I was thinking the other day (while passing the Friends of the Library book sale building), that many people advise getting your book out there by donating it to libraries, which is problematic – library donations often just end up at book sales like that (and then sometimes in dumpsters from there); libraries have limited space and the books they keep on their shelves are curated, and so on. There is a five-post guest article on this in my archives – http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/tag/info:+library and scroll down a couple posts – by eseme.
Little Free Libraries have none of that, including a budget. If you had a map of their libraries in your area and a stack of your books, you could seed them throughout the area. Road trip and slide ’em in on the way. Like very map-based suburban/urban geocaching? “Oh, we’re going to be in boston, let’s check out their little free libraries while we’re there.”
…I need a book to drop off at the local LFL.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1005124.html. You can comment here or there.
Via Candlemark & Gleam’s twitter feed…
Minimalist, Futuristic Library, although my experience with libraries locally makes me question their shock at OMG! Books!
This library reminds me in part of The Planner’s Library, seen in this icon by meeks.
Original article has more pictures & details.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/76184.html. You can comment here or there.
Getting Your Self Published Book in a Library Part Five
Not Actually About Libraries…
I’ve done a lot (fourteen pages thus far!) of talking about self published books in libraries. I’d like to shift focus a bit, to talking about things that people in the book business (both libraries and bookstores) look for in a physical book and then totally sift to bookstores. I am not, by any means, an expert in bookstores. I did work at one for about three months one summer in college. However, I do read a fair amount of the articles up at Publishers Weekly’s website, and one of the blogs they host is written by a couple of owners of children’s bookstores (which also have small sections of adult fiction). And they have talked about approaching bookstores with an indie book, so I dug up a whole slew of links.
Bookstores and libraries want a book which will be of comparable quality to the other books on the shelves. Self-published books have improved by leaps and bounds, but there are still some people who feel they can spot a self-published book by looks alone.
There are blogs out there that focus on cover art design, and why some things work and others don’t. They also post a huge number of cover images. I managed to only find two teen/YA ones, and one humor one. Take a look:
This blog compares covers every friday (often two covers for one book, either the paperback and hardcover, or an older edition and a new one): http://hookedonyabooks.blogspot.com/search/label/Cover%20Compare%20Friday
Jacket Whys focuses just on teen book covers. There are a lot of posts on the use of stock photography. http://jacketwhys.wordpress.com/
The Jacket Whys author asked book cover designers to walk readers through the process:
This one highlights bad book covers, go there for a good laugh, and to be confident that your cover is not that bad!
Here is some additional book design advice from the readers of the Shelf Talker blog on Publishers Weekly. Remember, making your book stand out on the shelf matters.
Nancy Werlin : The Anatomy of a Book Cover
One author shows the cover design process one of her books went through. In it she links to one stock photo website. You may not have the mad photoshop skills of her big publisher’s cover team, but things like mood and lighting and fonts are discussed.
Strong Spines Redux : Essentials for Standing Out on the Shelf
At most bookstores and libraries, people will see the spine of your book. This post includes tips for making that look good – sadly it looks like all her photos from a year ago vanished, but the text still has her salient points (as well as a link to a book cover art blog).
What You Wish They Knew : A Conversation Between Authors, Publishing Folks, and Booksellers
This is a great post. Take note of what booksellers say sells books. There are a lot of comments, and it is worth it to click through and read the older ones.
And now, on to indie books in indie bookstores!
Shelf Talker is a blog by children’s booksellers, and while it often focuses on children’s books, a lot of this applies to all books, and they do sell adult materials. There have been multiple posts about getting self published books into bookstores. I think that, like with libraries, this will vary widely from bookstore to bookstore. It sounds like the best policy is to let the bookstore take one or two copies of your book on consignment with a time limit. The store does not pay you unless the book sells (which the store will be happy with).
The oldest entries listed first – the very oldest is from 2008.
Do read the comments – other booksellers chime in which gives a wider range of opinions. One annoying thing about the comments – the oldest ones are on the bottom, so if you read down you get the conversation in reverse order.
Why No Bookseller Can Read Everything
A visual depiction of how much stuff bookstores get sent to preview.
Self Publishing Tips
A DO and DON’T list of tips for interacting with your local bookstore. I believe this one is the one where she discusses, in the comments, the need for self published authors to offer her the same discount that big publishers do.
