If as an author your goal is to reach readers, you want your books to be in libraries. In fact, much of what happens in the new digital marketplace is a revamping of what libraries have been offering for ages: no-cost book sampling; a discovery point for readers to find books and authors they love; and book borrowing as one finds it in programs like Amazon Prime.
Librarians help readers discover books, but how do librarians themselves find the books they’ll acquire? Much depends on the type of library and the librarian’s role within the organization. From a session I attended at a recent conference, some general tips for authors and publishers:
· Via web searches and telephone queries, find out who’s in charge of collection development/acquisitions at the libraries where you’d like to see your books. Invite these librarians to subscribe to your newsletter. (Need we say it? Don’t spam them.)
· Besides the standard review journals (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal), librarians pay attention to book buzz on social media. They also use search engines to check the general chatter around a particular title.
· Scheduling library events can be a great way to help librarians become familiar with your book. Keep in mind, though, that a library’s charged with serving the public, not selling your books. Therefore, your event should have a hook that will interest readers. Another suggestion: propose a multi-author event.
· Check your metadata (everything about the book that’s not content). It must be precise and focused not merely on end readers, but on the people who are trying to get your book into the right places. Even something as simple as an unintended space in your metadata entry could mean your book won’t be found.
· Make sure your book is entered properly in the Library of Congress. If your release is through a small publisher, the PCN system must be used (larger publishers use one called CIP). The PCN record can only be created before the book is produced. The Library of Congress number generated should then be added to the book’s copyright page. The resulting record is called a MARC record. Librarians can also create a MARC record once a book is released, but the process is cumbersome and errors may happen.
· If you have other titles, you might also check the Worldcat database to find which libraries have them; these would be most likely to purchase a subsequent title.
· Overall, the consensus of this panel was that the most effective methods for reaching librarians are the ones that cost only time. Aggregated fliers in which authors and publishers buy ad space are more likely to be overlooked than a newsletter from an author or small press that has cultivated a relationship with a particular librarian.
· Write a good book. If anything about it is sloppy, it’s unlikely a librarian will want it in her collection.