Libraries are the underdogs of the publishing industry. They’re not usually the first place authors dream of seeing their book on the shelves. Some authors even think that marketing to libraries isn’t worth the effort. But I’ve got a secret to share with you… libraries offer huge possibilities for book sales and growing your career as an author.
The American Library Association estimates that there are over one-hundred-sixteen thousand libraries in the U.S. alone. One-hundred-sixteen thousand. If you sold a single copy of your book to just 10% of those libraries, you’d sell over eleven thousand books. And, once your book is displayed on library shelves you will benefit from increased exposure to new readers – readers who might love your book so much they become a loyal fan for life. Loyal readers lead to more successful book launches. Successful book launches lead to strong lifetime sales and sales lead to your next publishing contract.
Getting your book on library shelves is sounding better and better, isn’t it?
Let’s talk about how you can make that happen.
First, you need to know what kind of books librarians are looking to buy.
According to Library Journal and the American Library Association these are the top categories libraries are interested in for their adult readership.
- Historical Fiction
- Politics/Current Events
Next, you need to know where libraries like to order books.
While it has been confirmed by several librarians that they will sometimes order a book directly from Amazon, they are more likely to purchase from an approved wholesaler. Baker & Taylor and Ingram Wholesale top the approved list for print titles while Overdrive is used for eBook and Audiobook purchases. Before you approach libraries to stock your book, it’s important to know if your books are available from these wholesalers. If you’re not sure, ask your publisher.
Then it’s time to gather your marketing materials.
Before visiting, calling or (preferably) emailing a library, you need to arm yourself with two things.
- Book one sheet or sales sheet
A single sheet that contains all the basic information a buyer needs to order your book. Your publisher may have created a one sheet for your book, but if not you can create your own.A great one sheet will be nicely designed and contain the following:
- Picture of the book cover
- Short book description
- Trim size
- Page count
- Publisher’s information
- Short author bio
- Wholesaler availability
- Professional reviews and endorsements
- Cover letter
This part is important. Library buyers are busy and they are pitched hundreds of books a month. Your pitch needs to get straight to the point and make your book stand out along the way. And, even though your book one sheet will contain all the information the librarian needs to order your book, you still want to include your title, genre and ISBN in your cover letter. Remember, they will never open an email attachment (your book one sheet) if you don’t first convince them your book is worth spending time looking into.
If you’d like an example cover letter template to work off of, you can download a free sample here.
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
I always advise authors to start their library marketing efforts close to home. Reach out to your local library or a library you have a connection to – like your alma mater or the library in your hometown. Be sure to mention your connection to the library in your cover letter. In my experience, librarians really like to support local authors and sometimes even have a dedicated section for titles written by local authors.
Once you’ve done that you can branch out with one or more of the following suggestions:
- If your story is located in a real city, target libraries in that area.
- Research the demographic of your target audience and reach out to libraries that cater to that demographic.
- Ask friends, family and fans to request your book at their local library. This isn’t a sales pitch, merely an ask if the book is in stock or can be ordered.
- Pick a state, google “state + library”. Once you have found a library website, you can search for the acquisition librarian or library director’s email. Many libraries will also have a book submission form right on their website.
- If you’re short on time, consider partnering with a trusted book marketing company to reach out to librarians on your behalf.
Track your progress with WorldCat.org.
WorldCat is a global catalog of library collections. You can run a search of the site with your name, book title or ISBN and receive a list of which libraries are stocking your book. If you don’t see any libraries listed yet, don’t worry. Library cataloging into the WorldCat system can often take weeks or even months. Keep reaching out to libraries and know that each email you send is an opportunity to grow your career with library sales.
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Keri-Rae Barnum is the Executive Director of New Shelves Books, one of the largest book sales and marketing content providers in the US. She has managed thousands of sales campaigns focused on advertising, review acquisition and book sales online, in libraries and in stores, leading to multiple USA Today bestsellers. Her weekly vlog, Free Advice Fridays, invites authors to ask their toughest book marketing questions live and get quick answers on the spot. To learn more visit newshelves.com or freeadvicefrida ys.com.