How to approach libraries with your indie book

It's been on my hit list for a while now to approach libraries to stock my indie book, but I never knew exactly how to do this. I've attended a couple of great publishing conferences this past year and learned that libraries are a great place for book discovery and that librarians are some of the greatest book champions out there when they find a book they really love. So this past week, I took the time to do some research and put my library plan into action.

Several months ago when I was setting up my distribution network, I thought I had libraries in the bag. My paperback was carried by Ingram and my ebook carried by Smashwords (library direct program). But I soon realized that these two programs were focused on the USA, and that Canadian retailers/libraries only buy from Canadian distributors. Plus, Ingram and Smashwords were not actively promoting my title because they are distributors, not wholesalers.

I decided it was time for a direct marketing campaign to libraries in my local market to test the waters. I set aside a small budget to cover bubble-wrap envelopes, promotional copies of my book, and postage; and I also called a couple of libraries to ask them about their policies on adding new books to their collection. In the end, I mailed out 10 packages to regional hub libraries with local branches. I included a one-page, double-sided letter introducing myself and the book, and explaining how I'd like the library to consider purchasing the book for their local branches. Then I made some points about how stocking the book would be supporting a local, indie author; providing patrons with a book that has a local Maritime setting; and increasing the libraries Canadian (local) content. 

Ottawa Public Library screenshot of webpage

Here is the advice I received from the Ottawa Public Library about how to submit a book for consideration in their collection:

Guidelines for Local Authors

1. All materials should reflect the standards described in the library’s materials selection policy. 

2. Authors who wish to have their books considered for selection may send a copy of the book to Collection Management. Books can be dropped off at the Info Desk at any branch and then sent by inter-library mail.

3. Please note that unsolicited materials will not be returned.

4. The author should include a cover letter with the following information:

- name, email, home address, and telephone number.
- It should be clearly noted whether the book is meant to be donated or purchased.
- If it isn't a donation, the cost and ISBN number should be included in the cover letter.
- Submissions with third party independent reviews are given priority. Reviews should be included with the submission.
- Collection Development Librarians will determine if the book will be added to the collection. Because of the large volume of queries and submissions, authors will only be contacted when an item is added for the collection.

One last thing for consideration, if you have a distribution network set up, try joining the Independent Book Publishers Association and taking part in their library marketing programs.

Gook luck reaching out to libraries and building your network one book & one library at a time!

Stacey D. Atkinson is the author of the newly released novel Stuck, which she published via her independent company Mirror Image Publishing.

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