I tapped into the wisdom of library guru and author Mark Lefebvre to find out how you can get your books into libraries, too!
Authors love libraries, but getting your books into them is easier said than done.
Recently I’ve been working with some authors and small presses who want to focus on libraries.
While I’ve been able to get my own books into a few libraries, I’m not the expert, so I reached out to my friend Mark Lefebvre, who is.
In fact, Mark wrote the book on getting into libraries and bookstores, and his new book, Wide for the Win is here too!
I had a very good call and interview with Mark, and decided to document what I’ve learned so you can make it into libraries, too.
I hope this helps you fine-tune your own library strategy and puts you in a good position to get into all the libraries to want!
About Mark Lefebvre
Mark literally wrote the book on getting into libraries and bookstores. The Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores is available everywhere books are sold.
His newest book, Wide for the Win, will teach you everything you need to know to build your author business globally, on multiple platforms, and far beyond Amazon!
Mark Lefebvre is a horror author, the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital, the former Director of Author Relations and Self-Publishing for Rakuten Kobo, and the author of over twenty-five books, fiction and non-fiction alike.
Mark’s books to help with your library goals
How to get your ebooks into library catalogs
Luckily, the technical part is the easy part. Assuming your books are not exclusive to Amazon, of course.
I’ll net this out. If your book is in KDP-Select (not simply KDP), you can’t list your ebooks anywhere but Amazon. It’s against the terms and conditions of the KDP-Select program.
With that out of the way, the easiest way to get your books into the library distribution systems is by using the very same services you use to get your books on Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. That’s most likely Draft2Digital or Smashwords, but there are others, such as PublishDrive.
These services, or aggregators, take your uploaded book and distribute it to all the places fine ebooks are sold, plus most library catalogs. If you haven’t signed up for one of these services yet, I’ll have all the links you need at the bottom.
That’s the technical part, which is easy. In fact, you might have already done it without knowing it!
Now comes the work, getting libraries to stock your books. It doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.
What’s the best way to get your ebooks into libraries?
By reaching out to librarians!
It sounds obvious, but libraries get dozens of unspecific messages through their contact forms and contact-us email addresses every day. Doing a bit of research into which librarian to contact or how your books will help them help their patrons can go a long way toward differentiating yourself.
While email is fine, keep in mind that you’re competing with dozens of emails a day. Yours can be overlooked or simply tuned out unless you be specific and contact the right people in the right way.
Try going ‘old school’ — librarians love to see physical letters, books, and packages. Of course, an email follow-up to an actual letter really works well, too. Be sure to reference your snail mail so they connect the dots!
As to who should reach out? There are no hard and fast rules. Librarians can be contacted by authors, publishers, and their patrons (i.e., your fans). A combination works well, too.
If you happen to be a local author (or ‘are just passing through’), be sure to play that card. In this case, a personal author/librarian relationship can be a lot better than the more ‘professional’ publisher/library connection.
Again, you can mix and match. Just be professional, and don’t inundate or annoy your librarians!
5 great ways to reach librarians
Some of these are costly or time-consuming, so always weigh the costs vs the [potential] benefits.
- In-person (when possible)—Bring flyers, a library-focused book catalog or one-sheets, bonus items that they can use to market inside the library or online, etc.
- Deliver a box of books—Include things like flyers, a library-focused book catalog or one-sheets, bonus items that they can use to market inside the library or online, etc.
- Send a physical letter—Include flyers, a library-focused catalog, one-sheets, etc.
- Send emails—Always use email to follow-up, even if you used one of the above already.
- Phone calls—I recommend using phone calls to gather information so you can send one or more of the above. It’s fine (and recommended) that you follow up with a phone call if you don’t hear back in a reasonable amount of time, too.
Remember, libraries can take time and/or money to get into, with no guarantee of bringing further sales of your books. Start small and build your library base over time.
Spend an appropriate amount of time with your local library before branching out into those where it will be harder to build a personal relationship.
While this seems like a slow way to go, the more librarians you have as fans, the more libraries will be willing to take on your books. Librarians talk!
