library placement

10 Essential Library Placement Tips for Your Self-Published Book

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

December 1, 2022

Transforming your story or idea into a printed book is the first step to becoming a published author. The next step is to get the self published book into the reader’s hands. Authors can sell their books through online and in-person retail outlets but another way to ensure your book is available to readers for years is through library placement.

But how does a self-published author get their book into a library? Let’s look at what you can do to help a library see the value in your book and adopt it onto their shelves for readers to find so that you can build a fanbase and expand your readership.

What Librarians Need

The gatekeepers at libraries are usually the librarians who manage the shelves, order books, and make decisions about library placement. So for self-published authors, understanding exactly what librarians need, want, and will consider is key to getting their books on the shelves of one of the over 20,000 local libraries around the U.S.

Before approaching a library to carry a book, authors should answer the four key questions that point toward books that will (or won’t) be considered for library placement in a collection.

1. Does your book fill a need? Every library is different and contains a varying number of books from all genres. Some are in heavily family-friendly areas and so books for children, youth, and young adults may be constantly growing. But any library may already have a glut of a specific genre.

If possible, check with the head librarian prior to considering approaching a library about your book to see if they need any books in your specific genre or topic area for library placement. If they do need them or will consider yours, keep the library on your list.

If not, cross it off your list for now, but keep it in mind for your next book since collections change and grow at every library based on consumer interest. Even if a library doesn’t need another sci-fi book right now, a movie, tv show, or blockbuster book could come out that drives new interest in the genre in the future.

2. Is your book available on wholesale sites? Librarians usually work with known wholesalers, so if your book is not available through some of the big ones like Barnes & Noble, Brodart, or Ingram, they may not be able to even consider adding it to their collections.

3. Is your book affordable? Selling your book may be of utmost importance but getting it into the right reader’s hands likely is a close second. Offering it at a reduced price, however, is key for working with wholesale book dealers. Plan to slash the price 50-55% when working with a wholesaler to make sure it will be budget-friendly for librarians for library placement.

4. Is your book available? If a librarian orders your book, it should be ready to ship immediately. Making sure you have adequate inventory is important since they will structure a balanced collection of books for their shelves.

Work with a Wholesaler

Working with a wholesaler is the first step in making your book available to be ordered for local library placement. In addition to Barnes & Noble, Ingram, and Brodart, also approach Proquest and Unique to see if your book can become one of their offerings. One avenue is also to purchase a listing in their library catalogs to increase the odds of working with a wholesaler.

Make Your Book Affordable

Selling self published books with retailers and directly from your own website is a great way to earn higher revenue per book. But working with a wholesaler means lowering your book’s price by at least 50%.

Librarians have very tight budgets, so making sure your book is in line with other books they are considering will up the chances that they choose to include your book for library placement. If your book is a paperback, consider a steep discount to make your book even more appealing.

Allow Returns

Books under consideration by librarians should be 100% returnable if needed. While not a standard authors may want to consider, allowing returns is a designation that will make your book more appealing in case the book is just not what they wanted to keep on their shelves, for whatever reason, once it arrives.

Secure Book Reviews

One of the best ways to build credibility as an author and for your newly printed book is for it to be reviewed by authentic readers. Especially important for new authors or writers with few publications to their name, book reviews are often the primary way that librarians check out new titles. As a self-publishing author, getting reviews for your new book can be accomplished in three main ways.

  • Trusted Literary Sources: Ask for reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Library Thing, and major newspapers. These are commonly accessed by librarians when seeking reviews about unknown authors and new books.
  • Friends and Family Reviews: Ask those you know to read and provide real reviews for your book on sites like Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or other retail sites.
  • Writing Peers: Many authors are part of a literary circle, writer’s groups, or other author organizations. Peer reviews are often a reliable avenue for obtaining reviews for your book. Remember, however, that reviews are not guaranteed to all be glowing, especially if a writer writes the review. While no author wants to hear a negative or even less-than-positive review, public sites do not allow authors to censor bad or negative reviews, so just remember that one or two bad reviews do not necessarily mean your book won’t be appealing and loved by the right reader.

Offer Libraries an Incentive

Offering your writing services to a library is a good way to begin the process of getting your book on its shelves. Writing a book review or authoring a blog post about the genre or topic will help drive reader demand for your book.

Sometimes writers promise to include copies of their book in library giveaways, set up interviews with a local publication to garner interest, or even organize an event to talk about the book to increase interest and interact with potential readers.

Prepare to make your book appealing to librarians by readying your strategy to get readers interested in your book as well as increasing community involvement in the library itself.

Prep Your Marketing Pitch

Just like any new product hitting the market, new books will need a solid marketing plan and “elevator pitch” (a sixty-second or less enticing summary of the book) for library placement. A marketing plan should include two essential items.

One-page PDF Book Summary

  • Title, subtitle and genre
  • Author background including other book titles
  • Short but rich summary of the book
  • Top review blurbs from the most meaningful sources
  • Notation about the inclusion of PCIP (Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication) so libraries can instantly catalog your book

One-page PDF Marketing Summary

  • Include what you will do to drive readership to the library
  • Show how you will market the book
  • Explain your offers or incentives to the library for library placement

Talk to Librarians

First, make a quick phone call to the library to verify who is in charge of making decisions in your book genre. Secure the best contact information for this employee, including the right email address as well as a phone number for future reference, if possible.

Next, prepare a brief email to this person to let them know you understand their library’s genre needs as well as their budget concerns and direct them toward your self-published book for consideration. Include both PDFs in addition to including the book title and brief summary in the email itself.

Follow Up

After a few weeks, follow up directly with the email contact. If your book has been accepted by any other libraries in the meantime, include that in your follow-up email to show that others are seeing the value in your book in hopes they will also choose your title for library placement.

Making Your Book Look Its Best

Getting your book into library placement is a big step towards building a fan base. But before your book is published, make sure that you work with a trusted printer like Publishing Xpress so it will look great for every reader. Using one of Publishing Xpress’s design experts will ensure that your cover represents the genre correctly and grabs the reader’s attention.

By appealing to the right reader with colors and graphics that fit expectations in your genre, librarians and potential readers will know what kind of book to expect when they pick up yours. Choosing the right printer for your self-published book is the very first step in transforming your writing into the book of your dreams.

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