/ FriesenPress “Get my book into my local library” is on many authors’ bucket lists — and for good reason! Not only is it rewarding to give back to a library that has, in many cases, enriched your life, but being part of a curated collection elevates your work beyond the traditional bookstore. With library use continuing to stay robust (even among younger generations), that added exposure is valuable. Self-published authors may feel that they’re a longshot for inclusion in their local library, where there may be intense demand for the collections managers’ attention. But the truth is that promoting local authors is part of many libraries’ mandates. While you may not necessarily have the same brand power of the hot new title coming out of the traditional system, a little knowledge, determination, and personalization can make your book just as appealing. With that: here are 3 simple steps for getting your self-published book into libraries. road2.jpg FriesenPress publishing paths include the team and services you need to professionally publish your own paperbacks, hardcovers, and eBooks.

1. Do Your Homework

The first stop on the path toward library inclusion is your local library’s website. In Google, search “name of library self-published book submission guidelines” — one of the top results is bound to inform you about exactly what’s required to get your book into your library’s esteemed stacks. You can expect to find submission criteria, unique restrictions, and how-to process information (including how long it will take to be accepted by them). If these details aren’t publicly available on your local library’s website, connect by phone and politely ask them the best way of going about getting your book included. If appropriate, you can ask for the name of the head librarian or collections manager for the department in which your book belongs (for example: the principle point of contact for children’s books). This can help you add a personal touch when it’s time to actually submit your book.

2. Ensure Librarians Can Easily Purchase Your Book

As a self-published author, you’ll be the one doing all the legwork on submitting your book for your library’s consideration. But it’s highly unlikely that your library will buy the book from you directly. In fact, expecting your library to purchase from you instead of a wholesaler may negatively impact your chances of being included. Instead, librarians often prefer to order books from a reputable wholesaler like Ingram or Baker & Taylor. This both eliminates the extra step of back and forth coordination with the author, but it also ensures that the buyer knows the book will be of a reliable and high printing quality. You want to make the process of acquiring your book as easy for the buyer as possible, so make sure your book is actively in distribution.

3. Prepare a Professional-Grade Sell Sheet

promotions.png Get the word out: FriesenPress offers many à la carte marketing and promotion options to help you successfully market both your book and yourself as an author. We’re huge proponents of the sell sheet here at FriesenPress — in fact, we assist our authors with the creation of sell sheets on the daily. In addition to being a must-have for pitching your book to bookstores, its utility in submitting your book to libraries is another reason why we’re such big fans. An effective sell sheet will tell a book buyer (at a store or a library) everything they need to know about ordering your book and why they should do so. It should incorporate the following elements:

  • Your book’s cover and title;
  • Available formats (paperback, hardcover, and/or eBook);
  • International Standard Book Numbers (or ISBNs);
  • Price and ordering information;
  • A brief description of your book and your audience
  • Significant blurbs, reviews, or awards;
  • Also include a note about why your book will appeal to library goers.

(A brief aside: positive reviews from unbiased sources are book marketing gold and one of the best ways to grab a buyer’s attention. A glowing pull-quote from your local paper or a trusted source can do wonders to influence the perception of your work. Positive Amazon and Goodreads ratings are slightly less appealing — unless the quantity of reviews is high. For example: if you’ve earned a 4.6 rating across 25 reviews on Goodreads, include that metric.) Having done additional research as part of Step 1, all the required information can be sent in a nicely formatted email (if your library accepts online applications). Otherwise, we recommend designing a one-page sell sheet to provide to the librarian in person. Don’t include a physical copy of your book with your submission — as a general rule, this is frowned-upon. A robust sell sheet is your most formidable tool for being included in your library’s collection, so focus your efforts here. Having followed these steps and hit “Send” on a great email, now what? Aside from letting the library’s review process take its course, here are a few options to consider: midsize+FriesenPress+Team.jpg FriesenPress is the largest publishing services provider in Canada. Our team of employee-owners has proudly partnered with thousands of authors on publishing over 7,000 book titles since 2009.

  • If you haven’t heard back within the timeframe on their website, politely and professionally reach out to inquire on the status of your submission;
  • Inquire about running an event at the library. Events like readings or book signings show that you’re engaged and serious about giving back to the community. Not only do you gain extra exposure, you’re making it easier for the library to program content for the community.
  • Ask a few friends and family to call the library and ask if them if your book will be available soon;
  • Check to see if your library has a separate acquisition program for self-published eBooks. Unlike physical books, digital shelf space is infinite, which may make your path toward library inclusion easier.

When your book is included, celebrate! And keep the momentum rolling by applying to other libraries in your area. Be sure to note that you’ve been accepted by Library X in your subsequent sell sheets. Once you’ve been acquired by one library, others are more likely to follow. If your book ultimately isn’t chosen, don’t take it personally. Some libraries are more challenging to break into than others, so take what you’ve learned and try again elsewhere. And also check to see if they accept book donations. Your readers are out there, and any opportunity that allows someone to discover your book is worth pursuing. The more places your book is available, the more likely it is you’ll find your audience.

