Selling your nonfiction books to libraries can create a significant sales opportunity for all the different formats of your book including hardcover, paperback, ebooks, and audiobooks. Often libraries will purchase several copies of each format at a time.
Library buyers are especially interested in unique topics that aren’t heavily covered or previously covered at all, so if your book focuses on an uncommon topic, your chances of getting acquired are higher than average.
Libraries also scrutinize books and expect to see top-quality production and editing, an index for heavily referenced books, and require an ISBN and barcode. Some also require a Library of Congress Control Number and/or a Catalog in Print record, although these aren’t as essential as they once were since most libraries are acquiring books based on demand and promotion instead of browsing Library of Congress catalogs.
Also essential, make sure your book has reviews on Amazon—as many as possible—since this shows librarians your book is popular. And there is a good chance they are checking on Amazon too. Goodreads is another source of reviews that librarians can check, so ask readers to write reviews there as well.
Most libraries won’t acquire spiral bound books without the title on the spine. They also avoid workbooks. Anything meant to be written in isn’t a good fit for a library.
These are the most common ways to market your books to libraries:
- Advertise in the publications librarians read.
- Get your book reviewed by publications read by librarians.
- Exhibit at library acquisition events.
- Participate in collaborative marketing programs through publisher’s groups or by teaming up with other authors and publishers and place ads in publications.
- Conduct mail campaigns and send sell sheets and/or postcards directly to librarians.
- Get media attention for your book to drive public attention and interest. Librarians are people too and they’re always on the lookout for books that are gaining popularity.
Read on for links and resources to help you accelerate success in getting your book acquired by libraries.
FIRST, Find Out if Your Book is Currently Carried in Any Libraries!
Use the World Cat website to find out if your book is being carried by libraries, and if so, which libraries. Type your book title in the search bar on this page and it will show you results.
Here is a screenshot for my book, The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan:
Notice it shows two editions in 96 libraries. I can then scroll down to see all libraries where the book is carried.
Further down the page I can see that World Cat features reviews of my book from Goodreads:
Why is this information useful?
It’s not always easy to know for sure how well your library marketing campaigns are performing, so checking this free database provides an easy way for you to monitor results.
You can also leverage this information in your marketing campaigns. For example, if you have a new book coming out and your previous book is available in libraries, contact those libraries and remind them know they are already carrying your previous book and let them know your new book is available. Another strategy is to let other libraries know your book is currently being carried in 50, 100 or 1,000 libraries, which makes an excellent selling point!
Hang on to the World Cat link and check it periodically, especially after you’ve done any kind of library marketing to see if your efforts are producing results.
Side Note: World Cat also offers search tools for genealogists.
Editorial Review Sources
Librarians commonly acquire books based on editorial reviews seen in industry publications. Following are the publications they follow most.
Kirkus is a reputable editorial review service that is also indie author friendly. For $450, you can submit your book for review. Select reviews are featured in its print publication as well. Traditionally published books are eligible to submit for editorial review at no charge.
Want to keep reading? Download the entire 12-page report on how to sell your book to libraries!