Create a library kit
Your kit combines physical and digital items designed to showcase your books. The kit should show off your books in a way that not only makes it easy for librarians to find your books in their systems, but more importantly, tells them how your books will help them help their patrons.
These five components are not the be-all, end-all, but a good, solid start!
- One-Sheet—This is a one-page document that shows off your book and tells them all they need to know to get it. It’s like your Amazon book page, but without all the ads. It should be printable, an emailable PDF, and hosted on your website
- Book Catalog—If you have more than one book, consider creating a catalog, which not only includes the one-sheets for each book, but also has a page telling more about your series or collection. Printable, emailable, PDF, and hosted on your website
- Physical letters—Create templates that you can personalize to mail to libraries and include in shipments. Having a starting point for each outreach means you’re more likely to do it.
- Digital letters, emails, and graphics—Create them early and keep them in place so you can find them when it’s time to send.
- Graphics for libraries—Librarians often create online and offline displays, so have a folder full of helpful graphics and downloads that they can use in their libraries!
Physical letters vs email
Snail-mail is back! Because fewer people send letters these days, you can stand out when you send something the library can actually touch and hold.
Whether you send physical letters, email, or both, be sure to consider how you and your books help librarians help their patrons.
Remember, the patrons are their customers, and that’s who they want to help and entertain.
- Tell them how the book will help them help and entertain their patrons.
- Where is your ebook or book available? Not all libraries use the same catalogs. Overdrive, Hoopla, B&T Axis360, Odilo, Ingram and others are options.
- Highlight any special pricing options (using the cost per checkout model, for instance, or special sale pricing).
- Include ISBNs for all versions (not audiobooks or ebooks if exclusive to Amazon/Audible)
- If there is a special library ISBN, large print edition, be sure to include those, too.
- If your book is in NetGalley, tell them, and provide a link.
- Bonus—Include tips of solutions and ideas for their bulletin boards, flyers, or newsletters
Collect reviews from librarians
I’m not talking Amazon reviews, but if they do review there, consider it a bonus.
The reviews I’m talking about are more like testimonials, quotes, or blurbs that you can add to your library kit, making it better and more impressive over time.
When a library or librarian says something great about your book (or you), simply ask them if you can use what they said as a testimonial.
In addition to adding these to your library kit, consider adding them to the Editorial Review section on Amazon. It’s available through your free Author Central account.
How can I tell if my books are stocked in libraries?
It’s not easy.
WorldCat.org is one way to see if your book is in the library systems, but it’s not clear what systems they are in, just which libraries. Good luck!
But what’s more important is knowing which systems your books are in, not the specific libraries.
If you use Smashwords or Draft2Digital, their dashboards will tell you which systems your books are in.
If you’re curious about specific libraries, it’s not easy, like I said. They each use different systems, but there are a few tricks you can try.
Overdrive, for instance, has a customer-facing system available. You can use it to locate libraries where your book is stocked, but you have to plug in a zipcode or a city name and go from there. Hoopla has a system available in their apps.
These systems are designed to help readers find books in their local libraries, not list everywhere your ebooks are available.
You can see Overdrive in action, here: Overdrive.com
Note that if you’re using a distributor (like Draft2Digital or Smashwords), your books can be in Overdrive, Hoopla, Baker & Taylor Axis360, and Odilo but still not in individual libraries.
These systems are catalogs. Librarians still have to buy or rent them from these systems.
Library pricing recommendations
- Because ebooks last forever (unlike print) library prices are typically several times higher than the retail ebook and print book. You don’t have to price high, but low-priced books might not be taken seriously, or may stand out as self-published next to higher-priced traditionally published books.
- The recommended price is 2- 3 times the cost of the ebook (unless the book is already a premium price, in which case consider 1.5x).
- Special sale pricing can also be offered, but remember that books purchased by libraries are theirs forever. They will own the book unless they are using the CPC model (see below). CPC books have their price locked in at the rate initially added, as well.
- Libraries choosing to use the CPC (cost per checkout) model, pay only if patrons check out the book. Under this model, libraries don’t pay the full purchase price when they add the book to their system, so there’s no risk of wasting money on a book no one checks out. With CPC, libraries pay 1/10th of the library price per checkout, instead. Not all libraries are aware of this option, so be sure to bring it up or highlight this in your catalog.