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By Laurie Miller MYTH: Libraries don’t purchase books from self-published authors. FACT: In a 2016 survey conducted by US-based library service New Shelves Books, a whopping 92% of librarians reported that they regularly purchase titles from self-published authors. PLUS: A search of the WorldCat catalogue reveals books self-published with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Smashwords, Ingram Lightning Source, and IngramSpark are ALL available in libraries. Clearly, librarians are buying self-published books that fit their acquisitions guidelines! When we take a closer look at the types of self-published books libraries acquire, we see that the demand for eBooks outpaces the demand for print. There are several reasons for this. The first is that is there are fewer wholesale print book distributors overall. Fewer wholesalers serving libraries means it’s harder for self-published authors to get print books into libraries. It’s far more competitive. Another factor is that the Big Five trade-publishers have not exactly embraced eBook lending in libraries, and for many years held them back over fears about the ease of copying and piracy. Though the big trade publishes are now warming up to eBook lending, there is still plenty of room for self-published books in libraries. So, How Do Libraries Buy Self-Published Books? Libraries don’t usually buy directly from publishers or authors, but from book distributors. Indie authors can use platforms like Smashwords, PublishDrive, or Draft2Digital to list their books with the major distributors that most libraries use. According to the Alliance of Independent Authors, here are the most library-friendly platforms (with global reach ) which you can access directly as a self-publishing author: Draft2Digital, distributing ebooks via partnerships with Overdrive and Hoopla.
Findaway Voices, distributing audiobooks to retail and library distribution partners globally. IngramSpark distributes to more than 39,000 retailers and libraries for print and ebooks.
Kobo Writing Life is a sister company to OverDrive, the largest distributor of ebooks to libraries. Self-e Library Journal, offering access mainly to US libraries, via its PatronsFirst delivery platform. **The above list is not exhaustive, and each platform has its own unique sets of pros and cons, so please research thoroughly before committing! And remember, when listing your book with a distributor it’s important to have good metadata — that’s BISAC code, categories, and keywords. Book distributors will send a metadata feed to their distribution partners. A librarian can search for your book and see its metadata. Good, solid metadata is crucial to your book’s discovery in the library distribution system, so make sure yours is the best it can be and describes your book’s unique attributes. Though book distributors are the main method libraries use to purchase self-published books, they are not the only way. Good old-fashioned hand selling works as well. So, you may want to dust off your library card, stop by, and introduce yourself at your local library. But do your homework first. Librarians will only purchase your book if they believe it’s something their readers will want to read. Before you make an approach, create an information sheet that makes clear to whom your book is directed and list comparable titles. Make sure it has a branded professional look and feel, and contains all the information a librarian needs to make a purchase decision: Book Title and Subtitle Author Name Genre
ISBN Pages
Contact Info
Book Blurb
Cover Art
About the Author Marketing Approach REVIEWS Librarians generally rely on vendor lists, where self-published authors rarely appear, or on pre-publication book reviews in trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly (USA) and the Bookseller (UK), or specific library trade magazines like Library Journal, Booklist, Choice, and Forecast. If you’ve garnered lots of positive reviews for your book, pointing to published consumer and editorial reviews on your sell sheet will increase your credibility as an author. School Library Journal, which specializes in children’s and YA books is a great place to start. There are also review magazines, online and print, that are specific to genres, such as RT Book Review (romance) and Locus Magazine (science fiction and fantasy). The librarian who is specifically interested in indie books may consult IndieReader. Kirkus and PW Select allow self-publishing authors to pay for a review. This fee doesn’t guarantee a good review, however, and neither is it cheap. An alternative to reviews is to run events and build local popularity. If your content has a local link, then definitely use that as a way to garner interest. Also, if you’re doing any local events, talks, or have some press, TV, or radio coverage coming up, let your local libraries know. Volunteer Orgs, Associations, Local Businesses Another option is to consider approaching volunteer organizations and local businesses as another means of getting your books into a library. Let’s say you had a children’s book about rescue dogs. Go to one or more local veterinarians and talk to them about buying ten copies of your book at a 40 percent discount. The vet could affix a sticker inside the front saying, “Donated by Dr. Vet” and then give those ten books to the local library. When libraries receive books this way – donated by a local business – they aren’t as quick to sell them or take them out of circulation. How You’ll Get Paid When you do get your book into one or more libraries, you’ll get paid through one of two models. OC/OU and CPC. OC/OU is “one copy, one user” and is the standard library model. Libraries purchase a single copy and can loan it to one library patron at a time. This model often applies to eBooks as well. When one person has your eBook checked out, no one else can “borrow” the book until the first person has “returned” the digital book. If a library wants to be able to loan the eBook to more than one person at a time, they’ll have to “purchase” another “copy.” Payment to authors under the OC/OU model is usually three times the list (retail) price, however it will be a single payment at the time the library purchases your title. CPC stands for “cost per checkout.” This is sometimes referred to as “simultaneous use” and it means libraries can loan the digital book product (eBook or audio) to many readers at the same time. Payment to authors under this model is 1/10th the list price per loan. So, your payments will be smaller per reader, but there is the potential for payment with each reader. This model also promises greater exposure for your book, simply because more readers at a time means more people talking and recommending your book to others. As you can see, it pays to get your self-published book into libraries. And once it’s there, the benefits only increase. Just like a clerk in a bookstore, librarians are effectively hand selling books. And they not only help patrons find suitable books, they also discuss with each other what they are reading, and therefore books they read and recommend circulate more.

