Getting into Libraries
Libraries are the unsung heroes of the American (and other countries’) educational system. They are where people look for jobs, listen to lectures, or teach themselves all sorts of things.
They are also a marvelous home for your newly-published book.
First of all, you probably can’t just write to or visit every library in creation. While writing is something of a number game, it won’t do you much good to just launch your book at every single library out there. You need to have a plan.
The best and easiest plan is to go with a library where you have some sort of a connection. Did you grow up in Cleveland, go to college in Dallas, and are now settled in St. Louis? Then try your local library from when you were growing up. Don’t try every single Ohio or even Cleveland library. The same is true of Dallas, plus you may want to try your alma mater. For St. Louis, do yourself a favor and get a library card before you even start. They want to know you, at least a little bit. So go and let them at least know that much about you.
I’m going to give you three approaches.
With the book
Take your book with you, in a purse or tote bag or backpack. Ask to speak to whoever is in charge of acquisitions. Go to them, book in hand, and explain how you are related to the library. E. g. “I grew up down the street, on Parkland Road.” or “I just got a card three months ago.”
Now explain what you’re doing. “I’m a first-time author. This is my book. It’s about ____.”
At minimum, tell them the genre. I find it’s helpful to tell them either where it’s shelved elsewhere (is it science fiction or fantasy, for example). Also tell them whether the work has any triggers or heavy sex or violence scenes. Mention if it is LGBT-friendly. This isn’t just a courtesy to help keep small children from taking out works with explicit sex scenes. It also helps the library decide how they are going to display the work and what they are going to say if anyone asks them about it.
Then give them the book. Yes, just hand it over. Make sure it’s a perfect new copy. Do not give them a signed copy. Why not? Because those can potentially be stolen. In addition, the library has to think ahead. Your book will probably end up in their book sale, and maybe even in less than a year. A pristine copy is easier for them to sell.
Without the book
No book? No problem! Come over with a business card instead. Again, ask to speak with whoever is in charge of acquisitions. Explain who you are and what your book is about. Hand over your business card. And if you’ve got the ISBN handy, then write it on the back. But also get their address of where you can send the work. Don’t make them ask for it. You have to do all the legwork here.
On the phone
This one is similar to when you go in but don’t have a copy of the book with you. Again, ask to speak to whoever is in charge of acquisitions, and explain about your work. Make it clear the book is free to them. Then ask for their shipping address, and whose name should it be addressed to. And the best part about this approach (or if you need to mail the book for any reason) is, you can just have Amazon ship it to them and send it as a gift.
What do you want in return?
Pictures. Yes, really! Tell them you will do this if they take pictures of your book on their shelves and send the images to you. Explain you are going to use them in your marketing campaign. And then do so, making sure to thank them profusely and link back to them.
You just sold another book! Never mind that it was to yourself. You still sold one, and that counts for Amazon’s rankings system. Plus your book now is in a position to be seen by others. And the librarian knows your title. Finally, I have personally found talking to librarians to be easy. Because you’re not really selling. Instead, you’re giving them a donation.