Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Going Wide" - Part 3: Getting Your Books into Libraries

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series

Last year, I tackled getting into non-Amazon retailers with Gaining Traction on non-Amazon Vendors Part 1: The Upload Process, which gives an overview of the major vendors, and Part 2 - Gaining Traction on Kobo. Today, I thought I'd tackle getting into libraries.

There are two approaches you need to take to make this work: 1) make it available at places libraries buy and 2) visibility (so they want to buy it).

Sounds straightforward, right? But as an indie, it can be challenging on both fronts.

Make it Available

You'll want to make it available in both print and ebook. For print, the most straightforward way is to use CreateSpace's Expanded Distribution option. Giving a tutorial on getting your book into a print format and uploaded onto Amazon's CreateSpace would be outside of the scope of this post, but here are some handy previous posts:

Jordan McCollum's Basics of Print Interior Design
Marcy Kennedy's The Ins and Outs of ISBNs

When you're selecting expanded distribution, you want to make sure you've priced your print book high enough so that you're making at least a buck or so when it's sold through expanded distribution.

Must Love Chainmail captured in the wild by a fan at a California library

If you're super-serious, you can get your book uploaded to IngramSpark so that libraries and bookstores can order it at a better wholesale discount and fully returnable. You'll have to decide if it's worth the effort, because you do have to pay a yearly fee to have your books in their catalog. I've had libraries and bookstores carry mine in print and they ordered it through CreateSpace just fine, so it's not true what you hear that they won't buy books through CreateSpace. If you're curious to see if you've already sold some to libraries, you can look your books up on I just looked up Must Love Chainmail and as of right now, the print version is in 35 libraries around the world. Not huge, but it's not nothing 😃

The other way to get into libraries is to donate your books. I've taken mine to my local library and donated them to the collection.

For ebook, it's a little different. Here are the places I use (or tried to use) to get into libraries.
  • Smashwords - This is really the main reason I still use Smashwords. I turn off most of the other channels and either use Draft2Digital, or go direct for its other vendors. However, they do distribute to the following vendors which libraries use: Baker and Taylor's Axis360, Gardners (for UK libraries through Askews & Holts and VLeBooks), Library Direct, Odilo (a global ebook supplier for libraries in North America, Europe and South America), and OverDrive (worldwide). It can take a while for your book to show up in their catalogs, but I do get the odd sale here and there. Almost all of my ebook library sales are to Overdrive.
  • SELF-e - the drawback here is that you don't get paid for your books. If accepted into their hand-picked catalog, your ebook is available for libraries that use Biblioboard. I've recently been alerted that their ToS might be too "rights grabby" and I emailed my contact about it months ago and never heard back. So proceed with caution.
  • Going direct with Overdrive - I tried this route and filled out the application as a publisher, but was denied. I don't have a wide enough "variety" of titles to interest them, but if you're an indie author with a large backlist across several genres, this might work for you

Make It Visible

This is the hard part, and it's the same marketing problem you face when selling to readers in general. In order for a library to order your book, they need to a) know about it b) want it.

So all the effort you put into marketing your book should spill over into helping you get into libraries. Hopefully, it goes without saying that this includes making sure the product itself is top-quality in packaging and editing.

That said, I've found that I get the biggest boost in sales (in both print and ebook) to libraries after these particular activities:
  • Posting it to NetGalley - Some authors don't like using NetGalley for several reasons, but I carefully moderate who gets an eARC and so it's worked out well for me. Librarians are on here and they regularly check out new books posted there for consideration. They don't typically review (though some do), but they might buy your book for their patrons. You can find a co-op to rent a slot for a year, or sublet slots from a co-op. I sublet my slot for 2 and 4-week runs. If you're interested, you can email me for details.
  • Getting a favorable review in Publisher's Weekly - this has probably accounted for the most sales I've seen to libraries and bookstores because it goes in their print catalog they send out. I've submitted mine through This is not a guaranteed review, though. You submit it, and then they look at your book and decide if they want to put it into their review queue. And then that's just the first step, because that still doesn't mean someone will review it.
  • Getting a favorable review in LibraryJournal - again, easier said than done for an indie. I've only managed getting one of mine reviewed. They review through NetGalley, but you need to alert them that it's there. Guidelines are under the eBooks heading here.
  • Getting a favorable review in another reputable venue, like USA Today. - again, this is hard. I lucked out once with one review there, but haven't struck that gold again :)

I also give out review copies on LibraryThing, but I have no idea if that's netted any sales to libraries. In theory, librarians use it for discoverability, so it doesn't hurt.

Entering in contests that feature librarians as judges can also help gain visibility. If you write romance like me, there are several RWA chapter contests which do so.

Also, word-of-mouth marketing will also spill over here. I've had fans ask if my book was available to borrow through their library. I reply that it is, that they need to either request it or get it through interlibrary loan. I've even used sometimes to look up to see the closest library to them, etc. (but this also helps them to request it through interlibrary loan). I also have some fans who've voluntarily dropped off bookmarks to their local libraries, which is awesome.

Final Thoughts

There are certainly more avenues to pursue, but in some ways, it might be a case of diminishing returns. I've had it on my list forever to make book club questions to accompany my novels and see if I can crack into book clubs, but it keeps getting put at the bottom of my list. It's also on my to-do list to port my print catalog over to IngramSpark.

How about you? What challenges have you faced in getting into libraries? Have you found other things helpful that I didn't mention?

Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.

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About Must Love Kilts: A Time Travel Romance 

The Jacobite Rebellion--not the best time to get drunk, hook up with a guy, and lose your sister.

A drunken bet...

When computer game designer Traci Campbell gets too close and personal with a bottle of Glenfiddich while vacationing in Scotland, she whisks her kilt-obsessed sister back to 1689 to prove hot guys in kilts are a myth. Hello, hundred bucks! But all bets are off when she meets Iain, the charming playboy in a to-die-for kilt.

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong name...

Iain MacCowan regularly falls in love at the drop of his kilt. The mysterious red-haired lass with the odd accent is no different. But when his new love is discovered to be a Campbell, the most distrusted name in the Highlands, his dalliance endangers his clan's rebellion against King William.

It’s all hijinks in the Highlands until your sister disappears...

Traci thinks men are only good for one thing--thank you, Iain!--but when she awakens once again in Ye Olde Scotland and her sister is gone, she must depend on the last person she wants to spend more time with. He wants to win a heart, she wants to keep hers, but can these two realize they're meant for each other before the Jacobite rebellion pulls them apart?


  1. What a helpful and informative post. I wasn't aware of most of this. I've thought about getting into libraries but usually dismissed it as being off the radar for indie authors. Need to think again!

  2. Great topic! I don't have a handle on how to get it into other libraries, but I've definitely got it in my local system, and encourage fans to request an item in their own library system. Great info on visibility pubs too--thank you!

  3. A really helpful post. I've always wondered how to find which libraries have my book and just found out how. Thank you to Angela and Janice.

    1. You're welcome! WorldCat is a handy tool, for sure!

  4. Thank you for sharing your expertise. Still trying to get the courage to dive in! Best of luck to you!