By Amy Collins (@NewShelvesBooks)
Want to have your books in libraries, but don’t know where to start?
As a newly self-published author, I know EXACTLY how you feel. I want my book in libraries because I know that 68% of Americans have a library card and over half of those cardholders say that they have been in their local library in the last month. That is a huge number of potential readers that might need or want my book.
But as a publishing professional who has been selling to the library market since 1996, I also know that getting into libraries takes a great deal of time and effort. It does not just “happen.”
The good news? Once you get started, you will find that it is TOTALLY WORTH IT!
How do self-published authors get libraries to stock their books?
I have interviewed librarians, spoken in depth with collection development experts at the top wholesalers and have come up with the main steps we need to take to be taken seriously by librarians.
Learn what librarians need when considering a new book.
Librarians have very hard jobs and they have a lot of duties to juggle. It will dramatically help your chances of success if you learn what they need.
Librarians need a book that fills a “hole” on their shelves. If you have a wonderful romance novel but the library’s shelves are stuffed with romance novels, you want to move on to another library who needs more romance novels.
Librarians need books that are available for purchase from wholesalers they work with. Is your book in Brodart, B&T, Ingram? Is your eBook available at Axis360, Overdrive, Proquest?
Librarians need books available, returnable, and at a proper discount. If you don’t offer your books to the wholesalers on a returnable and full discounted basis, they will, in turn, not be able to provide your books to libraries under the terms THEY need to stay in budget.
Speaking of budget… librarians have budgets. Tight ones. Help them out by offering your books in paperback and at a proper, market-friendly retail price.
Librarians need to draw more patrons to their doors and be of service to them when they get there. What will you do to attract readers so that library patrons ask for your book at their local library? How will you be supporting libraries while you are asking them to support you?
Approach the wholesalers first.
Apply to B&T, Proquest, Unique, Quality, Brodart and Ingram Library to have your book listed properly in their offerings. Perhaps consider buying a listing in their library catalogs. (The easiest and fastest way I know of to get approval!)
Make your book available on full trade discount and fully returnable.
This means offering your book at a 50% or even 55% discount to wholesalers. 90 days to pay and fully returnable will allow the wholesaler to consider working with you even though you are a small press. If you offer them good terms, you will have a chance.
Go after reviews from respected sources.
Midwest Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, any major newspaper, Booklist and Library Thing are great places to start.
Librarians turn to third-party trusted sources to help them decide which books are worth their time and which are not. If you are not listed properly at the wholesalers AND you do not have any reviews to which they can refer, you are in danger of being considered unworthy of their time and consideration.
Create a plan to increase demand and drive traffic into libraries.
If you want a library to give you some of their precious money and shelf space, be able to tell them what you plan on doing to be of service to their patrons. Are you willing to write an article for their library website or newsletter, host an online event via Skype, will you be interviewed on the local radio and in the local paper? Can you offer a give-away for patrons? What are you going to do to help the librarians with their goals of bringing in and serving their community?
Make a well-formed sales pitch.
Once you are listed in a few wholesalers, have a marketing plan, have a few reviews and understand the librarian’s goals, it is time to go after orders. Most librarians prefer email when being presented with a book for consideration. To see a sample first email that works well click here.
Your initial approach should keep the librarian’s goals and needs in mind. Show them that you will drive traffic by attaching a PDF of your marketing plan. Give them a one-page PDF book information sheet that will save them time and show them that you understand their business. Point out that your book has a PCIP block on the copyright page. (THAT’LL make them very happy!)
When all the elements of your sales presentation kit and email are ready, pick up the phone.
It takes just a few moments to ask a staffer who answers the phone the following question:
“Who is responsible for making stocking and title selection decisions for (Fiction/Reference/Mystery/Pet/Children’s/Business) books? “
A call is the best way to get right to the correct person and get the most current contact information. Databases are great, but staffers change and responsibilities shift from year to year.
When you address your email and make any follow-up contact, USE THEIR NAME! How would you feel if you got an email that started: “Dear Author?”
Follow up in a few weeks.
If you get a response, engage with them; send them a sample PDF copy to review. If you get a no, thank them for their time. If you don’t hear from them, drop them a line and ask if they need more information.
After you present your book to the first wave of librarians, find the next batch and the batch after that. If you get a no from a library, use your time and go after a different one. There are over 20,000 libraries in the US. Don’t be discouraged! If you get your book into one library in a larger city, and your book has some success, you are in a great position to have more libraries in that city buy your book and then consider the eBook and audio versions as well! Viral sales don’t just “happen” but they DO happen after you hit your stride!
I hope this list of suggestions has been of help. Good luck and remember…. just do a little each day. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We can all make great strides if we take it one step at a time and be patient. As I am very fond of telling my clients: “The key to moving forward is to keep moving.”
Baker & Taylor
Follet (K – 12 & University Libraries)
Funny, sharp, and smart, Amy Collins is full of up-to-date industry tips and executable advice. She has been a Book Buyer for a chain of bookstores as well as a Sales Director for a large books and magazine publisher. Over the years, she has sold to Barnes & Noble, Target, Costco, Airport Stores, Books-A-Million, Wal-Mart, and other major chains. She helped launch several hugely successful private label publishing programs for Borders, PetSmart, and CVS. In 2006, Amy started New Shelves Books, one of the fastest-growing book distribution, sales and marketing companies in North America. She is the author of the new book, The Write Way and works with self-published authors and small publishing companies to increase their sales in the marketplace.