America's 123,000 libraries fall into four basic types: Public, School, Academic, and Special (armed forces, government, corporate). Like bookstores, most libraries purchase content from book vendors like Ingram or Baker and Taylor rather than directly from publishers. So right off the bat, if your book isn’t in a library vendor catalog, you are behind the curveball.
Vendors work with libraries to create profiles that fit what type of content the library wants in its collection. For instance, many public libraries in the past have expressly denied self-published content for their collection. Academic libraries, on the other hand, have been a bit more relaxed on this stance especially if the book is on a subject that is trending in pop culture or represents the scholarship being studied on its campus. Even though the self-publishing stigma is improving in the library world, it can still be a challenge today to bring your indie title to a librarian’s attention.
Importance of Reviews
For both public and academic libraries, decisions to purchase are typically based on professional reviews that librarians recognize and value. So getting a positive review in a publication that both vendors and libraries recognize is really critical to getting your book purchased by libraries. Below is a list of the top library review media, their audience, and circulation as well as a link to their sites so you can see their submission guidelines if you’re interested in submitting your forthcoming book for review. Keep in mind that many of these publications require submission prior to publication.
- Booklist: Adult and Youth | Circulation: 80,000 print; 160,000 online
- Library Journal: Adult | Circulation: 100,000
- Library Journal Self-e program: Adult and Youth self-published eBooks
- School Library Journal: Youth titles | Circulation: 33,000 print; 44,000 online
- Choice Magazine: Academic | Circulation: 22,000 librarians and faculty
- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: Youth | Circulation: 2,000
- Horn Book: Youth | Circulation: 13,000
- Kirkus Reviews: Adult and Youth | Circulation: 3,000 print
Libraries Require Good Book Metadata
Just as IngramSpark has been pounding the drum in its webinars and social media on good book metadata in selling to bookstores, librarians are just as demanding. Here are the must-haves for your book to even be considered for purchase by a library:
- A good cover image is essential
- Accurate BISAC or subject codes – three is better than one
- A complete description that is well written
- Accurate age range (intended audience based on comprehension level)
- Regional information – is the book about xx place or is the author from xx place?
- Author affiliations are particularly important in the academic world—if a professor at University X writes a book, chances are high for course adoption or at least that the library will purchase a few copies. Many library profiles feature an inclusion list of affiliated authors which is generally a mixture of authors who are current or past faculty members, or who write about a certain place.
Like bookstores, many public and even academic libraries now offer writing and publishing workshops to their local community of writers and students. If your local library offers such a program, this would be a great opportunity for you to take part and learn what librarians know about publishing. Ideally, you should be both a patron of your local library as well as a customer of your local bookstore prior to publishing your first book. If you’re not already, consider joining your library’s friends group and volunteering. If your library doesn’t offer writing workshops, you might suggest that they take part in Indie Author Day. On this day, libraries from all over North America will host their own local author events featuring Q&A with writers, agents, and other industry leaders. Learn more here.