Promotional Emails: Do’s and Don’t’s
All good tips, which can also apply to contacting librarians (we get lots of email too).
How, Ultimately, to Get a Book On My Shelves
This is a tale of what not to do, in which she points out several mistakes a self-published author made in contacting her store. Tip number one is NOT in December!
From just last month, she outlines how two local authors were able to each sell very well at her store. She highlights what worked.
Her 2010 End of Year Advice post included one item for self published authors:
“Self-published authors or new reps for sidelines should not come to any store in December and expect anyone to be able to talk to them about their book or product. This is our busiest time of the year and while you might think it would be a great time to sell your book, you should have thought about approaching your local store in October or November when staff would have been much more receptive.”
So You Want to Publish a Book:
While I think anyone reading here knows not to hand their manuscript to a bookstore manager or librarian, apparently this needs to be said. There are good author resources mentioned in the comments.
Finally, while I can’t reccomend paying Publishers Weekly Select to review (or more likely, just list) your book, they did interview bookstores all over the country on the topic of what makes a self-published book successful at their store. The full article is worth reading:
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/28458.html. You can comment here or there.
Getting Your Self Published Book in a Library Part Four
Author Events at Libraries
Welcome back. The past three posts have focused on getting your book into a library, be it a physical copy or an electronic one. It’s not easy. The response will vary widely from library to library. This is really unfortunate, as it means that one indie author may get her book into three libraries and another with a book that is just as cool gets her book into zero libraries. Library policies can and do change, but they do so slowly. They may seem draconian from the outside, which is why I’m writing this series of guest posts. Knowledge is power, and understanding how things work can help you as an author.
So, perhaps you have visited your local library, book in hand.
Some libraries will happily take donated self-published books from a local author, but might be inclined to toss that box which was mailed from halfway across the continent which contains the complete opus of a hopeful self-published author. And yes, we do get boxes like that, and every now and then the Church of Scientology sends us heavy boxes of books (often the very same books they sent two years ago). Imagine how thrilled we are. If it wasn’t clear in Part Two, this is why libraries don’t accept everything that is donated to them.
Some libraries won’t take a self-published book at all.
Or maybe your book is currently only available in electronic format, and Smashwords has not yet hooked up with OverDrive (I’m hoping that they will) and your local library doesn’t own an ereader?
So you tried, and you cross the local library off your list.
Wait! Not yet!
Now we’ve reached the topic of today’s post : Author Events at Libraries. The library may not put your book on their shelf, but that same library might be willing to have you come in person to talk about your book and do a reading. Yes, this seems hypocritical. I’ll try to explain what could cause this (though, again, all libraries are different and have their own way of handling books and programming).
And that is what you, as a local author are: Programming.
Library programming is often a really interesting mix of stuff. We try to find presenters who will speak on topics of interest to our community (everything from gardening to local history to solar power to internet safety), authors to promote their books, music, and the ever-popular craft program. Programming is a line item on every library’s budget. However, it has always been a smaller line item than the materials (book, magazine, audiobook, DVD, etc) budget. Right now, many libraries are experiencing budget cuts. We try to cut the materials and the staff last, because without new materials we are not current or of interest to the community, and with cuts to staff we often have to cut hours (because there are no longer enough people to staff the library for the hours that are currently open).
So programming budgets get cut. Here is an actual quote from one of my coworkers (only the names have been changed for anonymity):
Sharon: “Jane, can you find more programming? It needs to be free and not suck.”
Jane: “Well, that second part makes it harder.”
I am not making this up. Libraries do try to pay for big ticket programming: a concert series over the course of a month or more, a bestselling author who will draw a big crowd, puppet shows or other children’s entertainment for the summer reading program. But sometimes it is hard to find money for even those programs, and many libraries have large programs only a handful of times per year. The rest of the time we want local authors who may not be as well known but who also don’t have travel expenses or appearance fees. Small local bands just getting started. Craft programs with little to no material costs (or a small materials fee).
Did you see that bit about local authors with no transportation costs or appearance fees? That can be you. Even if your book is not in the local library, you can be, and you can often sell your books at your author event (though some libraries, often due to their non-profit status may not be able to allow commerce to take place in their building). Even if you can’t sell your books, you can meet readers and tell them about your books (and hand out business cards or other material with your website address).
