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How To Reach More Readers: Play The Local Card To Libraries

How to Reach More Readers: Play the Local Card to Libraries

map with pins in it and a pencil on the topWe've run a few posts lately on the subject of “write what you know”. Today we're looking instead at how writing not what you know, but where you know, homing in on authors who have capitalised on their geographical focus by selling their books into relevant local libraries. A familiar setting may also help you get your books stocked at nearby bricks-and-mortar bookstores and other retail outlets such as tourist information offices.

Cover of Silver Rain by Jan Ruth

Welsh setting for Jan Ruth's novels

Jan Ruth's growing collection of family sagas are set in Snowdonia, Wales, and exude the atmosphere and scenery of this beautiful part of the world. She sold four dozen paperbacks to her Snowdonian libraries on the basis of that setting. Jan explains how this came about:

 “Overall, the Welsh libraries were well down on my list of possible outlets with regard to selling or even stocking my books. I had no idea how it might work and it was entirely by chance that I walked into my local library and met the head buyer. We enjoyed an informal, unplanned chat. I left a couple of paperbacks with her, so she could peruse the actual product. By the time I'd driven home and logged on to my email, there was a request that I supply 48 books, a dozen copies of each title and an invitation to be a guest speaker at Conwy Library on World Book Day.

“Of course, the fact that these novels are set in well-known Welsh towns and locations has clearly helped my cause, but her very first remark to me was that she loved the covers (designed by ALLi member Jane Dixon Smith). Yet more confirmation that people do, judge books by their covers, at least initially. It has been a challenge to design covers that work as thumbnails around the internet but look equally good transferred to paperback, but this is clearly well worth the time and investment.”

Katharine D'Souza

Birmingham's the chosen location of Katharine D'Souza

British author Katharine D'Souza, whose novels are set in her native city of Birmingham, England, has also found success in local libraries:

“I'm a huge fan of libraries because they fed my endless appetite for new stories when I was an eager reader as a child. I wouldn't be the person I am now, let alone the writer I am, if it weren't for such easy access to so many books.

“Now I am a writer, I wanted to give something back. Both of my novels are set in Birmingham and, because the setting is integral to each story, I'm eager for the books to reach as many Brummies (native Birmingham folk) as possible. The feedback I get from local readers is that they like seeing characters walk along streets they know. So I got in touch with the reader development team for Birmingham Libraries and asked if I could tell them about my books.

“The reception I got was brilliant. My details went to all the community libraries and I suddenly found I had   book tour in place! Some library visits were to speak to an existing group, others were specially arranged author events. In all cases I was made extremely welcome by the library staff and met by a group of interested people. Sometimes it was an intimate chat with a small group of readers, other times I spoke for longer to a larger audience. Every time was great fun. Not only did I meet people who were interested in my books – either having read the library copy or keen to buy one from me – but I also got to interact with avid readers and pick their brains about what kind of stories they enjoy, what kind they'd like to read.

“By the way, I never mentioned the word ‘self-published', I just pitched myself as a local author with a new book out, and they've always been happy to see me. I'm looking forward to the visits I still have lined up and hope Birmingham libraries will be interested in my next book so I can visit again when it's out.”

English indie author John Yeoman took a different approach: he donated several dozen of his books to public libraries, and was rewarded by new subscribers to his paid newsletter:

“The books contained a last page with a subscription form and the advice: ‘Photocopies are acceptable'. I gained several subscriptions.”

You don't necessarily need a local angle in your book to benefit from local library connections, as Karen Inglis reports:

“I did a children's event way back at my local library which was a good way to get exposure. I also recently discovered that Eeek! had 72 library borrows last year.”

How do library borrows help you, apart from giving you a warm feeling that you have more readers? Linda Gillard explains:

“Membership of ALCS (Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society) and being registered for PLR (Public Lending Rights) have both increased my income. An author's income is generally small, and the fees paid out by PLR & ALCS are always welcome. But I appreciate knowing how many people are borrowing my books in libraries. I'm also reassured to know that ALCS – for a lifetime fee of £25 – will protect and promote the rights of authors writing in all disciplines, ensuring we get fair payment for the various uses of our work.”

ALCS and PLR are primarily British organisations, but there are equivalents around the world.

(For more useful information and inspiration on how to build a better relationship with your local library services, read the latest ALLi Guidebook, Opening Up To Indie Authors.)


Have you scored a hit with your local library with a locally-themed book? Please feel free to share your experience via the comments box below.

Twitter bird outlineEASY TWEET

“How writing books about local themes can win new readers from your library: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/local-library/ via @IndieAuthorALLi”



This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. Great post Debbie. This has been on my mind as my debut novel will be out soon. I’ve managed to talk at my local library’s book club and have been invited back for a longer talk in October. I’m taking a reenactment friend along who’ll be dressed as a Saxon warrior from my book. At the last talk members asked to take my promotional cards to give to other nearby libraries and I’m hoping to follow that up with visits once I have a physical book. Getting to know readers and staff certainly helps build good relationships.

  2. My local library has been very supportive. The children’s librarian even wrote a review for my website. I have also arranged an event by combining with other local indie authors. We will hold a Q&A session about self publishing and then the library will provide tea and coffee as guests meet the local authors (and hopefully buy our books). All PR, posters and leaflets are paid for by the library too! The event is on November 4th so more on results in a later post. Still love to have the top 10 killer messages for our talk Debbie/ Karen/ Orna 🙂

    1. Christopher, can you please drop me an email about the messages you need for your talk – debbie [at] allianceindependentauthors.org and we’ll chat about it – I’m sure there’s lots we can do to help.

  3. Thanks for the mention, Debbie. Indeed, my library giveaways were so successful in gaining subscriptions that I toyed with the idea of mailing my books to every UK library. Problem is, if they arrived unsolicited, I suspect most would have been trundled off to charity shops

    Question: how does a US author get their ebook into the UK library lending system? A US friend has won great reviews for her fiction writing manual and has asked me to investigate the UK system. I emailed my local library service, but answer came there none…

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