What Libraries Look For in a Self-Published Book

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

If you are looking for a new source of income from your book, you might want to consider libraries. Libraries in the US are experiencing a huge surge in foot traffic. Public librarians are seeing a lot more patrons and their checkout rates are skyrocketing. Need more good news? Their budgets are going up too. In many cities, the annual budget for libraries is increasing and libraries are opening new locations and reopening at historical rates.

For additional information about how indies get their books into libraries, click here.

With over 3 billion dollars a year being spent in US libraries (according to ALA Materials Survey released March 2016) on materials (read: books), it is time for you to spend some of your sales and marketing time presenting your book to librarians.

Before you pick up the phone or keyboard, you need to know one key piece of information: what libraries look for in a book.

#1 They want books that will appeal to their patrons.

The higher the checkout rate at a local library, the more successful the library is rated. Books that appeal to patrons mean higher checkout rates and the librarians are seen as successful and the libraries get to keep their budgets intact. 

#2 They want books that drive traffic into their libraries.

The more people that visit a library, the more needed the library is to the community. Budgets go up, more staff is needed, and everyone gets to keep their job and continue with their main goal which is…

#3 They want to be of service to their communities.

Librarians the world all over have one common characteristic...they want to be helpful. It is the main reason why they become librarians. So, if you (as an author) can be of help to their patrons, you should offer! Write an article for their newsletter, offer a workshop, host a club or event…

#4 They want to save time and look good to their bosses.

Librarians are just like the rest of us. They are overworked, busy, and want to go home at the end of every day knowing that they are well respected. If you can help the librarians order successful books quickly and easily, you are doing great. Do what you can to make a librarian’s job easier, and you will have a lot of sales.

#5 They want to work with authors that understand these first four goals.

If you approach librarians with a marketing plan that will drive traffic into their branch, and you can show them that your book will do well on their shelves; if you can offer them your book easily and through wholesalers that they already work with and can offer their patrons some added benefits….You are well on your way!

Materials librarians use to decide which books to buy  

  • a one page sales sheet with your book’s details and description
  • a one page sheet about the author that showcases what a great person you are
  • a marketing plan and outline showing all the ways you are going to promote the book
  • a list of things you are willing to do to help the library promote the book and your topic
  • Reviews from trusted sources

Now that you know what libraries look for in a book, create an email that focuses on the librarian's goals instead of on how great your book is. A proper attitude, the right tone, and the right materials will get you much further than your belief that your book should be a best-seller.

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Amy Collins

Amy Collins is the President of New Shelves Books, one of the best-known book sales and marketing agencies in the US. Amy is a trusted expert, speaker, and recommended sales consultant for some of the largest book and library retailers and wholesalers in the publishing industry. In the last 20 years, Amy and her team have sold over 40 million books into the bookstore, library, and chain store market for small and midsized publishers.