As an indie author, I understand that you’re focused on getting your fiction and non-fiction books published as eBooks, paperbacks and hardcovers.
But the ultimate goal of publishing your books in various formats is simply because you want to put your books into the hands of readers.
Besides these different book formats, you’ll need to think about distribution channels. Book retailers like Amazon, Kobo and Apple aren’t your only option. You can also increase your book discoverability and sales via libraries.
Today, we’ll discuss the power of selling books to libraries and tips on how you can get your books onto library shelves worldwide.
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Benefits Of Library Distribution
As mentioned earlier, you can boost your book discoverability and sales via libraries.
In 2017, OverDrive (the largest digital content catalog supplying libraries and schools) recorded 225 million eBook and audiobook checkouts worldwide. On the contrary, US traditional publishers reported 162 million eBooks sold.
Bill Kelly from the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) system said in 2018, his library system hosted 93 events, with 17,600 in attendance and 11,389 in book sales through their partner bookseller. This also created a sales lift for all booksellers around the time of the events. CCPL’s event marketing includes an email newsletter that is sent to hundreds of thousands of patrons and includes in-library displays, front-and-center website advertising, social media posts, and even occasionally Google ads.
Just like how libraries encourage reading and librarians want to connect readers with books they’ll love, librarians will happily promote your books for their library events and activities. In other words, it’s like you’ve gained a street team that helps you with book publicity!
Personally, I feel very honored when my books became available in libraries. It’s like a dream and I was super happy for a long while. I remember feeling so excited that I downloaded Kobo’s reports to find out exactly which library branch, State/Province and County had purchased my eBooks. In fact, I even searched for my eBooks in these OverDrive libraries’ catalog 😀
OverDrive: Global Distributor Of Digital Content For Libraries & Schools
OverDrive is the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools worldwide. With its growing network of 65,000 libraries and schools in 84 countries, OverDrive delivers a large catalog of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and videos to library patrons and students.
Their award-winning reading app, Libby, allows millions of people all over the world to borrow eBooks, audiobooks and more from their local public library. Sora, another reading app, allows students to borrow eBooks and audiobooks from their school’s library.
If you want to expand your reach, you can consider making your eBooks and audiobooks available to libraries around the world via OverDrive. This way, libraries worldwide will at least see your books in OverDrive’s catalog and may consider purchasing a copy (or more) for their readers!
In fact, the libraries in my country are using OverDrive too!
How To List Your Books On OverDrive
If you sell books directly to Kobo via Kobo Writing Life (which I strongly recommend), you simply have to make your book available for libraries in OverDrive.
Check out my step-by-step guide on how to create an eBook on Kobo for more details~
How To Get Your Books Into More Libraries
Draft2Digital is an aggregator which distributes to multiple retailers, including library platforms
- OverDrive (if you don’t publish directly via Kobo Writing Life)
- Baker & Taylor
If you want to reach more libraries, you can consider uploading your books to Draft2Digital and distributing them to the abovementioned digital store partners.
Tip #1: Ensure Your Book Is High Quality
Libraries have a fixed budget (whether it’s funded by the government or school). Therefore, they need to shortlist books that their readers will love.
To arrest the attention of librarians, you need to ensure that your books are high quality.
- Attractive book cover design: Do ensure that your book cover is professionally designed (rather than something amateurish or unappealing). You can hire book cover design gigs on Fiverr.
- Compelling blurb: Check out my tips on how to write a book blurb that sells~ There are also book blurb gigs on Fiverr.
- Great reviews: This might be difficult when you’re just starting out. But you can consider giving out ARCs and review copies. Check out my step-by-step guide on how to simplify your book review process with StoryOrigin~
- Error-free: Keep errors to a minimum. Again, check out editing gigs and book formatting gigs on Fiverr. Or consider using proofreading tools like Grammarly or ProWritingAid.
Tip #2: Set An Irresistible Price
Based on this article, librarians regularly pay between $25 and $75 for eBooks. The higher end of that spectrum is for authors who regularly hit the NYT, USA Today and WSJ bestseller lists. On the other hand, pricing closer to $25 is for authors who sell a healthy number of books. That means you’re on par with traditionally published authors. If you’re just starting out or selling only a few books per month, it’s recommended to keep your price low so it’s more palatable to librarians who have never heard of you. They may order more than one copy if patrons are asking for your book. Here’s more data about how much eBooks cost for libraries.
As mentioned earlier, libraries have a fixed budget so they’ll most likely buy in-demand books. If you want to increase the odds of a library purchasing your books, remember not to price them too high.
I priced mine at 1.5X of the eBook list price and 4 libraries bought my books (one on the launch day itself!). I’m still an unknown author with an abysmal fanbase so I’m really honored (even though the librarians probably bought it due to my low price ><). I’ll probably increase the price when my books are more popular or when I have a bigger fanbase. But for now, my focus is discoverability.
Therefore, do think about your priorities. Whether discoverability or profit is more important to you.
Tip #3: Pitch Your Books To Local Libraries
You can contact your local libraries and pitch your books to them. Local libraries are more receptive to local authors and would be more than willing to promote their books.
Here are 3 documents you can prepare to help pitch your books to libraries
- One-page sales sheet: brief book description, brief author bio, marketing overview, comparative titles, book specifications (title, page count, format, ISBN, etc.) & cover image
- One-page marketing plan: awards, reviews & how you’ll be spreading the word about your book
- Cover letter to a specific librarian: emphasize that you’re about to launch a marketing campaign for the book (do include the wholesalers where the book is available)
Tip #4: Pitch Your Books To Libraries Outside Your Neighborhood & Country
Next, expand your reach and market your books to other libraries.
Unlike local libraries where you can personally go down to pitch (and showcase your sincerity), you will probably have to communicate via email or video call.
Again, the documents that you prepared earlier will come in handy.
Tip #5: Ask Your Readers To Recommend Your Books To Libraries
OverDrive has this cool feature where readers can recommend books to libraries. Although there’s no guarantee that libraries will purchase the books, these readers’ requests can at least show that there’s a demand for the books.
Thus, I highly recommend that you spread the word to your fans so they can request your books at their local library (do ensure that your books are available for libraries in OverDrive).
If you have many fans recommending your books, this might actually encourage libraries to purchase the books. Simply because your fans are patrons of the libraries and their voice carries a lot of weight.
Honestly, I think this is a much better strategy than pitching to libraries. Your readers’ voice carries more weight than your voice as the author.
Now It’s Your Turn
Have you made your books available at libraries? Do share your experience and tips in distributing books to libraries!
If you need help with your books, you can check out Fiverr or even choose to hire from Fiverr Pro which consists of exceptional talent who are hand-vetted for stellar quality and service. There are book cover design gigs, book blurb gigs, book formatting gigs and editing gigs on Fiverr.
Consider joining classes at Fiverr Learn and CreativeLive for more writing and self-publishing tips.