Approaching the library about an author event has a lot of similar elements to donating your books to the library, so make sure you have read Part Two. The best way to start is with a phone call, to find out who organizes programming. Calling during normal business hours works best, but be prepared to go to someone’s voicemail if they are busy. You may end up arranging things over email, or the phone, or you may meet someone in person once and then follow up over email.
The most important thing to remember is that libraries plan programming in advance. And we are not talking one month in advance. At least two months in advance. So if your next book is due out in May, call them in March or earlier (sometimes much earlier). The reason for this is simple: publicity. Most libraries put out a monthly newsletter. In March, they are working on the April newsletter, and already have all the April events booked. Libraries also send out press releases to their local papers. If it is a really small-town paper, these can go out a week to a week and a half in advance. For larger papers, they like two to three weeks notice. The library will also make flyers for their events which get posted around the library building (and sometimes in other places around town, like grocery store bulletin boards or in the windows of local businesses). All this takes time, so things get planned in advance. I know when I contacted Sharon Lee and Steve Miller in May or June, I checked with the programming committee first and learned that we were planning September, not October (there was themed programming that month), and November.
So, plan ahead!
Here are some tips for contacting a library and scheduling an event:
You remember that “free but doesn’t suck” comment? Some libraries are going to assume that a self-published book, and therefore a self-published author, will suck. Possibly because they have encountered some really terrible self-published books. Things you can do to mitigate this include being calm and not getting upset, offering to send links to reviews of your book, and sending a sample of your book. Let the staff see that you wrote a cool book.
Mention that you are local, and that you do not charge any sort of fee. People like local authors. If you have a bunch of friends and family in the area, mention them (especially if you have a rough idea of how many might show up – libraries use event attendance in their statistics).
Be flexible about when. Remember that many libraries close early, at 5:00 or so, on Fridays. Often, a Friday night event is just not possible. Sometimes Saturday morning or afternoon events work well, other times they don’t (often depending on the weather). Be willing to try a weeknight – the programming person at the library knows which nights are better in terms of attendance at their library. At the libraries I have worked at, that tends to be Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night. People seem to stay home on Mondays.
Ask about selling books at the event – can you do it? Does the library have a partnership with a local independent bookstore to sell books at events? If so, is your book available through book distributors (two big ones are Ingram and Baker and Taylor)? Find these things out before the event. If you can’t sell your books at all, you’ll have time to make up postcards or business cards or even just quarter sheets of paper with your website address and book titles and descriptions.
Can you have food at the event? “Light refreshments will be served” can bring in crowds. Some libraries will let you bring food, others will not. Do you want there to be food? The “free food” crowd may or may not be what you want.
Be prepared to send over some images. Book cover art, maybe an author photo (the libraries I have worked at have generally just used book covers, but a library may ask for a photo of you). The library will use them in flyers, the newsletter, and other publicity.
Keep in touch with the library, and make sure that the contact info you gave them stays current! The librarian will probably email you a month before the program, maybe asking for publicity materials. They may also email the week before, just to touch base.
Also, the library may say no. This can happen for a variety of reasons. They may have already booked the next six months, for instance. You write in a genre that isn’t popular at their library – if you write Westerns and the librarian knows that Westerns don’t go our much, you and your book may not be a good fit. Westerns are one example, at many smaller libraries, science fiction and fantasy are less popular. Try a different library, maybe one a bit farther away. If you are willing to drive an hour, see how many libraries are in your area.
Once you have a program scheduled, great! Here are some things to keep in mind at the event itself:
Pick a good piece to read, and practice it. You don’t want to read for too long. You also want a piece that is indicative of your work, and makes people curious. One author I know picked chapter four of her novel. For advice on picking something to read, see my links below to the reading out loud series by Mary Robinette Kowal.
Make sure you know how to get to the library, and where to park. If you aren’t sure because you haven’t been in a while, ask.
Figure out what you need to bring, and how you will transport it. The most organized authors I have seen had a small folding wheeled dolly that their boxes of books fit on. Great plan! Also, bring water, in a well-sealed container (we should be able to get you water, but it’s a good idea to have your own).