Librarians are amazing!
I’d like to thank all the librarians who took time out of their busy days to help me put this article together.
I’d especially like to thank my mom, Geraldine Suzuki, who was a reference librarian in Torrance, California until she retired.
Mom was a huge influence on me, my writing, and my passion for libraries, and I was thrilled to ‘interview’ her for this article.
I love you, Mom!
Library outreach extras
- Libraries listen to their patrons—Ask your fans, street teams, and ARC readers to approach their local libraries (you can give them catalogs, etc. to take with them or mail)
- It’s sometimes worth the investment to send a physical package to a key librarian or library contact (books, materials, extras, flyers, bookmarks, etc.). Attention is valuable.
- Libraries (like bookstores) take time, but can reach critical mass once enough librarians hear about the books
- Remember, librarians talk. They also recommend books to one another. Always put your best foot (and your best books) forward.
Popular library ebook catalogs
It’s best to have your books in as many of the following systems as possible, but as you can see, some support far more libraries than others.
You can get into the top three services via Draft2Digital, then expand as needed, using Smashwords for Odilo and some of the others.
The numbers below are estimates from the date of this post’s publication.
- Overdrive, Public Libraries (over 20,000)
- Baker & Taylor (AXIS 360), Public Libraries (3,000)
- Hoopla, Retail & Public Library (not shared, but 2,638 estimated)
- Odilo, Public Libraries (2,100 in North and South America and Europe)
- EBSCO, School Library & Public Library (numbers not shared)
- Mackin School Library & Public Library (numbers not shared)
- Perlego, Academic & Institutional Libraries (numbers not shared)
- ProQuest, Academic Libraries (numbers not shared)
- Bibliotheca (numbers not shared)
A note on newer library services
The services below have been in the news lately, but were not available via ebook aggregators as of the publication of this document.
If these systems are important to you, be sure to reach out to your favorite ebook aggregator to see if they can add them.
- Califa’s Enki supports 100+ California libraries
- DPLA / Digital Public Library of America is in talks with Amazon
How do libraries find your print books to order them?
Libraries want a cost-effective, time-efficient, and easy way to get your print books.
Librarians don’t have the time or systems in place that enable ordering from individual publishers or authors. They can, but usually, they won’t.
Yeah, it can be discouraging, so make sure your print books are in the systems they use to remove that barrier.
- Ingram— Enabled via publishing through Ingram directly or via Amazon KDP-Print’s Expanded Distribution
- Amazon— Yes, as stated in Mark’s librarian interview below, libraries will often buy direct from Amazon)
- Baker & Taylor— If you chose a free ISBN with KDP-Print you may already be in B&T. If not, set up an account with B&T. It’s probably not worth it, though unless important libraries just can’t do it another way.
Additional library resources
For additional information on getting your books and ebooks into libraries, check out the links below.
Mark’s books and his librarian interview
- The Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores — Mark’s must-read book on libraries.
- Wide for the Win: Sell Globally via Multiple Platforms and Forge Your Own Path to Success — Mark’s latest!
- Mark’s interview with two Pennsylvania librarians — Get inside the mind of a librarian…
- Draft2Digital eBook Distribution — This is who I use and recommend. Easy to use.
- Smashwords eBook Distribution — A little harder to use than D2D, but very reliable.
- PublishDrive eBook Distribution – Best for authors with a lot of books and a lot of sales.
Seeing your book in a library is a huge thrill!
The first time a reader sent a picture of MY book in a library I literally shouted ‘YES!!!’
In all caps, and three exclamation points.
And I can’t wait to hear that when you have that rush, too.
I hope you found this post helpful.
This post just scratches the surface when it comes to libraries, so be sure to read Mark’s two books to fill in the gaps, and perfect your process.
My Getting Into Libraries Checklist coming soon to my email subscribers!
I’m putting together a complete guide, filled with additional resources and a checklist for you to manage the process.
To get it, just sign up for my email list using the box below, and I’ll send it out as soon as it’s ready.