  1. https://blog.reedsy.com/libraries-self-publishing-authors/
  2. https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Ultimate-Short-Guide-Your-Book-in-Libraries.pdf

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.

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 Image: author reading at children's library Today’s post is by debut children’s author Ilham Alam (@IlhamAl50397575), whose rhyming picture book, Wonder Walk, is available now. I’ve long dreamed of getting my book into the public libraries at home, in Canada. But because I published with a hybrid press for my debut children’s picture book, I had to do the work of getting the book into libraries myself. With trial and error, I’ve identified six steps that have helped my book enter library circulation, even though I did not have the might of a traditional publisher’s marketing team, agent, or PR team. While this worked for library systems in Ontario, Canada, the same steps should work for any local library system. I’m also sharing the template I used to approach libraries.

1. Research, research, research.

Look at the public library’s website to find out whether they have a system for accepting self-published books into circulation. Or you can contact the head librarian or the procurement librarian for the specific department that corresponds to your book genre. For example, I always looked for the head children’s librarian of the system that I was reaching out to.

2. Nice people finish first.

Whether you approach via phone, email or in-person, always remember to be polite and approachable. When you find out the name of the relevant person to contact, address them personally and show you care.

3. Create a sell sheet.

Prepare a basic sell sheet including your book’s cover, title, the publisher, available formats and ISBNs, pricing, a brief description of the book, why it will appeal to library patrons, significant blurbs or awards, and how it can be ordered. This information can be incorporated into an email, or it can be designed and printed as a one-page shell sheet that you can take with you if meeting librarians in person.

4. Show off (persuade) a little.

If you pitch the library via email, definitely include links to your profile on your publisher’s website (if there is one), your own author website or blog, and your social media channels. For easy reference, on a single page of your website, compile your review links, pictures of your book’s cover, social media links, and photos of any author events you’ve done. Then link to this in your pitch email. In your pitch, mention other libraries that have already bought your book, if any, as that helps validate the quality and desirability of your book.

5. Ensure your book is available from library wholesalers.

This makes the difference between your book getting accepted or rejected. And I found this out the hard way! Ensure that your book is available through Baker & Taylor (US and Canada), WhiteHots (Canada) and Library Services Center (Canada). Libraries can then easily find your book and buy it from these wholesalers.

6. Offer to do an event.

Let libraries know that you are happy to come in and do author readings and book signings. It’s a win-win: you get more exposure and the library gets to have programming for their community members. This is especially helpful for smaller libraries. To do this, however, you must do your part to promote your appearances, as you want to ensure there is good attendance at your author reading.

Librarian pitch template

Hello [Name of Librarian], I hope that this email finds you well. I’m a Canadian author of children’s books from nearby Toronto. My debut picture book, Wonder Walk, has been released by Iguana Books and is available through library distributors such as Library Services Centre, WhiteHots and Baker & Taylor. Written in rhyming verse, Wonder Walk is perfect for pre-schoolers and celebrates the parent-child relationship, when the insatiably curious Johnny asks his mom endless questions about the cuddly cuddle-bug and the curt red bird, and all the other natural wonders that he sees. Beagles and Books wrote, “With big, bold illustrations and concise, rhyming text, Wonder Walk is a story that young children will enjoy and may prompt families to take their own walk together to observe nature and ask questions.” Libraries in the Durham region such as in Whitby and Clarington have added Wonder Walk to their children’s collections. I was hoping that Blue Mountain Public Libraries would be interested in adding Wonder Walk to their collections as well. Here’s more information about Wonder Walk at Iguana Books: [web address]
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1771803236 ($25.99)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1771803076 ($9.99) Moreover, here is a link to my author website, Story Mummy, which includes more reviews for Wonder Walk: [web address] Thank you, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

For more insight

  • Getting Self-Published Books Into Libraries
  • Public Libraries: How Author Can Increase Both Discoverability and Earnings

Ilham Alam Ilham Alam is a debut Canadian children’s author of the rhyming picture book, Wonder Walk. She lives with her kids, her husband and a twenty-pound kitty named Beauty (who owns them all), in a house that’s booby-trapped with Lego. While her own name means “inspiration” in Arabic, her crazy family is the inspiration for her storytelling. Find out more at her website.

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