Arrive early, a half an hour early is not bad, to familiarize yourself with the room (and set up your books if you are selling them). Be aware that some of your audience may show up fifteen minutes early.
It’s OK to ask for a copy of any flyers or newsletters that the library made for your publicity file. This is a great way to convince other libraries to host an event (“I did a reading and signed books at Library A two months ago” is a great selling point, just don’t make the visits too close together and saturate the market). Also, if the library made a display with your books (if they have them) bring a camera and ask if you can take a photo.
The library staff will probably want to take photos of you, to put on their website or their Facebook (yes, libraries are on Facebook, so search for yours and “like” them). You may need to sign a form. If you are not comfortable with photos, let the staff know (preferably earlier than the event itself).
Be prepared for more people than you expect, and for far less. Some author events get one person. Some get none. Some get a roomful. It varies so wildly, even libraries can’t really predict (we know a New York Times bestselling author will get a good number of people, but will it be more or less than last time?). Having friends or family members come will prevent you from being in a room alone (I’ve had that happen to me, when I was running a program, so it can be endured, but it is no fun). But also be prepared for more people, and people you don’t know. There are some people who show up to nearly every library event. They are regulars. You may also get… well… the public. This can mean all sorts of people, including some who don’t quite know how to behave at a library program. I’ll address them a bit more later. You will also probably have a library staff member in attendance.
Because of that last bit, please don’t go on any sort of rant about Big Publishing. The library buys books from all sorts of publishers, and you ranting about how Big Publishing or Traditional Publishing does not pay authors enough in royalties, or how they are elitists, or anything else is not going to leave the library staff member with a good impression of you. If the library does not have a copy of your book, this is your chance to impress them and maybe they will reconsider their decision to accept a donation of your book. If they do have your book, you want them to stay impressed with you so they might buy the next one.
Leave time for and be prepared for a Q&A session. People at author events ask questions. There will be at least one person who wants to know how they can get their book published, and they will ask you publishing questions. There is ALWAYS at least one. I’d advise at least telling them about the Big Publishing system, in the form of, “Well, you can submit your book to agents, and once you have an agent, they submit it to publishers. I chose a different route…” Again, don’t bash publishers. Definitely talk about what you did, and the pros and cons. Also, you may get some totally bizarre questions, or people who ramble a lot. See my mention above that anyone can attend your program. Be polite, and it is all right to say “I’m not sure how to answer that.”
Be prepared for people to walk in ten minutes late, in the middle of your reading. This happens a lot.
Leave time for not only Q&A, but for selling your books if you are able to.
And finally, be aware that some people are so excited to talk to a real live author that they will hang around after the program to talk. The library will have scheduled your program to end at least a half an hour before the library closes for this reason. Some people may have questions they didn’t want to ask in front of the group. If anyone is lingering too much, be polite, pack up your things, and go find a staff member. I have in the past escorted presenters to their car.
Here are some other great tips on author events, by author and puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal (http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/). She knows about audiences!
She has advice for reading aloud (16 part series!) and for podcasts:
Her series of posts for Debut Authors contain a bunch of good advice for meeting fans and such, and as a performer she knows her stuff:
And here’s some advice from Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate series:
Good luck! And as a brief, non-library note, if there is a science fiction and fantasy con in your area, be a panelist! A lot of this advice applies there too (go to local ones, don’t expect a fee, bring water, be prepared!).
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/27921.html. You can comment here or there.
Getting Your Self Published Book in a Library Part Three
Ebooks in Libraries
So, the first two parts of this series focused on getting a physical copy of your book into a library. It’s not as easy as I’d like or as you’d like. But it is possible. The library I work at has had me add one self-published book in the adult section, with another on my desk. I have also added a couple of children’s books and a few CDs from local bands.
But the best way to get a physical copy of your book into a library is to buy one and give it away. We’ve got ebooks though – they cost less, and libraries are lending them.
Yes. Libraries have ebooks. Many people still don’t know this, but we do. Heck, it recently made the New York Times (when Harper Collins announced it would only allow libraries to lend out an ebook twenty-six times before the library has to buy a new copy). But people still may not know that their local library (even ones in small towns) have ebooks.
At public libraries, this works one of two ways: the library owns ereaders and lets patrons borrow the ereader, or the library lends out ebooks to people who have ereaders (or a home computer) using special software.
