Trying to get your self published book into libraries? We’re spelling out how you can get your titles into a digital library system or on local library shelves – and, more importantly, why you should.
How to Get Your Self Published Book into Libraries
Walk into a library and what do you see? So. Many. Books. All ready to be checked out! And a lot of these books are big-name bestsellers! But you don’t need to be a household name to get your book into a local library.
Getting copies of your stories into these bookworm hubs isn’t easy, but, with the proper tactics, indie authors can do it.
In this post, we’ll outline how authors can get their eBooks, physical copies or audiobooks into libraries. Use the links below to jump to what’s relevant to you, or take it all in. We’ll start with the digital side.
How to get your eBook into Libraries
Getting your self-published eBook into the library system is a great way to grow your reader base and earn some royalties to boot. Here’s how to get started.
1. Choose a service
The best way to get your eBook in library systems is to work with a service like PublishDrive. Ingram Spark, Smashwords or Draft to Digital. These companies offer distribution services to stores like Amazon, but also can get your book into library providers like OverDrive that enable readers to borrow online content for free through apps such as Libby.
Even though readers won’t pay to check-out your book, you can still earn royalties from the library.
Different library providers will pay out at different royalty rates, and the company distributing your book will also impact your payout. Talk to a distributor to understand exactly how their royalty system will work.
2. Get the word out
Once your book is distributed to library service providers like Overdrive, it’s time to generate demand.
Overdrive sells books directly to libraries, not readers, so libraries still need to actually provide the book to their readers. The solution? Request the book from your local library, and ask your friends, family, and fans to do the same.
This doesn’t guarantee that libraries will provide your book to readers (library budgets are often tight), but it’s a great way to get their attention and increase your chances.
3. Take advantage of your new reach
The big benefit of getting your book into digital libraries is the wealth of potential new readers for your work.
Royalties likely won’t be a major source of income, but with new readers in the pipeline, you can start to see more outside purchases as they search for more of your work.
Put some thought into which books you put into libraries, or evaluate every year or so to see how things are going. Should you only put the first book of a series into libraries? All of them? There’s no hard and fast answer, but it certainly warrants some thought.
How to get your book on library shelves
Getting your physical book into a library is a huge thrill, and a big goal for many authors. Here’s what to do.
1. Contact your local library
Over 60% of Americans own library cards. As an indie author, you probably want to learn how to get your book in front of this massive audience. Well, to get started, you’ve got to do your research.
Before you can do anything, you need to first learn if a library near you accepts self-published books for circulation. We recommend contacting a branch’s acquisitions librarian (or the person who’s in charge of making these types of decisions) and asking them about their self-published book policy.
This is also a good time to ask the librarian what the most-read or highest demand books are at their library. It will give you an idea of what’s popular and if your book “fits in”.
2. Work with a wholesaler
In order to put your book into a library’s circulation, the book first needs to be available through wholesalers. A wholesaler is someone who supplies books to libraries, book stores, etc. and gets your book library-ready.
You may want to offer a steep discount, sometimes over 50%, to get a wholesaler’s attention, and give them the option of returning your work after 90 days or so.
The list of reputable wholesalers who libraries associate with includes Baker & Taylor (a.k.a. B&T), Ingram, Publishers Group West, and others. You can contact any of these wholesalers for information on how they can represent you.
When doing your research, remember: first call your local acquisitions librarian – then contact wholesalers. Apply for free to have your book listed within their offerings or pay to have a listing in their library catalogs.
3. Get prepared
Once you’ve done your research on local library policy and your book is available through a wholesaler, it’s time to prepare all of your documentation for the library.
Libraries are going to need to know ALL about your book to decide if it’s right for their branch. One easy way to prove your book’s up to snuff? Create a sell sheet.
A sell sheet includes the basic information about your book including:
- Book cover
- Formats / ISBNs
- A brief book description
- Any awards the book has won
- Why library patrons will want to read it
- How it can be ordered.
Click below to download a free sell-sheet template that you can fill out with your own information. The template is simply a starting point, so feel free to add or remove whatever you think will sell your book the best!
You can email these sell sheets to your local library or provide them with a one page, hard copy sheet. The important thing is to represent your book with complete honesty here but also feel free to brag a bit. Show librarians why they need it on their shelves.
4. Flaunt what you’ve got!
Seeing as they work on pretty tight budgets, librarians are going to order books sure to appeal to their readers. They also tend to lean towards circulating books with a high number of 4-5 star book reviews.
Have a ton of awesome reviews? Great, include that in your sell sheet. Still trying to work on your review numbers? You can learn how to up your review count here.
Another helpful trick for developing book credibility is to get a review of it published by a journal. Librarians often look for these as a sign of legitimacy. Look into getting a review from one of these options:
If journals like Library Journal and Publishers Weekly or Kirkus accept your book, they will charge you to have their staff read and review it. Other sources of reviews won’t charge, but are often even harder to get a review from. Reviews aren’t cheap, and many indies will choose to not spend on them.
An extra boost that may be beneficial to your cause is hosting a local library event. Children’s book author Ilham Alam wrote about her experience on Jane Friedman’s blog in the article, “6 Steps to Get Your Self-Published Book Into Libraries” and mentions the “win-win” benefit to providing libraries with author events. Not only does this give you exposure, but it creates some buzz around the library.
It also never hurts to have family and friends support your cause. If you go the route of hosting an approved author event, make sure your attendance numbers are through the roof! Grab your neighbor, coworker, significant partner – anyone. Have a full house at your event and show the library the local community excitement that surrounds your book.
How to get your AudioBook into Libraries
Audiobooks are big, and just getting bigger. Here’s how you can get your audiobook into the library system.
1. Decide on a distributor or Apply to OverDrive
There aren’t many options to get to Audiobook into libraries at this time. Authors can apply directly to OverDrive, but the chatter is that they rarely accept indie authors unless you have many audiobooks.
On the other hand, Findaway Voices operates like the eBook distributors we mentioned above. If you distribute your audiobook through Findaway, You can select to include their library partners (like Overdrive) and your book will be available in many library systems.
2. Flex your marketing muscle
Same as eBooks, once your book is available on library service providers, you need libraries to provide it to readers. Get your family, friends and fans to request the book and listen to it.
3. Monitor your royalties
Once again, library readers won’t pay to listen to your audiobook, but you will still get a royalty payout when they do. Currently, Findaway Voices takes 20% of your royalty payout, with a larger share, often around 50% going to the library service provider.
So yes, the royalties do get chipped away at, but if you get a large volume of checkouts, you can still see a nice check.
Why Getting Your Book into a Library Matters
It builds credibility
So what’s the big deal about having your book in a library? Seems like a lot of hassle, right? Well, it can be, but the reward can also be nice. Having your book on library shelves builds incredible trustworthiness across readers. Also, libraries can mean a lot to authors. It’s where many cultivated a love of reading, and getting a book on library shelves can be extremely rewarding.
Once you’re in, you’re in
Once one library has accepted you into their collection, you’re more likely to be accepted by other libraries. Again, this plays into the whole credibility idea. Joanna Penn’s article calls this notion “the domino effect”. And if the domino effect works out for you, you’ll soon be getting to see a whole lot of hardcover copies of your book in local shelves!
Public libraries purchase books from publishers or distributors. When they do that, authors then receive royalties from their publisher. The more copies a library buys from a publisher, the more royalties that author will earn! Really, though, the real financial benefit to having your book stocked by libraries is that this boost to credibility will lead to more exposure and ultimately more sales.
Authors, have you been successful at getting your book stocked in libraries? How did you do it?