7 Secrets to Getting into Libraries

by | Aug 6, 2010 | Book Marketing Basics

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In an economically challenged climate guess what starts to soar? Libraries. The library market is strong and getting stronger. If you haven’t made libraries part of your target market you should. And despite all the book buzz online, it’s still nice to get your book onto a library shelf. For most of us, this seems like an exclusive right devoted to an exclusive group of best-selling authors. While some piece of this is true, the reality is that if you have a good book, you can get into the library system. Here’s how.

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 03:  A library patron does ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

First, why would you care about hitting the library market? Because in a slow book sales season, as we’ve seen in the past few months, libraries are a great way to get to your reader.

1. What they buy: Each library gets a budget and they can spend it any way they want. Unlike Barnes and Noble, where their book purchases are often dictated by publishers or a sales order from their corporate office, libraries operate independently of each other. Libraries will generally buy hardback and trade books and tend to shy away from mass market paperbacks, but if you’re in the latter category, don’t let this deter you. There’s still a lot of wiggle room when it comes to library orders and a few creative ways to get into their system.

2. Getting to know your local library: If you want to get into your local library it’s important to get to know them, so dust off your library card, stop by and introduce yourself. Get to know who you’re selling to.

3. Library websites: If your local library has a website, see if there’s a place to make book recommendations. If you have local fans, encourage them to do the same on their library websites.

Bibliographies at the University Library of Graz
Image via Wikipedia

4. Library events: If you’ve been trying to get into your local bookstore to do an event but haven’t gotten much traction, why not consider doing a library event (or two)? It’s a great way to get “into” your local library, become acquainted with them, meet your local readers, and well, you know – get more exposure for your book. Many libraries also have reading groups that you might be able to participate in.

5. Reviews: Most libraries look to review sources for their selections as well. Consider submitting your book to the following publications for review: Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Forecast. These publications are largely read by libraries and often librarians will buy based on a good review in one of these publications. You don’t need to get reviews in all of them (though wouldn’t that be great?) – getting a review in one of them should be more than sufficient to catch the eye of a ready-to-buy librarian.

6. Popularity: Librarians like to stock what’s popular, even locally. So if you’re doing a lot of local events, talks, or speaking gigs, make sure and let your local libraries know. Also, if you’re going to do TV or radio be sure and alert your library, thus giving them sufficient time to order the book.

7. Distribution: It’s important to know how libraries get the titles they stock. First off you’ll need to get the right distributor for your book. Both Quality Books and Unique Books have programs that can help you access the library market.

O'Fallon Public Library
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Quality Books Inc.: http://www.quality-books.com/

Unique Books Inc.: http://www.uniquebooksinc.com/

Baker & Taylor:  http://www.baker-taylor.com/ (technically they are a wholesaler but they can also help you access the library market)

There’s also a nifty little site that will help you locate libraries in your neighborhood and around the world: http://www.libdex.com (libraries worldwide).

Libraries might not seem as “glamorous” as the store window of Barnes and Noble, but libraries have considerably more staying power. Once your book is in their system it’s in there for as long as your book is in print and the library sees there are readers for it. Also, consider the reorders as your local library will (hopefully) bring in more than one copy. Libraries are a not-to-be-overlooked part of your marketing campaign, and if you missed the review window, don’t fret. You might still be able to gain some interest via events and local popularity!

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1 Comment

  1. Terry Odell

    As an author with a publisher that targets the library market, there’s a little more to it. First, most libraries buy based on reviews by places like Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal–the major reviewers. Often they won’t consider a book if it hasn’t been reviewed by one of these — and that includes your very own local library system. (speaking from experience here). Even though you’ve done programs for them. Donating a copy of your book usually means it’ll end up on the dollar sale table–it costs them money to add a book to their collection.

    Not to say it’s not smart to do all of the steps you’ve outlined above–it’s just not going to work all the time.



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