This past Saturday I made a trip over to the Clark County Library (CCL). We’ll be participating in a book fair there in March. I understood from the application that not only could local authors sell their books at the fair, but they could donate their books to the library.
Sounded great, right? What author wouldn’t want to have their books listed in their local library system?
Turns out there was some confusion. The application I was sent was for a different library and somehow in the email exchanges, I had gotten signed up with the book fair going on at the same time with CCL.
I met with Julie, the programming director there. My first clue that something was up was the slightly baffled look on her face when I plunked all four hardcovers down on her desk.
We started talking, and I explained why I brought this portable work-out with me (at over 700 pages each, these books are hefty!). Turns out, the application process is much more involved.
This is why I’m here today with a few tips for you on how to increase your chances of getting your book on the library shelf.
1. Contacts and Introductions. Find out who’s in charge of the book donations and what the proper procedure is. Send them a letter of introduction. Keep it short, one page at most. This is like writing a resume. They’re busy and don’t have the time to schlep through pages and pages about you or your book. Points to highlight in your introduction are: brief book synopsis, why your book is needed at the library, who the target audience is, who YOU are (author bio), where and when the book was published, and how the library can buy it.
2. Reviews. Include reviews from notable review sources. Reader and fan reviews from Amazon or your author fan site are not enough. The library wants to see professional reviews from sources like Kirkus, your local newspaper, Writer’s Digest, etc. Reviews like this don’t come free. Be prepared to spend upward of $400-$500 for a review on a single book.
3. Marketing Materials. Do you have a press release? Do you have a flier or postcard that has a book blurb on it, contact info, ISBN and where to buy? Items like these make it easy for the decision-makers to see at a glance what you and your book are all about.
4. DO NOT send the actual book(s)! This is a fast ticket to the library’s used book store. Most libraries can’t return unsolicited copies and as Julie said to me, they end up in the bargain bin for a dollar. Very sad.
5. Wide Variety of Formats. Libraries prefer hardcovers. They’re more durable and will stand up to being handled over and over again. Paperbacks are also accepted, but make sure your end product is high quality and won’t fall apart after a few uses. Many libraries are incorporating ebook programs into their systems and digital versions are a plus.
6. Bulk Discounting. If your book is accepted, the library will buy them for distribution throughout their system. Larger library systems may have a floating book policy, where only a few copies are purchased and circulated throughout the system, but some may be small enough to buy copies for each library. Having a bulk discount option for them sweetens the deal that much more. Check with your Print on Demand company for how you can do this. It may involve doing what’s called a “short run” where 500 to 1000 books are offset printed all at once.
In addition to the tips above, your book’s acceptance depends on a few more factors you may not have thought of. One of the things Julie said she sees so many books come through with poor cover design (check out http://louseybookcovers.com ) and horrible interior formatting. It’s clear those books haven’t been professionally designed, which we both agreed made us want to cry. They could be the greatest story on the face of the earth, but nobody is going to look beyond the cobbled-together cover, lack of chapter headings and front matter, or lack of editing.
This lovely article by Steven Saus of Idea Trash outlines some key points for How To Make Life Easy For Librarians So Your Book Gets Into Libraries. After reading this, you’ll understand exactly why it’s good for authors to have a solid designer (like us!) they can rely on to make them shine.
Although we haven’t gotten the Saga into the CCL system yet, we did gain some valuable information. We’ll be at the book fair on March 29th, for those of you Packmates who live in Las Vegas—and by “we” I mean me representing Blue Sun—where we’ll have copies of Loyalties for sale on the spot. Already have a copy of the Saga? Bring your books anyway, I’d love to meet you and sign your books. A few of my other author friends will be there too and all of us could use your support.
Got a manuscript ready to go into production? Give us a call, we’d love to help you get that finished book into your hands.