So, visit your library, or their website. Find out if they have Kindles or Sony Readers or Nooks that they lend out. Each ereader is loaded with a selection of ebooks. Most of those are either free out of print books or current bestsellers (every one I have seen has had The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on it). Most people who check these out from libraries want to try out an ereader before buying one. Or they want to read a bestseller without waiting in a longer line for a print copy (though sometimes the ereader lines are longer!).
Could the library buy a copy of your ebook and put it on one of their readers? If you made the EPUB file or a MOBI file, can you donate one to the library which they can load on one of their readers? I believe that Kindles can read the latter, but if a Kindle owner wants to jump in and confirm, that would be great.
The answer to those questions is that I’m not sure. I have yet to work at a library that owns an ereader. The libraries I have worked at have not had the budget. So I’m not sure if a library would buy a local author’s ebook from Amazon for a Kindle, or if they would let you load a file onto their Nook. This is another thing that varies library to library. Please, don’t be upset if a library says no to a free copy of your EPUB file. The library paid for that Nook, and I can see a tech manager being concerned about a virus getting onto their device (to address that, I’d suggest finding a way for the library to get it for free from a trusted vendor, like issuing a coupon that makes the book free and only giving the code to the library and limiting the timeframe it could be used). Also, the staff may want to see reviews or a sample, to get some idea of the book’s quality. Finally, all their ereaders might be checked out the day you arrive, so be aware that
even if they say yes, this could take time.
Honestly, I think it is worth talking to your library about if you can. Ereaders can hold lots of books, why not one more? Now, it is harder for a library to add an ebook to an ereader than it is for most owners. Some libraries try to keep their ereaders locked down so that books cannot be added or deleted, while others erase the contents and reload the books when the device is returned. Also, ebooks are just like paper books in that they have to be cataloged. Most libraries make extra-scant records for ebooks (as little information in them as necessary) for ebooks because they can be easily deleted off the device if the book is no longer a popular title. But this will still take staff time. Again, libraries do things slowly.
And libraries do like local authors. The next post will go into detail as to why. I’d say that if your book gets on an ereader at a local library, it is likely to stay there along with Huckleberry Finn and Sherlock Holmes after bestsellers fade.
What if your local library, like the one I work at, doesn’t lend out ereaders? They may still loan out ebooks, typically through a company that makes special software. The biggest company doing this is called OverDrive, but there are others. Check your library’s website. If there is a link about ebooks, check it out. Or give them a call. If they don’t loan ebooks at all, they probably keep track of the reference questions they get over the phone. People calling about ebooks can give them the idea that there is interest in ebooks.
If your library has OverDrive or another system, how does that work? I can talk best about OverDrive, as it is the company that the library I work for uses. Overdrive contracts with publishers to make ebooks available (both text and audiobooks). The publishers provide the files, and OverDrive makes software that adds DRM (digital rights management). Yes, everyone hates DRM. In this case, it does make sense. What this DRM does is it lets you download the file, and then either read it on your ereader or listen to it on an iPod or MP3 player for a set period of time (usually one or two weeks). After the time is up, the file becomes gibberish, and you can’t open it, you just delete it off your device (it has been “checked in” to the library and now someone else can download it).
I won’t go into the specifics of how to use the OverDrive, although I have done so before and can add that into the comments if someone asks. What I can say is that for text ebooks it works on everything from a desktop computer to a smartphone to an iPad to a Nook. The biggest downside is that it does not work with a Kindle, because Amazon refuses to support the EPUB file format that every other device can read.
How to get your book on OverDrive? I don’t know for sure. I do know that publishers can contact them, but they are probably used to dealing with Big Publishing companies who contract for hundreds or thousands of books at a time. So just contacting them on your own may or may not be effective.
However, I would imagine that a company like Smashwords, with thousands of authors, could better negotiate with OverDrive. In fact, I would suggest contacting Smashwords about that if you are an author or a reader.
Your book still has the problem of ordering: libraries choose the ebooks that they get from OverDrive by ordering from a catalog (a digital one, but still). They will be looking for titles that they recognize. Also, my library and all the others in Maine are part of a consortium – the books are ordered by the state library and we all use the collection. So my library doesn’t choose titles (although there is a form to suggest titles). However, if Smashwords can get your ebook into OverDrive, you can contact you library and let them know. Let them know the pricing too – your book probably costs less, and unlike Harper Collins, you are probably not trying to make a library only lend your book out twenty-six times. Examples of reviews are also helpful, if you have them from review sites or book blogs.
