Getting Self-Published Books into Public Libraries
Getting self-published books into local libraries isn't always easy, but, with the right strategy, indie authors can make it happen.How would you like to get your self-published book into your local library? It’s often not easy, but it can be done. There are several ways to do it -- but first and foremost it’s essential your book has the look, and feel of a professionally published title. To that end, purchase an ISBN. Hire an experienced editor, copyeditor, and jacket designer. And then create an inviting website and start spreading the word about your book—before it is published.
Once you’re ready to get your book on library shelves, we’d suggest you make an appointment with the librarian in charge of acquisitions at your local branch. Drop in with a few copies of your book, and tell her why you wrote it, how it is different from other books in its category, and why you feel it will appeal to readers in your community.
It’s always a plus if you have a few positive reviews to show her—reviews from Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly are particularly important to most librarians. If you can get some library patrons to recommend your book, that can also make a big difference. But a word of caution: don’t go overboard and ask half the town to spam the library with requests for your book. Librarians know when a request is genuine, and you certainly don’t want to sabotage your chances of serious consideration.
“When we get recommendations from patrons about a self-published book by a local author we always take it very seriously,” says Shauna Redmond, senior librarian of virtual services at the Pasadena Public Library. “We want high-quality, professional looking books that are particularly interesting to our members and the people in our community. If the book has received a few good reviews from some of the advanced review services too, that’s always a big help.”
Library shelf-space is precious, so once you get your book into the local library don’t just sit back and relax. If it doesn’t circulate, it doesn’t stay on the shelf -- so you will want to keep promoting the title locally. Consider setting up a local authors evening at the library or a reading at a nearby bookstore. Try to arrange local speaking gigs whenever you can and keep your social media activity lively and current. If you’re writing fiction, get going on your next book right away -- and be sure to let your librarian know about it.
But what about getting self-published e-books into libraries? One way is to work with a self-publishing platform. For example, Smashwords helps its authors get titles into libraries through its library aggregator partners OverDrive and Baker & Taylor.
“Authors choose to distribute their e-books to [libraries] just as they would any other retail partner,” says Jim Azevedo, marketing director at Smashwords, who notes this doesn’t guarantee books will be shelved at libraries. “An indie author should ask their local librarian if they purchase books from OverDrive and Baker & Taylor. If the answer is yes, the indie author should ask the librarian to consider carrying their e-book. Libraries enjoy having lower-priced alternatives from local e-book authors, and many of our authors choose to price their books at free for libraries to help support the library.”
And soon, indie authors may be able to get books into libraries via SELF-e, a new collaboration between Library Journal and app and e-publishing platform BiblioBoard.
SELF-e will allow public libraries to accept digital submissions from local indie authors and then distribute these e-books to participating public libraries. And, if an e-book passes Library Journal’s curated selection process, it will become part of a nation-wide discovery program that allows library members to read selected e-books.
At the moment there are five beta testers for SELF-e: the Arizona State Library, The Los Angeles Public Library, the San Diego County Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio, and the State of Massachusetts.
“SELF-e is one of the most interesting developments in indie publishing,” says Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer. “It will allow otherwise unknown authors of quality fiction and non-fiction to broaden their readerships while introducing themselves to one of the most powerful groups that affect book sales—the country’s librarians.”
Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.