Thursday, September 14, 2023

How to get into libraries

I wrote a book. I want to be in libraries. 

Turns out, it's pretty hard, but definitely not impossible.

This post is based 100% on what seemed like a good idea at the time. Fortunately, it still is.

I published my first book, Wayward Guilt - Heroes of Grant's Crossing Book 1, in July. Since then, I've been trying to get my books into libraries and bookstores. It's REALLY slow going, but I'm okay with that. I work two other jobs outside of writing, so this process works a little bit at a time.

Am I in libraries? Yes. Am I in libraries in all 50 states and every province in Canada? Nope. Not even close. But I'm working on it. 

I'm based in the US, so everything below is from that vantage point. 

I started by attending a book festival at the main branch of my local library. Lots of suburban libraries were represented there as well. I had my proof copy on hand and a driving sense of curiosity, so I asked a lot of questions. So far, their advice has proven good!

Are you self-published? Do you want to get into libraries? This is long, but it may help.

Any questions? Please leave a comment below. I'm happy to help out as best I can.

The easy parts - make sure your book's available in the right places

1. Make your book available via Overdrive for digital. (Draft2Digital is an easy-to-use platform, so you can get it there. Overdrive for the US and Canada, but D2D can also distribute to Gardners, which gets you into Europe. For you, the author, you just need your ISBN, and you're set. Wisconsin Library Consortium (or something like that) found my book all on their own. Theirs was the first library I got into, and I was thrilled. You'll get a report for each month about 1-2 weeks into the next month that shows you who bought your book via Overdrive.

2. Make your book available via Ingram for print copies. It requires a different cover, and yes - it'll look weird - but get that, and you'll be set. Ingram Spark is quirky but not overly difficult to figure out. Again - get your ISBN# for the manuscript, upload it, wait for them to review it, and you'll be set. Ingram tells you sales numbers after each month, but not who bought it.

The hard parts - aka getting them to notice you

In general, libraries go to Overdrive and Ingram for their books. Getting them to know you exist? That's hard. Start local. 

I have a template letter that I send to libraries. Sometimes I can find an Email address, and sometimes, I have to fill out a form. Regardless, I have this info in my letter and can copy and paste as needed:

1. Title
2. Genre
3. Target audience
4. Cost of the book (print/paperback)
5. ISBN#s - you cannot use Amazon's ASIN, so get your own.
6. Add the blurb
7. Make sure they're aware it's available via both Ingram and Overdrive

Just be sure you're friendly, polite, and optimistic. This isn't a query letter, per se. It's a more informal version of that. Just stay professional.

This is where the legwork comes into play. It's tedious, it's time-consuming, but it's effective.

1. Start looking up websites, but start local since you already know where the libraries are. Look up your book. When you don't find it, you should find a link to "suggest or recommend" a purchase. Click that and start writing. If you don't find that, check the contact page and choose the one you think is most closely related to the job that procures books for the library. For local libraries, offer to donate a copy. I have two local libraries that took me up on that offer. Others bought it outright.

2. If you haven't already started a spreadsheet, start one now. I've included a screenshot of mine. Yes - it's color-coded, and yes, I have a lot more columns to the right. And finally - yes - I have a ton more shops and libraries listed below to which I plan to send more requests.
3. Non-local. I started by looking up the main library of all the state capitals and adding their websites to my spreadsheets. Then, I clicked on them one by one. I looked up my book, and when it wasn't there, I found the "suggest a purchase" link and filled it out. Or, in lieu of that as an option, I found an Email or even just a generic form - basically, anything I could use to communicate with them.


Note: Some libraries don't let you fill out a suggestion form unless you sign in with your library card and pin #. Phoenix libraries are like that. But that's okay since Tucson libraries are not like that, and now I'm in Arizona.

This is a LOT of legwork, but it works. You have to be determined.

4. Donations - I offered donations only to local libraries where I could physically drop them off myself. I'll be dropping off two this weekend. It's tough since I teach on Saturdays, and some libraries aren't open on Sundays. It's a process. I'll get it there eventually. BUT - unless you're independently wealthy, I don't recommend offering to ship copies. If they like your book, they'll get it. Overdrive/digital copies are the easiest and most affordable.

Pitfalls

1. Budgets. Libraries are funded by taxpayers. Their budgets are limited. If they can carry your books, great. If not, because of budgetary reasons, that's just life.

2. Professional reviews - I received an Email back from the library in Durham, NC and was told that due to budgetary reasons AND the fact that they couldn't find any professional reviews on my books, they were declining to purchase my book at this time. Totally fine. It's not yet in my own budget to pay the $450 for a Kirkus review.. That's okay. Eventually, I can get there. They at least let me know.

3. Additional forms, etc. Vancouver came back and asked me to fill out a specific form I didn't originally find on their website. That's still pending. Toronto just came back to me asking a few questions, so I'll respond to them. One is why would the patrons in Toronto be interested in my book. (Yay! An essay! Ok fine. Short answer) That puts the ball back in my court without shutting me out.

This process will be slow, but it'll work. I'm currently in libraries in Ohio (I'm in Ohio), Indiana (the town where I went to high school), Maine, Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota (thanks to a friend there who suggested my book), Oregon, and Nebraska. It's all a combination of digital and print copies that are working their way into library circulation.

Every weekend, I send out another 10-20 requests. I work a full-time job and also a part-time job on top of writing. That means I do a little bit at a time. You can, too. The spreadsheet helps keep me organized. If it's not highlighted, I haven't yet sent the request. Yellow - it's pending. Green - accepted. Dark pink - I couldn't get through, so I'm saving it for later. Red for declined. If I get a Kirkus review someday, I'll follow up with Durham. I haven't yet sold enough copies of my book to be able to afford that, but that's part of why I'm pushing libraries. It gets it out into the wild, and it's still a sale!

So that's it! Again, I'm happy to answer any and all questions you have. Just leave them in a comment below. 

Good luck!!

That's it for today! Please follow me online and pick up your copy of Wayward Guilt - Heroes of Grant's Crossing Book 1. Links are all below. 

Thanks, and as always - Happy Reading! 

- Heather

WAYWARD GUILT is the first book in my HEROES OF GRANT'S CROSSING series and is available at your favorite online booksellers in digital and paperback. 

https://books2read.com/u/38WRM7

My companion novel to Wayward Guilt, Safe Now - Heroes of Grant's Crossing Book 2, is available for pre-order on Amazon.   

Find me online! 





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