by Janet Kobobel Grant
Often missing from the list of ways authors can sell their books is one that costs you nothing. I’m not talking about setting up a book signing at a bookstore or other venue (although that can be a good thing to do). I’m not thinking about social media postings, claiming your “Follow the Author” page on Amazon, or asking fans to put your book on their Goodreads shelf (although all those are good ideas).
Found in most communities
I’m talking about libraries. There’s so much to love about getting your book into libraries:
- Library book-purchasing budgets must be spent every year.
- Librarians are eager to carry books that borrowers want to read.
- Library staff are overwhelmed with book-buying choices and not sure how to decide.
- They need to carry recent releases.
- Once a copy of a book is checked out 5-7 times, the library must order a new copy because the first copy is worn out.
- Libraries with several branches often order multiple copies and place them in each branch.
How to sell your book to libraries
First, you should visit your local library. Unless you live in Manhattan, where every other person is an author or works at a publishing house (okay, slight exaggeration), librarians seldom find themselves face-to-face with a genuine, local author.
- Introduce yourself as the author of a new book.
- Ask if the library’s buyer is available to meet you. If not, proceed with the librarian behind the desk.
- Bring along a postcard (which many publishers provide to authors) so the librarian can see your book’s attractive cover and can read the marketing copy on the postcard. Bring your book, if it’s already published, to show the librarian.
- Be prepared to give a quick description of your book. If you’ve written a novel, explain its premise or other point of interest. (Like, if the setting is your hometown!) If you’ve written nonfiction, tell the key point of the book. Keep your description to a couple of sentences–not paragraphs, but sentences.
Sealing the deal
As in any good business transaction, make it easy for the library to order your book.
- Tell who the publishing house is and offer the publisher’s contact information. And/or mention that the book can be purchased through Baker & Taylor, a distributor many libraries order their books through. (Be sure your book is carried by Baker & Taylor before you pay your library a visit.)
- Leave the postcard or some other paper reminder about your book. Don’t bring a sheaf of bookmarks in hopes that the librarian wants to hand them out to patrons. (She/He won’t promote your book for you.)
- If the conversation proceeds swimmingly, suggest the possibility of your doing a talk to patrons about some aspect of your book. Maybe how you used the library to do your research. Or read a section from your book. Or, if you’ve written a children’s book, offer to read to a group of kids who regularly gather at the library.
- Ask if some upcoming activity or event might be a suitable time for you to contribute to the library’s calendar. Sometimes libraries create opportunities for wannabe writers to learn more about the craft; other times libraries plan events such as highlighting the latest YA books they’ve ordered. You could teach a writing workshop, or if you’ve written YA, you could offer to tell about what inspired you to write your book and how you got it published. Connecting to something already on the library’s calendar enables you to give back to the library but also to promote your book.
Sell your book to libraries by sharing the joy
Rather than traveling around the country visiting libraries along the way, enlist the help of others in getting your book onto those shelves. Ask your street team, friends on Facebook, or newsletter subscribers–wherever you’ve gathered your tribe–to visit their local libraries.
As patrons, all they need to do is ask a librarian if the library will order your book. Because librarians are eager to meet the needs of readers, generally making the request will do the trick. Armed with your book’s correct title and how your name appears on the book is all they need.
Yup, just like that, your book can find a new place to nestle in.
Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
A couple of side notes
Many libraries do not carry self-published books; so check with your local library before you visit it.
Also, if you’ve written an academic tome, libraries will most likely decide they are not in the market for such an august read. Not only will the demand for it likely be low, but also the price tag for academic books tends to be very high. Much higher than a library can, literally, afford to pay.
If you could request your local library carry one recent release, what would it be? (Maybe you could do an author a favor and actually make that request.)
Writers: What’s one of the most effective places for you to sell your book? Click to tweet.
Libraries might be eager to order your book. Click to tweet.