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Sell More Books to Libraries

Sell More Books to Libraries
by Fern Reiss, CEO,

You can sell lots of books to libraries—if you know how to approach the library market.  Here are my top tips on breaking into this lucrative part of the book business; for more tips, see

Go for reviews
The way most libraries make their purchasing decisions is via the reviews in the major trade journals—Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Foreword Magazine.   So it’s important to be sure your book is reviewed in those publications.  If you’ve published traditionally, you can expect your publisher to handle this step (though it can’t hurt to ask the publicist or editor if this will happen automatically—and follow through to make sure it does.)  If you’re self-publishing your book, be sure you send a bound galley (not a finished book) to these publications at least five months before your publication date—that is, five months before the books become available to bookstores, Amazon, etc. A good review in one of these review journals (and for the purposes of publicity, usually even a bad review is a good review) can lead to several thousand library sales.

Take the back door into reviews
If you don’t get a review in one of the major publications, consider taking the back door approach if appropriate: Go for a review of the audio version of the book.  (Hadn’t considered doing an audio book?  Start thinking about it.)  The audio review section of Library Journal, for example, is easier to get into than the print section, so in lieu of a review of your printed book, think about whether it might be worth producing an audio version—if only to make librarians aware of your book title.  If they review the audio of your book, be sure to make it clear that there’s also a printed version—in which case they’ll mention it in the context of the review.

Figure out how your book is unique
Libraries are always trying to fill gaps in their collections (as opposed, for example, to bookstores, which are only trying to fill collection gaps if they see a strong consumer demand for the niche).  But for librarians, niche books are very desirable.  So if you can position your book so that it’s a ‘the only’ title—the only book on cooking whole meals in a fondue pot, the only book on how to have a six-figure career without ever leaving your house, the only book on how the world might have been different if JFK hadn’t been shot—you have a strong shot at library sales.  I positioned my book, The Infertility Diet: Get Pregnant and Prevent Miscarriage ( as the only book on how to treat infertility and miscarriage nutritionally.  I positioned Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child ( as the only book on how to talk to your kids about 9/11.  (That’s not true anymore—but it was when the book first came out, shortly after September 11th.)  With The Publishing Game ( books I had a problem, because they were not the only books on how to find a literary agent, how to self-publish, and how to successfully promote your book. So I figured out another tactic and positioned them as the only 30-day step-by-step roadmaps to these topics.  Because I was able to position my books as ‘the only’ books in their category, they all enjoyed reasonable library sales.

Speak at libraries
The more speaking you can do at libraries, the better your library sales are likely to be.  (Also, the more speaking you do at libraries, the better your bookstore sales will be, because at least some of the patrons who come hear about your book at your library talk will then go out and purchase the book at their local bookstore.  So how do you get library bookings?

First of all, libraries are often more likely to book programs than readings.  So think about what sort of package you can put together that would interest a library audience.  When I was promoting my Publishing Game series to libraries, I offered librarians a choice of several different length programs on finding an agent, self-publishing, and book promotion.  Each was available with a question/answer session and an autographing session.  Just a straight book reading or signing wouldn’t have been of much interest—but the more in-depth program appealed to authors, and the libraries were able to provide full-house audiences every time they ran the program.

Second, remember that libraries have budgets for programming.  Although many authors do library talks at no charge, you can charge for library programs.  I charged $500 per talk for my one to two hours at each library—and got it at libraries across the country.  Not only that, but the publicity that the libraries did in advance to announce my talks contributed to book sales and buzz in every town to which I traveled.

Tailor your web site to libraries
Most authors know they’re supposed to have a web site.  But the more you tailor your web site towards library sales, the better those library sales are likely to be.  So think about libraries when you’re putting together or updating your web site.  In addition to a section for the press, put up a section specifically for librarians.  Include any special publicity aimed at libraries, any articles you’ve written for the library market, any ideas you’d like to see the libraries implement for your book.  My web site section for librarians includes a contest aimed specifically at libraries, my book’s reviews in the trade journals, ordering information, my terms for library book orders (though this is uncommon, as most libraries will order via wholesalers, not directly), my offer of a column for library newsletters, my offerings of programs and lectures to libraries (and the consequent booking information), and endorsements by librarians who’ve booked me as a speaker. For some more ideas on what you could put on a library section of your web site, see

So start thinking libraries.  Because there are lots of libraries—and thus, lots of potential sales.

Interested in learning more about selling books to libraries?  Find out more at


Fern Reiss is CEO of ( and ( and the author of the books, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books.  She is also the Director of the International Association of Writers ( providing publicity vehicles to writers worldwide. She also runs The Expertizing® Publicity Forum where you can pitch your book or business directly to journalists; more information at  Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at

Copyright © 2011 Fern Reiss


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