How to sell more books to libraries

Last fall, author and librarian Shelley Walchak, Patricia Ross of Hugo House Publishing, and I presented at the Colorado Association of Libraries conference in Loveland, CO. Our topic was The Self Publishing Movement: What it Means to Libraries.

We invited the audience (all librarians) to tell us what some of their reasons were for not buying indie or self published books as part of their library collections.

Here’s a few of the reasons they gave:

• Perceived lack of quality of self published books
• Takes too long to research the titles
• Lack of reviews in trade pubs
• Annoyance at being bombarded by friends/family requesting the book
• Too difficult to buy it

These are all perfectly good reasons. I read the same reasons in a lot of online research I did while I was preparing for the presentation. Libraries are a special market that a lot of self published authors and small publishers have had difficulty in cracking. Fortunately, a lot of these obstacles have solutions.

If you want to sell your book to libraries, you have to fulfill librarians’ requirements.

• First of all you need to produce a good book. I’ve seen some gorgeous, fantastic self published books in the 10 years I’ve been working with authors. I’ve also seen some embarrassing crap. Make sure yours in the former by hiring professionals to edit and produce your book.

• Get trade reviews in the publications librarians read. This has become a lot easier since Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Foreward Magazine all have review services for self published books. Yes, these are paid services. Yes, it is worth having a trade review or two for libraries and also to use on your website, social media and Amazon sales page. Don’t forget CIPA members Blue Ink Review as well. They also have a subscription service for libraries and booksellers.

• Don’t send an army of friends in to request your book. Librarians are a smart bunch. They know when they get an army of people requesting a book that they’ve never heard of that there’s something going on. You’re not fooling them at all. ‘nuf said.

• Have an easy way for libraries to buy your book. If you’re going to make a big push for library sales get a distributor or wholesaler who sells to libraries. Though many libraries will buy directly from you or from Amazon. Make your book visible and have a few ways they can buy.

• Lastly, have a marketing plan. Libraries only have so much space for books. For that reason, they are always weeding their collection of books that aren’t being checked out. If you want your book to stay in a library after they buy it, you must continue to market it so people want to check it out.

Libraries are a terrific place to sell your book. Follow these tips and also take a few minutes to talk to the hard-working librarians behind the reference desk to get their ideas.