It’s an exciting world out there, and I think that indie ebooks in libraries really work. It just may take time to get Smashwords and OverDrive talking, and to get librarian buy-in. The other thing that OverDrive does is give us statistics. We can see which titles go out the most, just like we can in our database systems for physical items. If a title circulates well as an ebook, that’s a sign to a library that doesn’t own the book that maybe they should order it. Again, ebooks can act as a gateway, and not just to publishers.
This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/27886.html. You can comment here or there.
Getting Your Self Published Book in a Library Part Two
Donating Your Book to a Library
Thanks for reading Part One, and thanks for coming back. I will warn you now, this is REALLY long. Sorry, but there is a lot of stuff here.
When we left of, I was saying that it is hard to get a library to buy your book. But there is another way to get your book into a library: donate your book to the library.
This is in some ways easier. The library doesn’t have to buy your book. They don’t have to justify it on their budget. This makes it much easier for the library, which makes it more likely to succeed. However, I will admit that this is clearly not easier for you, the author. You have to get a physical copy of your book, which means that you need to pay for it. And then give it away. So this is not for everyone. However, I would consider it marketing expense, the same way that getting review copies to reviewers (either at a local paper or a book blog) is a marketing expense. Your intent is to find new readers. So plan this the way you would any other advertising. Start local, with your local library. Maybe visit a library in a larger town nearby. Find out if your state library has a fiction collection of in-state authors. I know that the state library in Maine tries to get copies of books written by state residents (though I do not know if they consider
And that brings me to the first problem with donating a book to a library. The library does not have to add it to the collection. Many libraries simply put all donations into their book sale. Some libraries pull only the books that are current, popular, and in good condition for their collection. Libraries also may apply their regular Acquisition Policies to donated books (if they would not buy it, they don’t take it as a donation). This varies library to library.
And I will also admit that some librarians simply don’t like self-published books. Like bookstore owners, librarians have seen a lot of self-published books, and have likely seen the wide range in quality. I know I have. Yes, we know about vanity presses like Publish America. Libraries are a lot less likely to take a book from the Publish America’s out there, but I’m assuming you know about those scams. If not, visit Writer Beware or Absolute Write’s forums. You can google them.
While a lot of more recent self-published books are vastly improved, the stereotypes you are battling have had time to form at libraries. At least one library I have worked for would not take donations of self-published books (they went right in the recycling or the book sale). Granted, that was about five years ago, and my current employer is much more open minded, but those prejudices are still out there. So, just like policies regarding donated books, this will vary library to library.
Fortunately, you can find out what your local library will do with a donated book, or whether they accept self-published books simply by asking. Go in and explain that you are a local author, and that you would like to donate a copy of your book. Use this opportunity to ask what the library does with donated books, and books by local authors (some libraries are more likely to buy a book by a local author, and see Part Four for reasons why). The worst thing that happens is that they explain that they cannot take your book, or that it would go in the library book sale. You can then decide what to do.
If possible, go during normal business hours. The people who are working the circulation desk may or may not be the people who make decisions about adding books to the collection. The people who make those decisions are more likely to be in the building during normal business hours. However, more likely is not a guarantee. They may be in a meeting, or working the night shift and coming in later, or running a program, or the person on the circulation desk who is busy right now. If you can’t go in person, you can call during business hours.
Try not to show up in the middle of a program, or on a very busy Saturday. You want someone to be able to talk to you for a couple of minutes, so if you check the library website and there is a program scheduled when you planned to go in, change the time.
Don’t lie about the book being self-published. You probably don’t want to lead with that, but if the librarian asks, tell the truth.
Have an insert for your book – a sheet of paper with the title, genre (if it is not otherwise clear, and it’s worth it to write it down even if you think it is clear), your name and contact information, and a plot summary (the whole thing, with spoilers). I’ll tell you why this is useful later. The other thing to have is any reviews your book has gotten, even if it is off a blog or website. Having some idea of how readers react to your book helps librarians make a decision.
