Monday, July 2, 2012

Want Your Book Available in Libraries? Here are Some Pitfalls to Avoid

Some of my author friends have asked me about effective ways to market books in libraries, and I figured the tips I passed along to them might make a useful blog post.
Before I delve into the actual tips, I'd like to offer up the following as an example of what not to do. This was forwarded to me last week from a colleague with subject: "No need to respond."

Dear law or history librarian, (It's always better to address a librarian by name--if you don't know who the law or history librarian is, be sure to call the reference desk and ask.)

I, (redacted), am the author of (redacted title), which  increasingly features prominently on  many  libraries` introductory  reading lists for books on  legal history (I have not seen this book on any such list). The origional (misspelling is always a bad sign) publisher (redacted) gave the rights to this book back to me in 2008 (red flag--returned rights likely means the book didn't sell well). I have, however, produced a very affordable ebook edition sold through (redacted website), Ontario, Canada (9 Canadian  Dollar, ISBN redacted) and also at a price of  about 78 USD my own hardcover reprint of  the (redacted publisher) edition of  2004 (of course without (redacted publisher) imprint and without ISBN). (Four things: One--though this author is published, they didn't proof their letter for grammar mistakes before sending via email. Two, the author shouldn't  have mentioned Canadian dollars (or any other currency) to a librarian in the United States. Three, most libraries do not purchase items from independent websites outside the US, particularly ebooks, since they already have established relationships with vendors. Four, "my own hardcover print" implies the second edition wasn't picked up by the publisher.) This hardcover-reprint edition  of 2010 I offer through (redacted vendors that libraries rarely use). As even used copies of the (redacted publisher) edition of 2004 cost in the range of 150-500 USD (a textbook, I'm guessing, based on this pricing, which most collection development policies nix--and the high price ($500 USD for a used book!) also guarantees an automatic rejection and therefore isn't worth mentioning) you might perhaps be prepared  to communicate the existence of the e-book edition as well as the existence of my hardcover reprint edition of  2010 (sorry, submitter--it's your job to promote your book, not mine), which has admittedly no ISBN (even without the above caveats, this would guarantee an automatic no--and submitter mentions this not once, but twice!), to interested staff or students. To do so or not is of course left completly  to your own decision (makes it more likely the recipient won't) but in these budget conscious times some members of staff or students  might have interest  in  this information. If interested, please do not mix up my book with (similar redacted title by different author) which already had been published by (same redacted publisher!) in 1989. I equally offer through (aforementioned redacted vendors) and german book suppliers (Don't mention any other books besides yours, and why would a U.S. library be interested in a German book supplier?) my publication  (different redacted title, but does include the ISBN this time) at a price of 49,99 Euro (again, I am in the United States).  With best regards, Yours (redacted)

I know this submission is somewhat of an anomaly, but you get the idea. The following week I received another, better request, in which the author mentioned we'd purchased his books before (we had) and that he had some newer material available (all complete with ISBNs).

So first, and foremost:

1. Know your ISBN number, both in ebook and print form.

2. Know which libraries carry your book.
A great free resource is WorldCat.  Be sure to select the Advanced Search function to search by ISBN (in the dropdown menu). Also be sure to click of the title of the book hyperlinked in the list to see which libraries carry it.

3. Know which ebook/print vendors your library works with, and make sure they have an acquisitions budget (not all libraries do).
Here are some common ones:
4. Don't mention the unpleasant facts about your book, and don't ask the librarian to promote it!
Only include necessary information. "I published this book (include ISBN), in this genre, for this audience, and it is available via Overdrive (or some other vendor)." If your book has been reviewed in Library Journal, Kirkus, PW, or some other publication, be sure to mention that too.
Per the above example, do not mention if the book is self-published, the rights were returned, if there is no ISBN number, or if your book is only available through non-library vendors.

5. If you are (very) good friends with your local librarian, you can also ask them to mention your book on library listservs.

Hope this helps! If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section. 


Jeff Chen said...

Thanks, very useful!

Eliza Green said...

If this was a query letter it would have been rejected! You're the gatekeeper for the library as much as the agent is the gatekeeper for the publisher (direct query publishing aside).

I can see why people in power reject letters such as these -- mostly because of the lack of research and etiquette.

The Writer Librarian said...

@Jeff--Thanks! @Eliza: excellent analogy. I was thinking the exact same thing.