How to get your books on librarians’ radar

Library.

Photo from the American Library Association’s Flickr.

I’ve come across a number of blog posts recently about ways to support authors (beyond buying their books), and one thing that keeps coming up is to ask your local library if they carry the book. I think this is a fantastic idea! Getting your books displayed in libraries, and especially getting them talked up by librarians, will help more readers find your books. Even if that doesn’t translate to increased sales right away, it does mean an increased fan base, and more people who may buy your future books.

With that in mind, I’d think just about every author would want his/her books in every library. But before you run off to mass email every library in the country (yes, it’s been done before — I check our library’s reference email, where all those “contact us” messages get sent), I thought I’d clear up some common misconceptions about library acquisitions processes. Note: This post reflects only the procedures in place at the public library where I work, and other libraries may have different policies. If you’re unsure about your local library’s policies, I recommend asking a librarian there.

I’m fortunate to work at a library that has a healthy enough materials budget for us to purchase almost every book patrons request. Unless the book is out of print or prohibitively expensive (usually textbooks), we will buy it. (And the books we don’t buy we do our best to get through interlibrary loan.) This goes for eBooks, too — if there’s a title we don’t have that is available for libraries to purchase*, and someone requests it, we buy it. However, when someone who is not one of our patrons asks us to purchase a book, it goes through a separate review process. Our Collection Services Manager will look at the book’s summary and reviews (usually in trade journals), and will decide whether that book is something that would appeal to our community enough to justify the cost of buying it. I recognize that this puts self-published authors at a disadvantage, since they may not have access to those trade journals, but we can’t afford to buy every book if there’s no guarantee it will ever be checked out.

So what’s an author to do? I think it’s important to build relationships with your local libraries and librarians. Having been on the librarian’s side of hosting authors, I could devote a whole post to that alone. But if you want your book in other libraries that don’t already carry it, I recommend encouraging your fans to develop relationships with their libraries. Ask them to request your book if they can’t find it. Do a social media shout-out during National Library Week asking fans to share favorite library stories or pictures of their favorite books (including yours!) on their library’s shelves. Most importantly, encourage them to ask their librarian to recommend similar titles.​ This will make the librarian far more likely to remember your book in the future if s/he didn’t already know about it, and to recommend it to other readers looking for books like yours.

Note: I think it’s great when authors promote other authors’ books, but there’s a difference between an author saying on his/her website, “I liked these books” or “I was inspired by these authors” and a librarian saying, “because you enjoyed these specific things about this book, you may enjoy these other books that also have those things.” Plus, if your readers have a relationship with their librarians, those librarians will probably be more likely to read and recommend your books.

*Technically, we don’t purchase the book, just the license to loan it a certain number of times or for a certain amount of time, but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Do you have a relationship with your local library? What would you recommend to authors looking for more librarian love?​

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