Don’t be pushy. You want to make a good impression. A lot of these tips are pretty common sense stuff, but it is easy to get excited about your book, and that can sometimes come across as pushiness.
What will probably happen is that the person you want to talk to is busy, and the person working on the desk is busy too. They will explain that they can take the book, but that someone else will decide if it is added to the collection. If you don’t want your book in the book sale, you can decline. Even if you do speak to the person who ultimately makes the decision (they may be the library director or the librarian who manages that section – for example I would make the decision if a donated book was science fiction or fantasy) they may well say the same thing. Librarians like to get more info about a book, and tend not to make snap decisions. But talking to you, learning more about the book, and most importantly, learning that you are a local author, can sway that decision. Some librarians will make the decision quickly and tell you. Others won’t, to avoid saying no and hurting your feelings.
Personally, I’d say to leave your book, even if it ends up in the book sale, as it is likely to find a reader even then. You may not want it in the book sale selling for a quarter. It’s your call. You may be able to get a sense of whether the person who makes the decision seems likely to add it.
If you decide to drop off your book, be patient before you head into the library again and look for it on the shelf (or go to the website and search the catalog). Because the next hurdle your book has to face is getting into the library database. This is done by a cataloger, and adding your book is inherently harder and more time consuming than adding a book put out by Big Publishing.
There are two basic types of cataloging. The first is called copy cataloging. It is basically what it sounds like – a librarian adds a book to the local database by copying a record from another database. Computers allow one library to buy a book, make a record for it, and then other libraries can copy that record. It’s much faster than everyone making their own record, and it’s how nearly all books from Big Publishers get into the databases of libraries.
Your book is almost certainly headed for the other type of cataloging, called original cataloging. As a self-published author, there is probably not another record for your book for the cataloger to copy. So the cataloger has to make the record themselves. This will take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. There is a lot of information in a good library record, and it has to be typed up by a person who will have to find all the information they need, and then check it two or three times for typos and other errors. So the cataloger may very well put your book aside, and work on the big pile of other books and movies and audiobooks that they can work through quickly. They’ll wait until they have a lull in new materials, and then they will take their stack of oddball books that need original cataloging and work on it. This can take weeks.
Sorry – catalogers are busy people whose work is never done (there are always more items to catalog) and they often have other duties and help out at the circulation or reference desk. You could call, and ask. Just remember that libraries get a lot of donations, and they don’t write down what happens to each one. If it is on a cataloger’s desk, it can probably be located (though catalogers’ desks are giant piles of books…) but if it is in a box for the book sale, the staff doesn’t have time to go looking.
When the cataloger does get to your book, what do they need to know? They need the title, the author’s name and possibly date of birth (more on that later), the ISBN, the publisher, the place of publication, the year of publication, a physical description (number of pages, illustrations (if any), and height (yes, I have a tape measure in my desk)), a summary one to two sentences long, any pertinent notes (like the fact that you are a local author), and one two three subjects. Yes, all that, and some other things we have to add to the computer file. So a summary of your book (with spoilers) will help the cataloger figure out a subject. The genre will help the cataloger when it comes to subjects too. And being able to contact you helps a lot.
You see, every author in the library database has to be unique. If two authors have the same name, like Bruce Smith, it makes a mess. Bruce A. Smith writes true crime novels with crime scene photos. Bruce B. Smith writes books for kids. If the library owns the first Bruce Smith’s books, and he is listed as Bruce Smith because that is the name on his books, and you are the second Bruce Smith, you don’t really want your books mixed in with his in the catalog. And the library doesn’t either. The first guy gets to be Bruce Smith. All other people with that name who get added later are designated by their middle initial (only if used on the book cover) or birth year, so you would be Bruce Smith, 1980-. This indicates that you are a different Bruce Smith, and there will be something called an authority record that lists your name, birthdate, and the name of one of your books, and it exists to prevent your books from getting mixed up with another Bruce Smith.
So leave an email address, because we catalogers care and we want to get it right.
Then your book goes on the shelf, like all the others. It should be on the new book shelf, but not every library will put it there. If it isn’t, you’ll love Part Four, which will talk about Author Events at libraries – yes, there are ways to help people find your book even if it is not on the new book display. And if the library didn’t add your book to the collection? An author event can still help you out. But next, we’ll have a brief diversion into the world of eBooks in libraries.
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