One of the most frequent questions I get from authors I meet at writing conferences is “How do I get my book into libraries?” So I recently posed this same question to my friend and Ingram colleague Joyce Skokut, Director of Library Collection Development, who had just returned from the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in Orlando. Joyce graciously met with the IngramSpark team to offer some insights and sage advice for indie authors on how best to get their book onto library shelves.
Understanding How Libraries Purchase
First, it helps to understand how libraries are organized and how they make their purchasing decisions. America's 123,000 libraries fall into four basic types: Public, School, Academic, and Special (armed forces, government, corporate and private/member-supported). Like bookstores, most libraries purchase content from book vendors like Ingram or Baker and Taylor rather than directly from publishers. So right off the bat, if your book isn’t in a library vendor catalog, you are behind the eight ball.
Vendors work with libraries to create profiles that fit the type of content the library wants in its collection. For instance, many public libraries in the past have expressly denied self-published content for their collection. Academic libraries, on the other hand, have been a bit more relaxed on this stance, especially if the book is on a subject that is trending in pop culture or represents the scholarship being studied on its campus. Even though the self-publishing stigma is improving in the library world, it can still be a challenge today to bring your indie title to a librarian’s attention.
For both public and academic libraries, decisions to purchase are typically based on professional reviews that librarians recognize and value. So getting a positive review in a publication that both vendors and libraries recognize is really critical to getting your book considered by libraries. Joyce provided us with a list of the top library review media, their audience and circulation as well as a link to their sites, so you can see their submission guidelines if you’re interested in submitting your forthcoming book for review. Keep in mind that many of these publications require submission prior to publication.
Booklist: Adult and Youth
- Circulation – 80,000 print; 160,000 online
Library Journal: Adult
- Circulation: 100,000
Library Journal Self-e program: Adult and Youth self-published eBooks
Publishers Weekly and PW Children’s: Adult and Youth
- Circulation: 25,000.
School Library Journal: Youth titles
- Circulation – 33,000 print; 44,000 online
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA): Young Adult
- Circulation – 7,000
Choice Magazine: Academic
- Circulation: 22,000 librarians and faculty
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books: Youth
- Circulation – 2,000
Horn Book: Youth
- Circulation – 13,000
Kirkus Reviews: Adult and Youth
- Circulation – 3,000 print
Libraries are Sticklers for Good Metadata
Just as I’ve been pounding the drum in my BookWorks posts on good book metadata in selling to bookstores, Joyce said that librarians are just as demanding. Here are the must-haves for your book to even be considered for purchase by a library:
- A good cover image is essential
- Accurate BISAC or subject codes—three are better than one
- A complete description that is well written
- Accurate age range (intended audience based on comprehension level)
- Regional information—is the book about xx place or is the author from xx place?
- Author affiliations are particularly important in the academic world—if a professor at University X writes a book, chances are high that it will get a course adoption or at least that the library will purchase a few copies. Many library profiles feature an inclusion list of affiliated authors which is generally a mixture of authors who are current or past faculty members, or who write about a certain place.
1st Annual Indie Author Day - Oct. 8
Like bookstores, many public and even academic libraries now offer writing and publishing workshops to their local community of writers and students. If your local library offers such a program, this would be a great opportunity for you to take part and learn what librarians know about publishing. Ideally, you should be both a patron of your local library as well as a customer of your local bookstore prior to publishing your first book. If you’re not already, consider joining your library’s friend’s group and volunteering. If your library doesn’t offer writing workshops, you might suggest that they take part in the first annual Indie Author Day. This event, taking place on October 8, 2016, is made possible by partners including BiblioLabs/Biblioboard, Library Journal/Self-e, BookWorks, IngramSpark, and more. On this day, libraries from all over North America will host their own local author events featuring Q&A with writers, agents, and other industry leaders. To learn more go to http://indieauthorday.com/partners/.
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