A question that keeps popping up around the Lulu community is “How do I get my book(s) into a library?” Libraries can provide a great way to reach new readers that, otherwise, may not find out about your books. There are a lot of perks to getting your work into the library system. You don’t really have to worry about maintaining inventory or making a huge sales pitch because libraries are in it to share knowledge and help educate people. Many libraries even highlight local authors or will host regular book events like fundraisers that accept donated books. That doesn’t mean that some of the same marketing rules don’t apply when approaching a library however. And there are a lot of misconceptions about the best ways to go about getting a library’s attention.
Quality – Give Them Something to Work With:
A quickly diminishing stereotype of self-published books is that they are of poor quality. Lulu works to erase all of the preconceptions about self-published titles and helps authors create quality products that can sit on a shelf next to any best-seller. As long as an author takes his or her time to create a professional book that is formatted and edited well, then there is no reason a Lulu book can’t make it into a library.
It is important to note that some libraries do prefer certain bindings and can be reluctant to stock others like comb bound and saddle stitched (stapled) books. If you’re thinking about pursuing library distribution, it might be a good idea to call ahead to see what their requirements for submittal are.
Donations – You Get What You Give:
Many authors starting out find themselves donating copies of their works to gain some initial traction. Libraries are typically not-for-profit organizations and many have to pay for the books they loan out. So when it comes to donations, libraries are no different than any organization, they like free stuff. Some libraries have a system in place for self-published donations and will provide you with information on how to donate copies of your work to a specific branch if you ask.
“I was able to get my book into [the library] by providing them with five copies” says L. Jones, a Lulu author. “In these tight budgetary times, they were happy to get it.”
Most libraries do reserve the right to do whatever they want to with your work however, such as selling copies at annual book fundraisers. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though and a lot can depend on how your work fits in with the scope of the library’s collection.
Reviews – A Few Choice Words:
An acquisition librarian is a person that purchases books for one or many branches of an acquisition library. One of the best methods for getting an acquisition librarian’s attention is to get your work reviewed in one of the pre-publication review magazines like Library Journal, CHOICE, or Booklist.
If you can’t land a review, there are also programs that will send a flyer or pamphlet about your book to various libraries, reviewers, and schools for a fee.
Requests – Ask and You Shall Receive:
One way that a lot of libraries find out about content is good old fashioned word of mouth. It’s the basic rule of supply and demand. Many libraries actually take reader requests very seriously and will pick up a book if they receive enough legitimate requests.
Try getting friends and family members to stop by their local libraries and request your book. But just like any form of marketing, don’t inundate librarians with email spam or fake requests for your book. They can tell what a legitimate request is and you risk offending them if you waste their time. Local book clubs and book organizations can help request copies of your work also.
If you have any friends that are involved in academics at a local college or university, that can be a big bonus. Some libraries will take direct requests from academic staff and won’t even bother with reviews because they consider faculty members to be the experts in their fields and trust their judgement on whatever material they’re requesting.
Speaking Engagements – Help the Library Out:
One rule of marketing your book that I cannot stress enough is to build yourself up as a reputable source. It is only when people realize that you really know what you’re talking about that they’ll seek out your book to learn more. A great way to build a reputation is the become a part of the conversations going on about your given topic or genre.
What’s even better than being a part of the conversation is starting one of your own. Some libraries will let authors hold speaking engagements or at the very least rent out a room for a panel discussion. This places you and your book at the focal point of the conversation and brings in more potential readers for the library at the same time. The more willing you are to work with the library, the more they will want to help you and your work out.
Some authors believe that libraries won’t carry or even look at a self-published book. They absolutely will. But just like any distribution channel, agent, or business, you have to market yourself and your work in a professional manner. As long as you show a library you are willing to work with them and that you can provide a quality product that you truly think people would benefit from, they are likely to be receptive. Enthusiasm and professionalism can go a long way in sharing your remarkable works with the world – even if you’re sharing for free.