Increase Your Book Sales – Add Libraries to the Mix

Written by Susan Sundwall | December 10, 2015

According to the American Library Association there are over one hundred and twenty thousand libraries in the United States.  That’s a wonderful thing for a writer to know because libraries buy books.  In our zeal to get our name out there by way of bookstore signings, conventions, blog tours etc., we often overlook our loyal allies in the library.

When my publisher advised their writers to submit book suggestions to libraries in their home and surrounding states, I was skeptical. I mean, how many book sales could that be? And how exactly did I go about contacting all those libraries? Silly me. Of course there was a way.

First craft a short letter about your books. Introduce yourself as the author of whatever genre you work in. Then offer a blurb about the book or books. List the ISBN numbers for your hard cover, paperback, and any other format next to your titles and mention attributes like good reviews or niche markets. With this information the librarian will have your name and titles on hand when the time comes to order new books. Direct your inquiry to the Library Director whose name should be available on the library website. Put “book suggestion” in the subject line of your email. Some libraries have a message box on their websites. Others have an e-mail address. To search for libraries nationwide go here: http://librarytechnology.org/libraries/

Offer to give a book talk. This might consist of a reading from your current work followed by a question and answer period. Work with the librarian to come up with the best program for her patrons. After your talk, you’ll be able to sell your books. This is also a good venue for participating in a larger event, with other authors, by way of a panel. My mystery writer’s group frequently participates in events with two or more authors. Working with the library staff and promoting the event with available media brings writers together with readers in a comfortable setting that not only gives name recognition, but puts the author’s face to the books being sold.

Bear in mind that you may not hit a responsive cord with every library you contact. There are many that will only take a book suggestion from members served by their branch. But the greater percentage of the time the librarian will be delighted to hear from you. One librarian I contacted, not too far from home, replied with a very enthusiastic, “Oh, we have your book already!” What a boon for a writer to hear that!

I’ve done all of the above and beyond. Some libraries, especially larger ones, allow room in their budgets to pay authors to speak. Call and ask for the library event coordinator – they’re always looking for willing and enthusiastic authors. Be upfront with your inquiry about speaker fees. If this is something they are able to do, set up a meeting to discuss details. You may be asked for a photo, a book blurb and a short bio. Have them ready for your meeting. Be aware that these will be more work than shorter book talks you may participate in, but well worth it. Such opportunities have been a boon to my bottom line. My first library book talk paid seventy-five dollars for a one hour session. Besides being loads of fun, I found new readers and sold several books. I’m looking forward to several more in 2016.

Your library loving friends and family can also aid and abet your efforts by asking their local branch to order your book for their shelves. Supply them with your business cards or book marks as a way for them to open the conversation.

If you’d like to find out more about how libraries acquire books and what authors can do, visit the American Library Association website at http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/authorfa

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Susan Sundwall is a freelance writer, blogger, speaker, and mystery author living in upstate New York. Find her latest Minnie Markwood mystery, The  Super Bar Incident, at Mainly Murder Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Google Books. Visit her blog at www.sundwallsays.blogspot.com