—Guest Post by Emilie Hancock of BiblioLabs—
So, you’re an indie author who has just published her first book. Congratulations! Now it’s time to build your fanbase—a task easier said than done. Thanks to advances in self-publishing software that simplify the process of creating a book, your opus is forced to compete with those from countless other independent writers—to say nothing of the deluge of bestselling books churned out annually by big five publishing houses. That's where SELF-e comes in...read on.
Sure, you know there are steps you can take to maximize your book’s exposure: make it available on eReaders, make informed marketing decisions, stay active in both the reading and writing communities. But did you know your local library can help with each of these? If you’ve been neglecting it as a resource to reach new readers, it’s time to show your library some love.
Thanks to a partnership between Library Journal and the mobile library app BiblioBoard, SELF-e transforms libraries into indie authors’ one-stop shops for eBook discoverability. Whether you’ve just published your first book or are a seasoned pro, SELF-e helps you build your readership from the ground up at no cost.
How Does SELF-e Work?
If an author has yet to turn their manuscript into an eBook file, SELF-e can help with its in-house publishing software. A partnership between Pressbooks and SELF-e, Pressbooks Public allows authors to turn their manuscripts into sleek, professional eBooks or print on demand books. With its multitude of font and formatting options that change with the click of a button, authors can customize their books’ appearances.
Once an author has a PDF or ePUB file, they can submit it to SELF-e. Authors who used Pressbooks Public to create their files can add their book automatically. Even if a file was created outside of Pressbooks Public, submitting it is still fast and easy. The process is free, can be done from anywhere with an internet connection, and takes five to ten minutes.
When the process is complete, that author’s eBook joins others that have been self-published by writers across the same U.S. state, Canadian province or international region, where they are available to patrons at participating libraries in the area to read whenever/wherever—no checkouts, no waits, no returns.
While joining a regional collection happens within a few days, each eBook also automatically qualifies to be reviewed by Library Journal. If it's deemed to be of exceptional quality, it is chosen as a SELF-e Select book and joins an internationally-available, genre-based collection (SELF-e Select Romance, for example).
Connecting Locally Offline
While sharing your eBook with library patrons across your region—or, potentially, internationally—is a solid first step towards increasing discoverability, SELF-e takes the author-reader connection even further. SELF-e stands out in the support it provides libraries and authors who are interested in working together for events. A book-related program idea increases value to readers, librarians, and the author. For example, an author who submits a science fiction eBook to SELF-e could offer to participate in a themed reading or conduct a science fiction writing workshop. Not only do in-person activities help librarians and readers identify authors, they’re a great way to network with other local writers and form stronger relationships with new and existing fans.
Developing a Marketing Plan
SELF-e also benefits authors by providing them with tools that help sharpen their marketing. Studies show that library patrons are likely to purchase books by authors they discovered in the library. With that in mind, SELF-e includes a “Buy in Print” button next to each book that allows readers to purchase a book directly.
Additionally, SELF-e Analytics, set to launch in the summer of 2017, will allow authors to request free reports about their usage data, which will include key components like the number of times, when, and where an eBook is viewed. Using these metrics, authors can develop targeted marketing plans.
Gaining International Recognition
In addition to finding new readers through libraries in your region — and, in the case of SELF-e Select authors, internationally—SELF-e currently organizes two annual literary contests. One is for the Library Journal Indie Ebook Awards, which promises cash prizes, print reviews and public recognition from Library Journal to winners in each of five genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Young Adult Fiction.
The other is conducted in partnership with the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), and is for the BCALA Self-Publishing Literary Awards, which are given in Poetry and Fiction. The awards honor literature written by African American indie authors and guarantee cash prizes and public recognition.
An Alternative Path to Traditional Publishing
People choose to write and publish for an array of reasons, including as a personal goal or a means to share professional expertise. Frequently, authors self-publish in hopes of securing a traditional publishing contract. For these authors, SELF-e can be a way to gauge progress on this path. Having a book chosen as a SELF-e Select title, winning SELF-e’s literary contest awards and having high usage can be indicative of success in traditional markets.
Consider Baltimore-based indie author L. Penelope. She submitted her eBook Song of Blood and Stone to SELF-e, where it went on to be chosen as a SELF-e Select book. Shortly afterward, it won the BCALA Self-Publishing Literary Awards in the Fiction category. Since then, she has been a featured speaker at both local and international author events like the first Indie Author Day, which took place in 2016, and the first Digital Book World Indie Author Conference, which was in January of this year. Just as her indie success seemed to be coming to a peak, she announced early this year that she accepted a publishing contract with St. Martin’s Press.
While Penelope has embraced traditional publishing, she has claimed a new status: hybrid author—that is, one who publishes both traditionally and independently. Since announcing her new publishing contract, she has submitted her newest self-published books, Angelborn and Angelfall, to SELF-e, where patrons at participating libraries can read them whenever and wherever for free.
To learn more about SELF-e, visit self-e.libraryjournal.com/
Emilie Hancock is a Content and Media Editor at BiblioLabs, the creators of BiblioBoard, the PatronsFirst™ digital library that partners with Library Journal for the SELF-e program. She is also the founder of Books Unbound, a literacy program for incarcerated teens in South Carolina. She lives with her husband and their two bossy dogs and is a patron of the Charleston County Public Library.
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