A good friend of ours is a librarian. He has worked at a large city library since he graduated from college many, many years ago. Here is advice he shared about the biggest mistakes new authors make when approaching libraries for possible book sales.
1. “They come in, and demand we buy their book.”
Just because you’re a taxpayer doesn’t give you the right to demand your local library buy your book.
2. “They write a book when there are dozens or hundreds of similar books already on the market.”
A library that already has 25 titles on organic gardening isn’t likely to want another one.
3. “They are over-aggressive in marketing their book, which offends librarians.”
In other words, don’t act like a used car salesman. Be professional and reasonable. Being pushy will get you pushed right out the door (and then you won’t sell any books).
4. “They send a book to a specialty library that would never carry a book like that.”
This goes back to the age-old rule: Study Your Market. You wouldn’t try to sell a book on Atheism to a Christian bookstore. Likewise, you shouldn’t waste your time (or theirs) trying to sell a completely unrelated book to a specialty library.
5. “They put their phone number in the letter…but they’re not local.”
Yes, many libraries (and other government entities and businesses) still have land lines. Don’t expect a taxpayer funded library to spend money on a long-distance call to buy your book. Don’t expect a librarian to use their personal phone or plan minutes by calling you on their cell phone. Along the same vein, don’t spam libraries. Yes, emailing numerous libraries without permission in an attempt to get them to buy your book IS spam.
6. “Complaining directly to the library about a review the library wrote, and published in their newsletter.”
Libraries are far more concerned about being honest with their patrons about their offerings than they are about placating new authors. If you can’t take constructive criticism, you shouldn’t be an author in the first place.
7. “They send us quotes from Amazon reviews, which doesn’t tell us anything. There are too many false reviews on Amazon.”
Librarians like REAL book reviews; not anonymous (and perhaps false) quotes from Amazon.
8. “They have an attitude, and pretend to be a big-name author. Librarians hate that.”
Nothing is more annoying than a narcissist who pretends they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. Librarians aren’t the only ones turned off by people like that!
9. “They make assumptions that librarians are stupid, and don’t know about quality authors and quality books.”
Librarians are in the business of providing quality books for their town’s residents. All of them have a masters degree in library science, many have two masters degrees. They’re not dumb! If your book sucks, they aren’t going to buy it. Even if you donate a copy, if it’s a bad book, it’s not going to end up on the shelves. It’ll probably end up in the trash. Just because you wrote it doesn’t make it eligible for your library’s purchase and/or placement.
10. “Your publisher’s name and reputation can hurt your sales.”
This librarian in particular won’t order CreateSpace Books (now called Amazon KDP) because the ones he’s seen are so poorly written and edited. If he sees the name CreateSpace, he automatically rejects the book. Librarians know about the poor quality of some of the books put out by some POD publishers, as well as those from other “we’ll-publish-anything-if-you-just-give-us-enough-money!” publishing services. If a librarian has received too many poor-quality books from one publisher, they will, naturally, stop considering that publisher’s books in the future.
Your local library is a wonderful place! You wouldn’t expect them offer an error-laden book to your child who is just learning to read. You also wouldn’t want them to provide a book with medical misinformation to a future physician. You wouldn’t want them to offer a book featuring upside-down pages or missing information to anyone. And, you also wouldn’t want them to spend your tax dollars on a book that is similar to 25 other books they already have on their shelves.
The quality of your book (and your publisher), and how you present yourself, through your book and your professionalism, are the top criteria for a chance at library sales. Don’t blow it by offering less than librarians and library patrons deserve.
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