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How to Sell Your Book to a Library

23 Mar


Nearly 20% of all patrons use the library to discover new content, a quarter purchased a book they discovered at a library and a quarter bought a book by an author they had discovered through the library.  For authors it comes naturally to offer their books to a library.

If you want to sell a book to a library, and sell the librarian on the worth of your book – prove your book’s worth to their local community. If you are writing your local librarian, encouraging them to buy your book, make sure that you can show how it helps them meet their own goals.

Instead of writing a letter that talks about how great your book is and how awesome it is, tell them why they should share your book with their community. Think about how your books can tie into a local interest within the region or even into an important national news item or cultural trend. In all cases, you will improve your chances by increasing the educational impact your book can have upon the community.

Sample Letter:
“Dear Librarian,
Here is a program that I established to help educate members of our community on the challenges of living in the west under the current water rights system. I am an expert in this regard because I have written and published a book on water rights titled, Water Rights in the New Old West (ISBN:123-4-567-89101-1)
If you are interested in purchasing copies of my book, I could present my free educational talk to the community at your library as a supplementary program to the information presented in the book. If you currently do not have the means to purchase copies of my book, I would be open to present my program anyway, at no cost, to spread the message of the book (if possible I would also like to set up a table for possible book sales). ”

How can you serve the community with your book?
There could certainly be much more to a query letter, but the bottom line is that libraries exist to serve the community, so how can you, as the author best serve the community with your expertise as well? This concept doesn’t have to be limited to non-fiction. A fantasy writer could present a workshop on writing short stories.

With physical books shelf space is at a premium, almost any new purchase would have to replace a current title on the shelves. In this regard the number one consideration for a librarian is, “is this book a better fit for my community then the title it replaces.” That does not have to be a daunting question for your own consideration. Communities are dynamic and ever-changing, and their literary needs are always growing and, in some regards, insatiable.

Offer a free workshop
Consider offering to do a “Book Talk” or establish an educational program for writers (that can be presented at the library to tie into local interests). These programs can be a presentation, or series of talks and conversations for sample about local issues or topics of interest that relate to your book. Be creative, and don’t be afraid if your topic is controversial. Librarians want to encourage conversation and dialogue within their community and a controversial topic can help stir things up.

Remember, when you are submitting a query to a librarian, the key point of focus should be clearly answering WHY the librarian should care, or HOW does your book BENEFIT the community!

This article was written based on notes taken during Marketing to Libraries in the 21st Century at IBPA’s Publishing University, on March 10th 2012, with Peter Brantly.   

A very detailed article how to tap into the library market can be found at SPAWN’s website, written by Patricia Fry: http://www.spawn.org/marketing/tapintolibrarymarket.htm

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