If you are a self published author, your goal is to sell your work and inevitably, see a return on your investment. In order to do this, you must (wait for it…) market, market, market your product. In an earlier post, I recommended that you mimic the big fish in order to be successful. Well, how do big fish gain recognition and earn sales? They place their products everywhere?
Libraries are definitely good places to help you gain momentum as a self publishing superstar. As a professional librarian, I have had experience working in school, public, and academic libraries. In the aforementioned role(s), I have had the tedious responsibility of maintaining library collections. Although I love my career, maintaining a collection is a very cumbersome process. For one, librarians are inundated by sales reps. We have to select books that are appropriate for our respective libraries and that requires a lot of reading. We also have to balance our budgets. We have to stay current on popular titles/trends. And in order for libraries to stay relevant, we have to strategically plan innovative services to offer patrons with interesting/popular resources. Due to all of the hidden intricacies attached to librarianship, libraries seize opportunities to stay current on good literature. So if you have a good title, make it known to your local library. It is a good launching pad for helping you gain a presence in your community. Libraries can help you showcase your work, gain exposure, and potentially distribute books among a large population of readers. If you’re lucky, all of this could translate into more sales. I’ll explain the “if you’re lucky part” in another post.
Here are my tips to help you improve your chances of getting your title into a library. Keep in mind, that libraries differ from location to location so this advice is not a “catchall” solution.
School libraries can be rather challenging, depending on the school district you are targeting. All districts have different policies. So you must first find out the school district’s policy on book ordering/purchasing through the district’s main office. This is especially important if you are marketing to a large school district with many schools. Such districts may require vendor approval before any purchases can be made by their schools. If this is the case, you will need to try to obtain a vendor’s license via their process. In my experience, districts that require vendor approval generally tend to control their purchases and prefer established distributors with whom they create accounts with. Approval may be difficult for the lone author who is soliciting his/her work. However, don’t dismay! If you are able to get approval to sell your titles, you will still need to market your book to the individual schools in much the same fashion as the big vendors. If you are not so lucky, you may want to employ a few of the following tricks:
Donate Your Book
Donating a book is a great way to get your product in the door. Although you may not be able to garner sales directly from the library, it is a great way to make potential readers aware of your work. This could later translate into sales elsewhere. In order to donate your book, you would need to find out the name of the librarian for a particular school or library. You can accomplish this by simply calling or visiting their website. Once you identify the librarian, plan to establish a relationship with that librarian and/or library. Contrary to popular beliefs, libraries want to build relationships with organizations and people within their communities. We are really nice people!
Introduce yourself to the librarian first via a short email or phone call. Brevity here is important as librarians receive tons of solicitations. Let the librarian know that you are an author and that you have a book that you would love to donate. If you are interested in doing a presentation, you may want to mention it during your initial contact. Often libraries like to host programs and having an author appear for a book talk is a good way to engage the community. Next, ask the librarian if you could send them some information about your book or if you could schedule a time to visit them. Some librarians may not agree to an in person visit. If this is the case, ensure that you send them information that will get their attention!
Package Your Materials Well!
If you have been given an invite to submit your materials to the librarian, use it as your one and only opportunity to make a great impression. Submit your book along with any information about the book that might be helpful to the librarian. Librarians will decide whether or not to shelve your book based on its quality and usefulness. Therefore, you may want to include a brief statement synopsis of the book and how it could be beneficial to the readers that the library serve. If you have a children’s book, briefly discuss the skills young readers will learn. If you have a non fiction title, discuss the importance of the information provided in your book. Tell why it would be beneficial to the community or population served by the library.
Include Marketing Materials
I began this post by emphasizing the importance of marketing your title. It’s only appropriate that I expand on this element. If your book is selected to become one of the titles added to the library’s catalog, you don’t want it to just become title number 65 out of 165,000 books. No, you want that title to get noticed. As a librarian, I love the opportunity to decorate the library with color and/or eye catching materials that will invite patrons to “read”. If you send a collection of bookmarks to me, I am going to distribute them. If you send other promotional items as well, I am likely to give it space in the library as long as it fits the purpose of library. For instance, I am not keen on posting posters throughout the library advertising a personal business or sale of something. However, if it is a promotional resource highlighting a book or novel- I will probably post it. And, I don’t care if a website or business logo is inconspicuously embedded on the promotional item. Functionality for the library is the only thing that matters. Character “stand ups” are great promo items to give to the library. Places like Party Stand Ups will allow you design your own life-sized cutouts. You could also try a site like iPrint to customize your own bookmarks. Although I can’t guarantee that a library will post or distribute your items, but it’s very likely especially if your work is tastefully done.
You may also want to consider sending a poster of the book along with the title. Even if you donate the actual book, send promo materials any way. Libraries like to decorate their spaces with colorful and interesting items that may appeal to their readers. Make sure your poster is inviting enough to make someone want to seek out your book. If you are lucky, your book may have a moment to shine!