As readers, we grew up with libraries but many indie authors struggle to get their self-published books into libraries, even though they are crying out for more content at lower prices because of funding cuts.
In this article, Rachel Amphlett shares how she is able to get her books into libraries in Australia, which contributes to her bottom line as well as being fantastic for readers and the libraries themselves.
As author-entrepreneurs, it’s imperative that we eke out as much as possible from the effort we put into our writing.
Whether this is by way of different formats we publish by way of eBooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks, or seeking opportunities for foreign licensing of our work, the more we can squeeze from one product (a book), the better the “long-tail” strategy for our business.
It often surprises me that there is a key business tactic often overlooked by indie authors, and I think it’s partly because we forget that we don’t have to restrict ourselves to the digital space that has afforded us so many opportunities to date.
So, let’s delve in and take a look at the sort of opportunities libraries can provide.
Step 1: Are your books professional enough?
Before you make a start with this aspect of your writing business, check you’ve got the following:
- A professional-looking cover
- An ISBN number that you own, not a free one from your print-on-demand distributor
- Your books are available for order through an expanded distribution list that includes Ingram
- A one-page overview of your book, including the cover, blurb, ISBN numbers for every available format, and contact details for you. If you’re pitching to libraries in your own country, include your phone number (and make sure your voicemail message sounds professional).
Step 2: Find Library Distributors
Next, do a Google search for “library distributors” in your country of choice. Some of these will have contact pages that you can reach them through and others may have direct email addresses.
[Note from Joanna: Hopefully authors will be able to distribute to some libraries through OverDrive in 2017. It's one of Kobo's sister companies, bought by their parent company, Rakuten, in March 2015.]
Once you have all of that organized, it’s time to start making some phone calls or, if you prefer, send some emails.
Sample Email to a Library
Here’s an example of the sort of approach I’ve used with great effect when pitching to libraries via email:
“I hope you don’t mind my writing out of the blue, but I’m seeking major library suppliers to work with to reach more readers in [insert country].
I have a very loyal following of readers that purchase books (both eBook and paperback formats) in [country], but given that the demographics of my audience suggest that many of my readers might prefer to borrow books from established libraries instead of buying, I wondered if it would be possible to work with [insert name of library distributor or library] to leverage your reach in these markets.
[At the time of writing, my current backlist includes a short story and four full-length novels in an espionage thriller series, the first in a new crime thriller series, and three standalone titles. In addition, all my eBook titles are available through Overdrive.]
If you're able to assist me with these endeavors, I'd be delighted to hear from you. In the meantime, I attach all the information on each of my publications for your ease of reference.
Thanks for taking the time to read my email, and I very much look forward to working with you.”
You get the idea. As well as the above, I’ll include the one-pager about each of my books, and a couple of sentences about any major writing achievements.
More often than not, I’ll receive an email within a day or so.
With my Canadian and Australian distributors, I’ve now established a working relationship that ensures each time I send them a one-pager about a new release of mine, they order stock because they know there’s going to be a demand.
An added bonus is that these orders more than compensate me for the cost of producing the new title in the first place – and that includes the editing and cover design costs!
Most recently, I’ve corresponded with a reader of mine in New York state whose library couldn’t source my books – we’re still working on a long-term solution, but in the meantime they’ve undertaken to purchase the books through Amazon as a compromise to put on their shelves and keep their patrons happy.
I’m also lucky enough to have librarians as mailing list subscribers, so they’re often emailing me the moment they see a cover reveal to find out when they can stock the books, and this in turn, has led to inter-state events during the course of next year.
If you have produced your own audiobooks, rather than using an aggregator such as ACX, do remember that there are separate distributors for these to libraries as well.
In closing, if you get stuck with your research, then contact your local library to ask them where they purchase their stock. They are usually more than happy to assist.
Throughout the past year, the UK press has been filled with stories about the sudden withdrawal of funding from public libraries, and I believe there has been a similar struggle in other countries.
In the meantime, we’ve got ample opportunity to encourage our own readers to support their local libraries and make sure that when they walk through those doors, our books are easily available to them.
Do you have any experience or questions about distributing to libraries? Please leave a comment or question below.