Tips to getting your books into libraries and bookstores

Getting self-published books into libraries and national bookstores can be a rewarding endeavor for authors looking to expand their reach and gain exposure. While it may require some effort and persistence, here are some strategies to help you navigate this process:

  1. Ensure Professional Quality: Before approaching libraries and bookstores, ensure your book meets professional standards. Invest in professional editing, proofreading, cover design, and formatting to present a polished product that meets industry standards.

  2. Research Target Libraries and Bookstores: Identify the libraries and bookstores you wish to approach. Research their selection criteria, genres of interest, and submission guidelines. Look for libraries and bookstores that have a history of supporting local or independent authors.

  3. Local Engagement: Focus on local engagement to build credibility and support. Engage with local libraries and bookstores by attending events, author signings, or book clubs. Network with librarians, bookstore managers, and fellow authors to establish connections and gain insights into their selection processes.

  4. Approach Libraries: Contact librarians directly, introducing yourself and your book. Prepare a professional query letter or email that includes a compelling book synopsis, author biography, and any relevant accolades or reviews. Consider offering a complimentary copy or an electronic version of your book for review.

  5. Consider Distribution Channels: To make your book more accessible to libraries, consider distributing your book through platforms that specialize in library distribution, such as OverDrive or Bibliotheca. These platforms make it easier for libraries to discover and acquire self-published titles.

  6. Utilize Self-Publishing Services: Some self-publishing platforms, like IngramSpark, offer programs that allow libraries and bookstores to easily order books. By utilizing these services, your book can be listed in the catalogs and databases that libraries and bookstores use to source new titles.

  7. Create a Marketing Plan: Develop a comprehensive marketing plan to promote your book to both readers and bookstore buyers. This can include online advertising, book reviews, social media campaigns, and author events. Increased visibility and demand can entice libraries and bookstores to consider your book.

  8. Engage with Local Indie Bookstores: Local independent bookstores often have more flexibility in selecting titles. Reach out to them, introduce yourself and your book, and inquire about their submission process. Attend local author events and explore partnership opportunities with independent bookstores to gain exposure.

  9. Leverage Author Associations and Networks: Join author associations or organizations that support self-published authors, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) or local writing groups. These groups often have resources and connections that can help you navigate the library and bookstore landscape.

  10. Persistence and Follow-Up: Remember that the process of getting your book into libraries and national bookstores may take time and persistence. Be prepared for rejection, but also be proactive in following up on submissions or queries. A polite and professional follow-up can demonstrate your commitment and keep your book on their radar.

Remember, every library and bookstore has unique selection criteria, so be patient and open to feedback. Emphasize the quality and marketability of your book, build relationships with key decision-makers, and continue to improve your craft and expand your reach. With determination and a well-executed plan, you can increase your chances of getting your self-published book into libraries and national bookstores.

Image Credit: I May Not Be Like You, But We May Be Friends, written by Sabrena Bishop and illustrated by Tyler Waite. The story is a valuable lesson on the importance of individual differences, sharing feelings, being a good friend, dealing with bullies, teasing, and painful childhood lessons. The bright and colorful illustrations of childhood contexts such as schools, parks, and libraries are captivating and entertaining for early readers. 

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