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Do Indie Authors Want Their Books In Libraries, Literary Festivals And Awards Programs?

Do Indie Authors Want Their Books in Libraries, Literary Festivals and Awards Programs?

headshot of Orna Ross

ALLi founder Orna Ross drives our #publishingopenup campaign

ALLi founder and director Orna Ross provides a #publishingopenup campaign update and invites indie authors to take advantage of new opportunities this brings.

Back in 2013, Jamaican author Ezekel Alan almost didn’t enter his self-published debut novel Disposable People for the Commonwealth Book Prize. “I never once thought that my act of exorcism would even remotely be worthy of consideration for that award,” he said said at the time.

Opening up to Indie Authors by ALLiLuckily, his editor disagreed, the book was entered and Alan became the first self-published book to win such a major international prize. “The publicity which ensued was overwhelming,” he says, and he feels he is still benefiting, years on.

As Debbie Young wrote here last week, we are reviving our Open Up To Indie Authors campaign, as part of the launch of the latest edition of our guidebook of the same name.

Opening Up to Indie Authors

Both book and campaign call on what we might call the reader industries – libraries, bookstores, prizes, literary events – to include indie authors in their programs. We have a number of events planned, including the book launch at the Indie Author Fringe, but we need to ask:

Do indie authors want their books to be included?

Opportunities Await Indie Authors

We were contacted last week by one of the prizes that has not only opened its doors, but actively sought out indies, and made a big deal of its openness: the Peters Fraser & Dunlop “Young Writer of the Year” award.

A prize for the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish author aged between 18 and 35, the award is designed, in the words of the Sunday Times literary editor, Andrew Holgate, “to put the spotlight on the best new writing talent from Britain and Ireland, providing young writers with the kind of encouragement and exposure that has made such a difference to the shortlistees and winners in the past.”

Like Sarah Waters, for one. And Zadie Smith.

Indie Author Entrants Wanted!

When the prize was relaunched in 2015 after a hiatus since 2009, it was made open to self-published titles. ALLi promoted the event, and Dan Holloway attended a special event for bloggers to help spread the news, but there were still very few self-published entrants.

Again this year, despite articles in the Bookseller, Publishing Perspectives, and Self-Publishing Magazine, the prize organizers tell us:

Again this year, despite articles in the Bookseller, Publishing Perspectives, and Self-Publishing Magazine, organisers say the numbers of submissions from self-published authors aren’t where they could be.

And more and more often, we are hearing similar stories from [some] other awards, literary festivals, libraries and other reader-facing organizations:

They are open but despite encouragement, self-publishers are not coming forward.

This might be because they don't want to.  In a comment on Debbie's post last week, Kevin McLaughlin articulated this position very well:

I think the biggest question remains: ‘should we care what the old industry thinks?' The times have changed. The old groups and industry bits which haven’t updated their views on self-publishing are already slipping into irrelevance and will fade into obscurity over the next few years unless they change. Success and longevity for any writing organization, contest, or publishing tool is now directly tied to how relevant it can make itself for indies. We are the future for all of these groups.

It's Up to You

ALLi represents indies of all types and opinions and we support every author's decision to publish their way.

In our experience, it is the more commercially-minded authors who are very happy to ignore the books and reader services that pre-dated digital. But there are also a great many authors like Ezekel Alan who would love to win a prize, see their books in libraries and bookstores, or take part in their local literary festivals.

Our concern is that such authors are counting themselves out by not trying.

ALLi wants to see indie authors with an active presence wherever books are bought or borrowed, reviewed, celebrated or awarded. If we are to succeed in that aim, as well as parts of the reader industry needing to open up to indie authors, those parts of the self-publishing community who are interested will also need to open up to what's now possible.

An Easy Way to Support Our #PublishingOpenUp Campaign

If you do support this campaign, we'd love to get your signature on our petition.

How indie authors can reap benefits of #publishingopenup effect, IF they wish - by @OrnaRoss Click To Tweet



Author: Orna Ross

Orna Ross is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and inspirational poetry, and a creativity facilitator. As founder-director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, she has been named one of The Bookseller’s Top 100 people in publishing. 


This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. Greetings from the U.S! I’ve found getting into bookstores and/or libraries is definitely a challenge. It’s a lot of work and we, as indies, don’t have the publishing house to help us. My local library will be putting my book in their collection, which I’m very excited about. I provided them a donated copy, and even though it was donated, they still had to review it and determine that it would be a good fit. For this particular instance, it was more about me offering a book to those who may not be able to afford to buy it. It’s also a great feeling to see my book on a library shelf. I’ve made my paperback available through IngramSpark so libraries and booksellers may purchase if they want. But, I think there’s a bigger issue than having it available. It’s having them find you when there are a ton of books already out there and coming out every day . But, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, if your goal is to see your books there. I’ve also reached out to a few festivals. Many are open and welcoming to self-pubbed authors; others still won’t take us. Even though I don’t agree, I don’t take it personally. I just move on. Honestly, I think it’s perfectly fine to just sell books online.

  2. My local library in the UK took free copies of all my books and also put three of them in their local archive because they were set in the area. If your main aim is readers, not money,you can add books to a library even if they will not purchase copies. Bookstores are a different problem and I have given up with them and become a seller on Amazon instead.

  3. All the libraries local to me in North London have been really keen to take my novels (one of them had my latest book already. It helps that the book is of local interest), though many have preferred me to donate a copy as opposed to forking out for one… I think that’s only to be expected with the current level of funding, to be honest. Some of the libraries have been very keen to run an event as well, so the interest is certainly there, and being an indie doesn’t seem to be an issue, so far.

  4. Most libraries, at least those in the US, have a librarian that takes purchase requests. If you’re an Indie author, visit your local library and ask if they have such a program, most systems do.

    There is also the library website that allows a patron to request a book either from another library system or for that library system to purchase. For Indie authors, that is the simplest method to get their books into libraries here in the US. Other programs offered through the library systems are inviting local Indie authors to speak about their work, a literal meet and greet and book signing all hosted by the library. This is something that Indie’s should look into within their local area. Not sure if that’s a program the UK and other European locations offer, but its worth looking into in case such programs do exist.

    The problems in the states for Indie authors getting their books into bookstores like Barnes & Noble, is that B&N will host the book as an ebook on their website but, as stated by an employee at B&N, if you’re not a name, like Patterson, Koontz, King, etc, there is very little chance you’ll ever see your book on their shelves.

  5. I’m certainly interested in getting into libraries – I’ve loved them all my life, and they need support in the UK at the moment. It feels bizarre that I’ve found success as an author, yet my books aren’t in the local library.

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