|To kick off a new month at the Blood-Red Pencil, please welcome one of our favorite guests, Susan Wittig Albert.|
After nearly three decades of writing traditionally-published fiction and nonfiction, I decided to publish a standalone novel under my own imprint, Persevero Press. (For the reasons behind the decision, go here.) I have to admit: this has been a major adventure—the equivalent of a hike across the U.S., maybe, or a safari in darkest Africa. I’m not out there trekking by myself, of course. There are dozens—hundreds, thousands—of authors heading in the same direction, many of them quite a distance ahead of me, and I’m grateful to them for blazing the trail.
But there’s one little side road on this trip that I’m taking on my own—well, probably not, but it feels that way. My book—a biographical/historical novel called A Wilder Rose—is about the collaboration of Rose Wilder Lane and Laura Ingalls Wilder on the writing of the Little House books. Since most libraries have copies of the Little House series and there’s a strong and continuing interest in Laura’s life, my novel seems to me to be a pretty strong candidate for library acquisition.
|Susan’s hometown Carnegie Library, Danville IL|
But it turns out that libraries—even those that might be interested in purchasing an author-published title—have a hard time doing this. So I’ve learned some basic lessons. If you’re thinking of suggesting your book to libraries (okay, marketing to libraries), here are some things you might like to know.
- It goes without saying that your book is absolutely the best work you can produce—edited and copy-edited, and with a professionally-designed cover.
- Your book should have a standard copyright page that lists your publishing information, including your ISBN. Libraries prefer books that have a CIP-data block: a Cataloging-in-Progress data block that makes cataloguing your book easier. The Library of Congress produces this for publishers, but not for self-publishers, who can obtain it from a vendor. Joel Friedlander has posted a good discussion of this process along with helpful links.
- Your book needs a sturdy binding, but it doesn’t need a dust cover. A case laminate cover is excellent. (Here’s Joel Friedlander again, explaining.) Libraries also buy paperbacks; again, make sure the binding is sturdy.
- Public libraries prefer to buy from their usual distributors: Baker & Taylor and Ingram. (I’m using Lightning Source as the POD publisher for the library edition of A Wilder Rose: LSI distributes through both Baker & Taylor and Ingram.) If you’re marketing your book to a specialty library, find out where they purchase their books.
- Libraries may be more likely to buy your book if you offer the standard institutional discount, 40-45%.
- Before libraries can acquire your book, you have to let them know it’s available and entice them to order it. I’m doing email mailings, to lists I’ve compiled through my own research and from online sources and print mailings. You can purchase mailing and email lists of libraries through the Library Marketing List; inexpensive mailing lists are available from NewPages.com. Your press release (print or digital) should describe your book in beguiling terms and (of course) feature your cover. Mention extras such as index, photos, resource list and/or bibliography. Describe the book’s binding and be sure to include ordering information. One librarian I talked to said you should put all of this all on one side of the page.
- Reviews reviews reviews. This is the hard part. Libraries would like to see a review of your self-published book in at least one of four major review venues: Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. Of the four, only Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, both for a fee, offer reviews to self-published and indie authors. Uncertain whether you should pay for a review? Read Susan Gottfried’s helpful post on assessing the value of paid reviews. Whether or not you go that route, you’ll also want to research the book bloggers, websites, and publications likely to review your book and systematically go about obtaining as many of those reviews as possible. Librarians tell me that they read NetGalley, you might find it useful to post your review copy there.
I know—it’s a huge amount of work, isn’t it? And I’ve probably left out a step or two, because I haven’t yet run into whatever-it-is. But maybe you have. If so, leave a note in the comments, and we can add it to the list. The more we know, the easier it will be. At least, that’s what they tell me.