How to Get Your Self-Published Book Into Libraries | NY Book Editors
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A Guide to Getting Your Self-Published Book Into Libraries

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 02 28 2022 A Guide to Getting Your Self Published Book Into Libraries

A major milestone for any author is to get their book into the library system. For many authors, being cataloged in one's local library is just as prestigious as making it onto the New York Times Best Seller list. Being on those hallowed shelves shows that you're a legitimate author and have finally “made” it to community acceptance.

But getting your book into a library is not that easy. While the average library may have 100,000 physical titles in stock, there are countless other books that they'll never carry. They have a limited amount of space and must be very selective in the books they purchase. If you are a new author hoping to get your self-published book onto shelves, you're going to need to do some extra work. It's not impossible, but it's definitely not for the weak. This feat will require patience, persistence, and networking.

Let's discuss how to get your self-published book onto library shelves.

Why Should a Self-Published Author Worry About Getting Their Book Into Libraries?

Let’s start with the obvious question. If getting your self-published book into libraries is so tough, why even go through the hassle?

That’s a good question. The truth is, there are multiple benefits to getting your work cataloged in a brick-and-mortar library.

Gain Exposure

The people who frequent libraries are avid readers. Many patrons read so much, in fact, that it's better for their wallet to borrow instead of buy. If you're hoping to make money from your books, you probably aren't interested in giving away your work for free. But here's why doing so is an amazing strategy: People who find your books through the library are much more likely to purchase your books after they've fallen in love with your characters and your storytelling. The library is a place of discovery for many readers. If you're a new writer, allow your future fanbase to discover you through the library system.

If you're a new writer, you need to get discovered by your future fanbase. And a great way to do that is through the library system.

Make Money

Getting your book cataloged by a library isn't going to make you rich. However, it does pay. Libraries purchase books through one of two ways.

The first way is the standard “one copy, one user” model. In this model, a library can purchase one physical or digital copy of your book and then loan it to their patrons one at a time. If the library works under this model, you'll typically get paid three times the retail price of your book.

The second model is known as “cost per checkout,” as is often applied to digital books, such as eBooks or audiobooks. In this model, you'll get paid a percentage of your book's retail price every time someone loans out your book. With this model, your book can be loaned out to multiple people simultaneously. It can also offer the greatest amount of payment if your book does well.

5 Reputable Book Wholesalers

Getting Your Book Onto Library Shelves

So how do you get librarians to see your book, love it, and decide to order it for themselves?

Make a List

Start local with the libraries in your area. There are probably more libraries in your town than you think. It's estimated that there are over 116,000 libraries in the United States alone. But don't get overwhelmed by that number. Begin with a list of approximately 10 libraries in your vicinity. Write down the name and phone number for each library.

Research Each Library’s Programming

Libraries don’t just loan out books. Most libraries offer a variety of programming aimed at interacting with and serving their local community. These programs may include summer reading, financial literacy, STEM-related events, cooking classes, and a lot more. There's usually a monthly calendar full of activities that each local library offers to its patrons.

And this is where you come in. Think of ways that your book can fit into one of your library’s programs. For example, if your library is celebrating the Fourth of July, and your historical fiction book takes place during the Revolutionary War, you can find a way to naturally connect the two. You can offer to do a book reading or to be a subject matter expert for a relevant program. Do the hard work to get an easy yes from the library.

Contact Your Library

Now that you have a phone list in hand, it's time to pick up the phone and dial each library that's local to you. When calling, ask to speak with the acquisitions librarian, i.e. the person who purchases the books. Depending on the library’s size, they may have multiple people in charge of purchasing decisions. For example, some libraries have one librarian who purchases for young adults, another for non-fiction, etc.

Be prepared to chat up the person who gives you this information so that you can get on their good side and get even more information from them about their self-published book acceptance policy. Ingratiate yourself by being polite and friendly. At the end of the day, you're one human connecting with another human. So try not to become intimidated by this process.

Be sure to explain how your book can naturally fit into one of their upcoming events or programs.

Ask to Meet Up in Person

It's easier to persuade in person. Instead of trying to plead your case over the phone, ask the librarian if you can meet with them directly. This way, you can present them with a copy of your book and make a suggestion on how your book can fit into one of their upcoming programs. As a COVID-friendly alternative, you can offer to meet virtually using a popular web conferencing tool like Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Prepare a Sell Sheet

A sell sheet is a one-page descriptive document that provides specific information about your book. You'll need this information when meeting with a librarian in person or if they ask you to send information about your book via email. Think of a sell sheet as “part informational and part promotional.” It describes your book but it also explains why a librarian may want to buy your book.

A sell sheet can include the following:

  • Your book's title

  • A cover image of your book

  • Book format options (paperback, hardcover, eBook, audiobook)

  • Price

  • ISBN

  • Size

  • Ordering information (which wholesalers your book is available through)

  • Book description

  • Target audience

  • Similar titles

  • Reviews, awards, or other good press

Remember to limit your sell sheet to one page.

5 Reputable Book Wholesalers

Make Your Book Available Through Wholesalers

Most libraries don't purchase directly from authors or even publishers. Instead, libraries generally buy books through wholesalers, such as Baker & Taylor or Ingram. Wholesalers will buy your book if you offer them a sizable discount. For example, if your book is priced at $15 for retail, you can sell it to the wholesaler for 60% off, or $6. The wholesaler can then sell the book for considerably more (typically triple the amount of the book’s retail price when selling to libraries, so $45 minus the wholesaler’s purchase price of $6 which is $39). This means that the wholesaler can earn a substantial amount on the sale of your book. Keep in mind that wholesalers won't market your book. They'll simply fulfill orders for your book.

Wait. What about Amazon KDP? Most self-published authors work through KDP, which can create eBooks, print on demand paperbacks, and even hardback copies. Isn't it enough to link to your book's Amazon page?

Not usually. Libraries like to work with wholesalers instead of purchasing directly through Amazon, mostly because purchasing is less complicated when working with an approved wholesaler. Otherwise, the librarian may have to obtain special approval to buy a single title, and this is a hassle they’ll likely want to avoid.

So make sure that your book is available through a popular and reputable wholesaler.

Enlist the Help of Your Friends, Family, and Fans

While a library may not listen to your pitch, they will listen to their patrons. Ask everyone you know to petition their local library for your book. In order for this to work, they'll need to actually be a member of the library they're petitioning. However, one enthusiastic fan or supportive family member can contact half a dozen libraries in the span of half an hour and ask them to carry your book. For example, they can stop by the circulation desk and ask that the library acquire a copy of your book. However, some libraries offer this suggestion feature on their website, too, which makes this process even more convenient.

With enough support, a library will purchase your title. Make it easy for them to do so by ensuring that your title is available through a wholesaler.

Be Willing to Make a Donation

Since libraries rarely purchase through authors directly, if you want your book in the library, you can also donate a copy. Simply ask the librarian if they'd accept your donation. Of course, this is a last resort if you can't get any traction through the above steps.

Final Thoughts

Remember to list your book with a wholesaler to make it easy for librarians to order.

While getting your book into a library may be challenging, it’s not impossible. Because libraries are filled to the brim with other books, use the strategies outlined above to promote your book and explain why a library should add your title to their shelves.

Before you go, check out this related post:

Self-Publishing for Beginners Part 3: Tools for Writers Series

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