With summer drawing to a close and students heading back to school, we think it’s time to share some information for authors who wish to see their titles on the shelves of public libraries.
Demand for titles has been increasing and waitlists for books have been lengthening at libraries across North America, the most popular categories being children’s picture books, general fiction, mystery/thrillers, cookbooks, and memoirs/biographies. This is great news for both readers and writers as library budgets are growing to facilitate this.
Here in Victoria, BC, the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) encourages the community to make recommendations for additions to its collections as libraries aim to provide desired and relevant content for its patrons. Recommendations can be made on the GVPL website at https://www.gvpl.ca/suggest-a-title/. Librarians make selections based largely on the credibility or relevance of a book. Once a book is in a library’s collection and reports on checkout rates are viewed, other libraries will often order the same books. As well, library users can request books be circulated from one branch to another.
Alternatively, the GVPL accepts donations which “enhance its collections.” Book donations must be suitable in subject and style for its intended audience, relevant to community needs and interests, and representative of notable trends, genres, and cultures. Many libraries are currently seeking additions to their e-book collections which are increasingly made available online. Find out more here.
“Resources are selected using professional judgement based on reviews, collection knowledge, public demand, recommendations by subject specialists, reputation or significance of the creator, and customer requests.” – GVPL Board Policy & Procedure Material
Your newly published book may not yet have the credibility the library initially looks for, so consider sending your published product to a subject specialist, or reputable book reviewer to review. Having someone knowledgeable on the subject to promote your book could make a world of difference in persuading the library to carry your book. Non-professional reader reviews, on Amazon for instance, are also sometimes used in decision-making. Local publications, such as post-secondary newspapers, also often look for local books to review.
Librarians also seek professional reviews in the case that a book is challenged, which poses an interesting task for librarians, particularly with children’s books. Parents are very sensitive to the content their kids consume and there is no end to the differences between parents, in what they find appropriate/inappropriate for their children to read. For example, many parents find the Harry Potter series inappropriate, while many find it beneficial reading material. Children develop at different stages, language and content cannot be universally decided upon for any age group. Providing your book to daycares or afterschool programs and camps might also be a great way to get your book into circulation. Offering to meet with kids to share your story through readings or meet and greets, in exchange for a librarian accepting your book, is another unique way to breach the market.
When presenting your book to a library it’s important to provide: the book’s synopsis, product information, and an author bio. At Tellwell, we offer a book backgrounder with this information in a professional format to provide to your local library. Talk to your Project Manager or Marketing Consultant for more information.
You can also offer the library a marketing plan showing the ways you will promote the book, and a list of things you would do to help the library promote the book and your topic. The book backgrounder, or a sell sheet with the details mentioned above, and a marketing plan, will improve the likelihood of getting your book onto shelves as a self-published author. Along with these materials you can write a letter to the librarian focusing on how your book meets the librarian’s goals. A good attitude, a professional and friendly tone, and appropriate submission materials will go far. Don’t forget to find out the name of the person to address it to, as this little bit of research can separate you from the people who are not as serious about getting their book into the library.
Last year the GVPL launched an Emerging Local Artist Collection, “to highlight self-published, independent, or small press books by local authors, for readers of all ages”. Each spring a new collection of emerging local artists will be launched following a call for applications. To be eligible, authors must reside on Southern Vancouver Island, or did at the time of publication, the book must be published between 2013 and 2017, written in English or French, bound to professional quality or provided in EPUB or PDF format (eBooks), a single copy must be donated by the author, and the book must not breach Canadian legislation. More information about applying for the Greater Victoria Public Library’s ELA Collection can be found here.
A great starting point for you would be to do some research into your own local Library to see what expectations they have for local authors.
For more information on the subject, check out the School Library Journal.