I am a great lover of libraries, not simply because I work in one, but because I was practically raised in a library.
My father would gather us all together every Saturday morning for a trip into town to the local library. He would enjoy the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal while my brother and I smoked in the downstairs bathrooms. After an infusion of nicotine, we would return to the main floor and browse for hours, sometimes sneaking a second or third cigarette before we had to make our final selections and go home. I loved the smell of the library, the downstairs bathroom notwithstanding, and all the books.
Yes, yes, yes, but this is about you, you say. What does this have to do with writers marketing their novels?
Fast forward a number of years and many adverse life experiences later, and here I am: a non-smoking model citizen who works in a library. So now I will share the secrets of my trade with you:
Libraries buy books. Yes, I know this is shocking information for some, but bear with me for a moment. According to the American Library Association, “Libraries provide a significant market for publishers and vendors. According to Book Industry Trends 2008 (Book Industry Study Group, 2008), which examines acquisitions expenditures of public, school, college & university, and special libraries . . . with over $1.9 billion spent on book purchases alone” in 2007 (ALA Fact Sheet Number 5).
Why do you want your book in a library? Exposure! If you take a quick peek at the Barnes & Nobel website, you’ll see a parade of what I’m starting to call “name” books. These are books that are selling primarily on the basis of the name of the author.
Some of these are good books, some of them are not. Many will tout that they are New York Times Bestsellers, which really means that lots and lots of book stores are purchasing these books.
The New York Times Bestseller list does not account for actual book sales to human beings nor does it account for returns. Book stores are purchasing books based on the author’s name and whether that author has a solid selling record. It’s a cycle that completely shuts out the small presses and debut authors.
So while the major publishers keep churning out more of the same old same old and wondering why nobody is buying the eight hundredth rendition of vampires in the public school system, the small presses are busy picking up the new talent. Unfortunately, if you’re published by a small press, you’re on your own in terms of marketing and getting the word out about your book.
This is where libraries come in.
There are a couple of things you can do to help get the word out about your novel. ALA Fact Sheet Number 5 has a great list of reviewers and advice for getting your book reviewed by several library oriented publications.
You can also donate a copy of your book to a library. When you do this you are doing two things:
1) you are promoting your book by getting your name into WorldCat the online catalog of all the libraries; and
2) you are winning friends amongst librarians who often direct patrons toward titles.
That’s a win-win: free name marketing and friendly librarians (and trust me, you don’t want to fall on their evil side – an angry librarian is a vicious beast). Some libraries even have book review or book recommendation sites along with their web pages such as our library’s Booklove site.
Notice that there are links and prices to Barnes & Nobel and to Amazon for anyone who might like to purchase this novel. Book reviews from other websites are also listed in the record. Gobs and gobs of information all in one place! The only cost to the author is the donation of a book.
Another great thing about having your book in the library is that rather than just displaying big name titles, the library will usually display your book on the “New Book” rack. Primo display opportunities, no cost to the author other than those pesky taxes we all pay.
When people start checking your book out, they will recommend it to their friends, who probably have similar tastes. Eventually word of mouth will carry a book higher than any New York Times Bestseller list.
So remember that libraries are a great place to start marketing your book, and if you’re especially sweet to the cataloger (hint, hint), she might bump your book to the head of the line so you’re in WorldCat that much faster.
copyright 2009 Teresa Frohock