How to Get Your Book into Libraries

Getting Your Self-Published Books into Libraries in 9 Easy Steps

Do you want to get your books into libraries but don’t know where to start?

You want your book in libraries because 58% of Americans have a library card, and over half of them say that they have been in their local library in the last month. That is a significant number of potential readers that might need or want my book.

Just know that getting into libraries takes a great deal of time and effort. It will not just “happen” for you.

The good news is once you get started, you will find that it is COMPLETLY WORTH IT!

How to get libraries to stock self-published books?

I have spoken in-depth with librarians, with collection development experts at the top wholesalers, and have come up with the main steps needed to be taken seriously by librarians.

1. Learn what librarians need when considering a new book.

Librarians have demanding jobs, and they have a lot of duties to juggle. It will exponentially help your chances of success if you learn exactly what they need. 

First, librarians need a book that fills a “hole” on their shelves. If you have an excellent horror novel, but the library’s shelves are stuffed with horror novels, you want to move on to another library that needs more horror novels.

Secondly, librarians need books that are available for purchase from wholesalers they already work with. Is your book on B&T, Brodart, or Ingram? Is your eBook available at Overdrive, Proquest, or Axis360?

Thirdly, librarians need books available, returnable, and at a good discount. If you don’t offer all of these things then, they will not be able to provide your books under the terms THEY need to stay within budget.

Speaking of budget, librarians have budgets—tight ones. Help them out by offering your paperback books at a reasonable, market-friendly price.

Fourthly, librarians need to draw more patrons to their doors. What will you be doing to attract readers, so that the patrons ask for your book at their local library? How will you be supporting libraries while asking them to support you? 

2. Approach the wholesalers first.

Apply to all the avenues – B&T, Proquest, Unique, Quality, Brodart, and Ingram Library and have your book appropriately listed in their offerings. Perhaps, consider buying a listing in the library catalogs. (The fastest and easiest way to get approved!)

3. Make your book fully returnable and with a trade discount.

That means offering your book at a 50% possibly even 55% discount to wholesalers. Ninety days to pay and 100% returnable will allow the wholesaler to consider working with you. If you offer them these terms, you will have a chance.

4. Get reviews from respected sources.

Publishers WeeklyMidwest Book ReviewLibrary Journal, any major newspaper, Booklist, and Library Thing are great places to start. 

Suppose you are not appropriately listed at the wholesalers and do not have any reviews they can refer to. In that case, you are in danger of being considered unworthy of their time and consideration. Librarians will use trusted third-party sources to help them decide which books are worth their time and which are not.

5. Drive traffic into libraries by creating a plan to increase demand.

If you want a library to give up some of their precious shelf space and money, then be able to sell them on your marketing plan. 

Ask yourself: Are you willing to write an article for their library website or newsletter? Will you be interviewed in the local paper or on the local radio show? Host an online event via Skype? Can you offer a give-a-way for library patrons? What are you willing to do to help them with their goals of bringing in and serving the community?

6. Develope a well-formed sales pitch.

Once you are listed on a few wholesalers, have a few reviews, have a marketing plan, and understand the librarian’s goals, then it is time to go after orders. Most librarians will prefer an email when being presented with a book for consideration. If you would like to see a sample of an email that works well, then click here.

Your initial approach through email should be to keep the librarian’s goals and needs at the forefront. Attach a PDF of your marketing plan, so you can show them exaxctly how you will drive traffic to their location.

Please give them a one-page PDF information sheet. That will save them immense time and convey that you understand their business. Point out the fact, that your book has a PCIP block on the copyright page. (THAT’LL make them very happy!)

7. Once all the sales presentation kits and email elements are complete, then it’s time to pick up the phone.

It only takes a few moments to ask the question:

“Who is responsible for making title selections and stocking decisions for (Children’s/Fiction/Reference/Mystery/Pet/Business) books? “

Phone calls are the best way to get right to the correct person and get the most current contact information. Library databases are great, but staff changes, and responsibilities will change every year. 

Always use the contacts name in email or any other follow up contact. How would you like it, if you got an email that started with: “Dear Author?”

8. Follow up within a few weeks.

If you get a response, engage immediately; send them a sample PDF to review. If you get the dreaded no, thank them for their time. If you don’t hear anything at all, then drop them a line and ask for more information.

9. Move on.

After you present your book and marketing plan to the first wave of librarians, find the next batch and the batch afterward. If you get a no from a library, use that time and go after a different one. With over 20,000 libraries in the US – don’t get discouraged! 

Once you get your book into a larger city’s library, and your book has some success. Then you will be in an excellent position to have more libraries in that city buy your book and consider the eBook and audio versions as well! Viral sales won’t just “happen,” but they DO happen after you have hit your stride!

Hopefully, this list of suggestions has been of help. Good luck, and remember, do a little bit each day. The key to moving forward is simply to keep moving. This is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Authors can all make great strides when taking it one step at a time and remaining patient.

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