While ALLi is working on a new guidebook for indie authors on how to get your self-published book into libraries, where the opportunities are greatest for digital book products, we couldn’t resist this ‘my experience’ post from Australian author and ALLi member Anne Merrick. As Anne tells us, you can get your book into libraries by taking just a few careful steps.
My Library Journey
I published my first novel in March 2018 and, a couple of months after, was excited to discover that without any effort on my part, it was listed in the catalogue of a couple of libraries. Getting my book in libraries seemed much more achievable than convincing local bookshops to stock it. Beyond the possibility of Public Lending Right (PLR) payments, a major benefit of having a book on a library shelf is that the book is then accessible to a wide range of potential readers who might become fans of your work.
Spurred on by my book’s library debut, it then became my mission to get my book into as many Australian libraries as possible. While my experience is in the context of Australian libraries, it could apply equally to any country with a public library network.
There Are Rules
Most libraries, as an arm of local government, have strict purchasing procedures and will not buy directly from an author, especially if they turn up at the Information desk with a copy of their book and a pre-filled invoice. Most library purchases are made through library suppliers that the library service already has an established relationship with. The first step then is to ensure that the book is listed with a number of library suppliers. As these suppliers usually demand a discount of around 45%, the book needs to be priced at a level that takes this into account and still ensures that you do make some profit from any sale.
Don't Forget Your ISBN
It is best, also, to buy your own ISBN, particularly if you are intending to apply for PLR as this will list you (or your registered trading name) as the publisher of the book. It should also be listed with Neilsen’s free Title Editor service. This helps ensure larger library suppliers such as James Bennett and ALS in Australia and Gardners in the United Kingdom can find details of your book.
Other library suppliers can be approached directly; many have forms on their sites where, besides filling in the book details, you can decide how the book will be supplied to them. I have opted to have books supplied directly from Ingram Spark to avoid the problem of having to calculate and absorb or pass on the cost of packaging and postage. Most library suppliers will not hold stock of books published by indie authors so it is unlikely that these books will be included in standing orders sent to libraries. Listing does make it easier for libraries to place special orders when a borrower makes a purchase request for your book or the acquisitions librarian is entranced by the publicity material you have sent her.
How to Get Your Book Into Libraries
Before contacting libraries directly, I prepared a sell sheet displaying the book in what was, I hoped, a professional and visually pleasing way. The sheet included a high-resolution image of the cover, tagline, a blurb, a brief author bio, and book details including genre, publisher, ISBN, dimensions and page count and a list of the library suppliers the book can be obtained from. I also include ebook details as libraries can supply the book through their Overdrive subscriptions. Some libraries also allow borrowers to suggest ebooks not in their collection.
With all this done, I was finally ready to approach the libraries. I have found email the most effective way to make contact. I compiled a long, long list of libraries around Australia and have been progressively working my way through them. I send a copy of the sell sheet in pdf form attached to an email introducing myself and my book with links both to reviews and my website and details of library suppliers. (ALLi edit: Attachments increase the risk your email to gets caught in spam filters. We encourage indie authors to put their sell sheets on a landing page and include the link in the email.)
Don't Miss Speaker Opportunities
The email is also an opportunity to make libraries aware if you are available for author talks. I send the emails individually rather than in bulk as blind CCs because if mistakes happen, I have only made a fool of myself in front of one acquisitions librarian rather than twenty. I also send no more than fifteenh to twenty at a sitting as the copying, pasting and attaching involved is a patentable cure for insomnia.
So far, (and I am not finished as there are over 500 libraries on my list) I have had a success rate of around 20 percent. I write in something of a niche (romantic historical fiction set in the Elizabethan era) and I suspect that writers of thrillers, cosy mysteries, contemporary romance or children’s books, for example, would have a much higher success rate. But whatever the success rate, far more copies of my book are now in libraries than would have been the case had I done nothing and the only cost has been my time.
In the way serendipity works, at the time I was thinking about getting my books in to libraries, the Romance Writers of Australia offered a short online course run by RWA member Ebony McKenna that went through the steps outlined above. The course was based around Ebony’s book Get Your Book into Australian Libraries: Sell more books, earn more royalties (2018). The bookprovides added detail on registering for PLR and the steps to publication in general within the Australian context.How to Get Your Book Into Libraries @cameyrick1 #selfpublishing #IARTG #ASMRG #amwriting #writingcommunity #writetip Click To Tweet
OVER TO YOU
Have you managed to get your books into libraries? How did you do it?