We here at The Library Ladies are occasionally approached by readers with questions and suggestions about things that we could write about on this blog. While it’s true that reviews and reader’s advisory are some of the main points that we like to make here, we also try to keep up with current trends in the library world. Something that is becoming more and more prevalent within literary circles and realities is the concept of self publishing. Some authors decide to take the route of publishing and promoting their work on their own, and with more and more services cropping up it is becoming more and more common. One question raised is how do libraries factor into this newish trend? How can self-published authors get their books into libraries?
Okay, honesty time! I am neither a cataloger or a selector at the library that I work for, so this is not a field in which I am terribly familiar. But that said, I have a couple of thoughts that I picked up through osmosis by the library system. I think that libraries should strive to include as many perspectives as possible within their collections, and that by providing as much information as possible they can serve more people and more communities. But that said, public libraries have budgets, and budgets can only go so far. There is just no way that every single library can purchase every single title. There are, however, some things that self-published authors can try to do to that might make their chances of getting their books into libraries higher than average.
For one, consider contacting your local library and asking about their policy of donations and whether they might consider adding your book to the collection. I’ve seen instances where local authors would approach the librarian at my branch, and that librarian would get them in contact with the selectors at the library. Local interest is usually a plus, but even just having ties to the community may work in your favor. Along with that, sometimes libraries will be eager to host events where authors can come and talk about their works, as a way to not only make connections in the community but to also promote their writing in a public space. (But it’s also important to note that libraries, at least in my experience, are not down with hosting for profit events, so selling one’s book during the event will potentially be a no-no).
But something that is being done more and more is a library system teaming up with a publishing platform that enables the books inside that platform to be circulated within the library catalog. One of the best examples I have found is Smashwords teaming up with the Los Gatos Public Library in Los Gatos, California. That library made it so authors could publish their books to Smashwords, and then the library would carry copies of those books within their ebook collection through the partnership. Smashwords itself seems to be committed to this collaborative opportunity, so perhaps see if your library ebook platforms carry Smashbooks titles and authors. A local example of this (local being Minnesota) is the MELSA library system (a conglomerate of 100+ metro area libraries) providing a link to MN Writes, MN Reads organization. Essentially, local writers can write and upload their ebooks to MN Writes, MN Reads, and the libraries within MELSA will provide access to these books for their patrons. Try to ask your librarians if there are any similar resources at their library.
And as Serena tweeted last week, this organization is teaming up with the Minnesota Author Project to throw a writing contest for local, independent, self published authors (with support from the Minnesota Library Foundation). Winners will not only receive a monetary prize, they will also have their works promoted via write-ups in various library magazines and their story will be added to the catalogs of a number of Minnesota public libraries. It’s true that this is more of a pie in the sky scenario and not a solution that would work for everyone (outside of the winners), but if more and more organizations could get behind this kind of thing, I think more opportunities would be created for self published authors to get their work recognized.
Again, I’m not an expert and I don’t have as much experience in this realm as selectors may. But I do believe that as more and more authors turn to self-publishing, the more libraries will want to provide access to their works because of the foundational values of librarians as a whole. Hopefully more opportunities will arise as the demand does. Until then, I know that I’m going to be looking out for ways for independent self-published authors to showcase their work, and try to find ways that I can help promote it