If you’re a self-publisher looking for a way to get more exposure for your book, then libraries might just be your secret weapon. According to the Library and Information Statistics Unit, there are over 4,000 public libraries in the United Kingdom alone — that means 64.1 million library members and 9.8 million active borrowers. That’s a lot of potential readers!
But the question remains: as an indie author, how do you get your book into libraries? Here are five tips to get you started.
To start, your book needs to be completely ready to hit the shelves before you approach a library. Yes, this is pretty obvious, but it’s important to triple-check the following points:
A professionally designed cover can make all the difference. The cover is more than just a placeholder for your name and title of your book: it’s the first point of contact that readers will have with your story. The cover is the number one factor that will draw a reader to your book over the hundreds of other titles surrounding it in a library.
The majority of library books are stocked on shelves where the only visible part is the spine. You need to make sure that your book’s spine is easy to read and well-designed so that it catches the eyes of patrons browsing the shelves.
The copyright page is a critical part of any book, but especially if you are hoping to have it stocked in libraries because this is where the CIP (Cataloguing-In-Publication) is displayed. The CIP lets librarians know that your book meets all the standards of records prepared by the British Library and enables them to identify titles that their community might be interested in. In other words, it tells purchasing librarians that your book can be quickly and easily added to their collection. If your book doesn’t have a CIP, it will get put aside to be catalogued later — if at all.
If a library can’t stock your book in a physical form — particularly due to lack of space — they might be willing to stock your book in other formats, such as an ebook or audiobook.
2) Prepare your one-page sales sheet
To make it as simple as possible for purchasing librarians to consider your book, you should provide a one-page sales sheet — a document that includes all of the required admission information. This includes:
● Title and Subtitle
● Trim Size
● Publisher Name
● Wholesalers where your books are available
● Publisher contact information
● Publication date
● Description of your book
● Author biography
● Outline of your marketing plan
● Similar titles
You should also include any pertinent documents related to your book, such as press releases, a PDF or print copy of your book, and a cover letter.
Libraries don’t have unlimited budgets, nor are all library budgets created equal. A library’s budget is determined by the traffic and number of checkouts that each branch has. Because of this, a book that is most likely to increase a library’s traffic has a higher chance of getting picked than one that will collect dust.
Keeping this in mind, price your book low enough that libraries won’t have to break their budgets in order to acquire it. Additionally, position your book to show librarians how it can help achieve their business goals. Instead of focusing on how beneficial it will be for you as the author, prove to the librarian that it will be worth their while to stock your book.
So how do you do this? One way is to promote your book until it’s so popular that they have to sit up and take notice.
Promoting your book is a great way to create demand and increase awareness, including among librarians. Ensuring your book’s popularity will reassure them that your book will not be a risky business decision. This will be helpful when contacting both libraries and distributors, and will show them how serious you are about marketing your work.
Here are some ways you can create demand for your book:
1. Write articles for print and online outlets.
2. Get quality reviews (but do not ever pay for them — paid promotion may ring false with readers and librarians alike).
3. Develop an online and social media following.
4. Get influencers and other relevant people in your niche topic to endorse you.
Tons of books get published every single day, so you need to make sure that your book stands out. People aren’t just going to start flocking to your book for no reason — as the author, it is your responsibility to promote it effectively. To get you started, here are 50+ book marketing ideas.
Libraries work with one or more wholesalers who are entrusted with providing quality books in a timely manner. This makes the acquisition process much simpler for librarians, since they only need to contact a couple of sources to get all their materials. For this reason, librarians mostly choose to purchase books directly from wholesalers instead of independent sellers.
So, what are your options as an indie author?
● Pitch your books directly to libraries
● Participate in stocking programs through wholesalers
● Drive attention to your books through articles and reviews
You should first determine which wholesaler you would like to contact. Some of the top library suppliers in the UK are Askews & Holts, Bertrams Library Services, Dawson Books, Kent Book Company, Peters, and Proquest.
Next, start the application process by researching their website and finding out what kind of material they require, as all are different (some might require two copies of a finished book, others need a mail-in application, etc.). Do not approach a wholesaler without knowing what they require in their application package.
Book distributor expert Amy Collins says “The KEY to getting into the wholesalers is showing them that you will be working to create demand at the library level so that they will get orders... Having a good (or great) book is not enough. You have to rise above the thousands of other authors and publishers seeking a spot in those same warehouse shelves. The way to do that is to create demand.”
There is no one set way to approach librarians, but the most common and preferred way is through email, particularly for the initial contact. Instead of emailing the entire staff hoping to find the right person, look specifically for the acquisition librarian’s contact information. You can often find it online or by calling the library and requesting the information. Make sure you keep the email short and focused on the library’s goals and needs, not your own.
It will take work and research on your part, but getting your books into libraries will be a great step towards increasing your book’s exposure. Don’t be overwhelmed by the task, the end results will be worth it — you might just make it closer to you success dream.
Karol Owens is a writer for Reedsy, the world's largest marketplace of professional editors, book designers and ghostwriters. She also curates a series of free webinars and online courses designed to teach writers how to create and publish better books.