The library is a small publisher’s (and self publisher’s) best friend

John Yunker

Playwright, author of the environmental novel The Tourist Trail and co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

Latest posts by John Yunker (see all)

The Independent Book Publishers Association (of which we are members) recently held a conference down in the Bay Area. We weren’t able to attend, but we did discover a recording of an excellent session on how to market your books to libraries.

Here is the recording.

The session is an hour long, but it’s well worth the listen if you’re an author or a small publisher.

And if you don’t have the time, here are some key takeaways:

  1. The local library is a local author’s best friend. Libraries go out of their way to stock works by local authors (provided they have the shelf space). And they genuinely want to hear from local authors (not just their publishers). If you’re an author, don’t be shy about sending an email or dropping off a review copy. But be sure to emphasize your local connection. Better yet, suggest a speaking event. Perhaps you wrote a murder mystery that takes place in Yellowstone National Park and you’ve become an expert on the area and even visited a few times. You could suggest a talk on the area and the stories that the region has inspired (including yours). Or consider proposing collaborative events with authors who have written related works — in topic or in genre.
  2. Libraries are eager to purchase ebooks but are frustrated by the sky-high prices major publishers are asking these days. As one of the speakers asked: $80 for one book? That’s right. But the good news is that  libraries are open to ebooks from smaller publishers and from self-published authors.
  3. That said, keep in mind that libraries don’t generally “stock” their own ebooks. That is, they need some type of software platform that can store the books and serve them directly to patrons through their Kindles, Nooks, etc. So don’t approach a library offering your ebook for sale; instead approach the platform provider.
  4. OverDrive is the dominant ebook platform used by libraries, so if you want to get your ebook into libraries you’ll probably need to connect with OverDrive. Ebrary is another platform. And then there is the very intriguing Open Library platform supported by the fine folks at the Internet Archive. If this all sounds a bit confusing, that’s because it is a bit confusing. But I do see opportunities for small publishers and self-published authors to find their way onto those ebookshelves.
  5. Authors should also consider trying to get their books into universities via “first-year experience” programs. These are programs for incoming freshmen, and they often include recommended books. It’s a long shot for smaller publishers and lesser-known authors, but definitely a shot worth taking — most first-year titles recommended by faculty members, so a good way to start is to talk up your book and what students can learn from it to instructors you know.
  6. Finally, don’t overlook the importance of reviews. Booklist was cited as one of the more popular magazines read by libraries, and we submit all our books to them (Out of Breath received a very nice Booklist review, and this is one reason the book has been so popular with libraries).

Here at Ashland Creek Press, we love libraries and have been very successful getting books and authors placed throughout the state of Oregon. And keep in mind that you don’t have to be local to be interesting to a library: Two of our authors, both from out of state, will be speaking at Oregon libraries this summer: John Wood will be talking about his novel, The Names of Things, at the public libraries in Eugene and Ashland, and Cher Fischer will also appear at both libraries to discuss her eco-mystery, Falling Into Green.

 

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Playwright, author of the environmental novel The Tourist Trail and co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

Latest posts by John Yunker (see all)