Agencies have to make a profit to provide all of the services that they do. Look for agencies that spend their money on services that help you verses other luxuries that cause excessive over-head and expenses for them. We all like a good deal.

6. Your Subscription Agent Must Respond to Current Trends

Technology is a beautiful thing and allows an agent to better serve its library customers while also making it a more efficient organization in-house. Recent reports have stated that 12 employees at Instagram serve all 27 million of their users. Can you even imagine? In this day and age, your agent must have a very simple online ordering process, claiming process and renewal process. Even the way you go about getting a quote should be a simple and quick process. It should not be “normal” to expect a couple of weeks to get a quote returned. In my opinion, you should even be able to do this online in a few minutes. Look for an agent who uses current technologies and trends to serve you and your library.

7. Your Magazine Agent Must be Likable

Let’s face it; you are paying really good money to an agent to work for you. Magazines tend to be a problematic area in the library, so you need an agent who will work hard for you, who will be honest and upfront about what is going on with your subscriptions – and why not work with a company who has people you like to work with. When I bought my first house I changed real-estate agents simply because my agent was not very likable. I eat at restaurants around town that have servers that I like and who are friendly. If you are giving a large portion of your library budget to a magazine subscription agency, it’s a must that they are easy to work with and are likable.


Bonnie Cribbs is part owner of Rivistas Subscription Services, a new magazine subscription agency specifically for public libraries and K-12 libraries. He has served public and K-12 libraries for nearly 25 years in various roles, including customer service, publisher relations, pricing, sales and product/service enhancement. www.rivistas.com

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About the Author:

Bonnie is a guy who is crazy about magazines. He sold his first subscription to Field & Stream at age 12 and has been practically selling magazines ever since. Working in the magazine industry since college, Bonnie has worked in school library sales, public library sales, publisher relations, customer service – all surrounding the magazine world. Bonnie is one of the partners of Rivistas and handles the PR & Marketing side of things.

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