Wednesday, June 06, 2007

In Praise of Libraries

There are a lot of authors who get mad when they hear readers are getting their books from libraries instead of buying them. I've actually heard of authors chastizing readers who don't buy books. I'm not one of those authors. As an author I want my books to be read. What better way to build an audience than by utilizing the library. Libraries are an overlooked commodity by a lot of authors. Some of us are so busy scheduling signings and events in bookstores and at conventions that the local public library gets overlooked. Many libraries are actively looking for authors to come speak and often have budgets to pay a small stipend.

Another thing that authors need to keep in mind is that libraries buy our books. We get royalties on those sales, too. And unless the books are received damaged, libraries don't return them like bookstores do. Books have a much longer shelf life in a library than in a book store. Many readers start off reading a book by a particular author and liking them so well that they start purchasing the author's future books. Librarians are also great advocates for suggesting books to patrons and suggesting books for the library to purchase.

I wasn't able to attend BEA this year but according to Shelf Awareness there was an excellent panel on the impact of libraries on publishing. During the panel, panelist Nora Rawlinson, v-p of library services at Hachette Book Group and one-time librarian at the Baltimore County Public Library, cited a recent Library Journal poll that found library budgets have recently increased by 44%. Libraries have the potential to be "the next Book Sense," she added, "the next big promotion vehicle for new titles."

Other great points brought up on the panel were:

• Libraries have a significant impact on categories where sales typically aren't high, such as first novels and genre fiction.

• The trade paperback format has "transformed how libraries buy," Jenko said. "We use them until they fall apart and then we're going to buy more." She noted that libraries are buying an increased number of trade paperback originals.

• Librarians need title information 8-10 months in advance of publication. For new books in a series, it's beneficial to know as soon as a book is signed up, as patrons regularly inquire when the next book is coming. Advance reading copies are beneficial for librarians to have.

• Many libraries have readers advisors, a key person to receive information about new and forthcoming titles.

So, authors don't overlook the library. I don't do a lot of bookstore signings. But I've done library events and they've been by far my most successful and well attended events.



patricia sargeant said...

Hey, Angela. Thank you very much for the update on BEA's library panel. This is a lot of really good information. I'm another author who doesn't mind readers getting my book from the library, and for the same reasons you state: the library buys the book - actually, I think they're charged more based on their distribution. Also, library patrons are learning about me. Hopefully, one day they'll be so anxious to read my latest release, they'll rush to pre-order it or something. :) Great post!

Bob said...

I am a huge library patron (mom is a librarian) so let me add a few more things here...

Librarians are almost always grateful to have patrons tell them the authors or types of books they want in the library. My mother often has unexpected leftover purchasing dollars that she has to spend immediately or lose and she has a list going at all times of items patrons have requested for just such an occasion.

Our new system also has a place online where you can request books that aren't in the system. A staff person hunts them down (a recent one I requested was still in processing) or adds them to the purchasing list.

And libraries are tickled pink to have authors come in for talks and signings. Just ask them for a good date so they can publicize it and arrange things in advance.

Libraries are a great resource, but they do have limited capacity. Patrons who discover your books at the library often don't want to wait (very much a part of library culture) and will go out and buy the books themselves. Hook them at the library, reel them into the bookstore!


Kim Robinson said...

You are right, I did a signing at a library after talking about my historical and they put in the paper and everything and it went over really big
Sold a lot of books

Lynn Emery said...

Love libraries like a kitty loves cream! Always have. As an author I've had some of my best events happen at libraries. And you're right, libraries buy lots of books. And book patrons may even buy your books to keep them if they really collect books. Only down side of libraries, you have to give those books you've fallen in love with back. They're funny that way :o)

Btw, Angela. Read Tangled Roots and loved it! I know, I'm behind. What can I say, been a busy last decade!

The Crime Sistahs said...

Patricia, Liz, Kim, and Lynn,

Hey! Thanks for stopping by ; ). I'm so happy I'm not the only one in love with libraries. They are truly special places. I cringe whenever I see that one has closed.

Lynn-I'm so happy you enjoyed Tangled Roots. I'm always especially flattered to get compliments from a fellow author. Thank you! ).


upwords said...

This is so true. I was at BEA and I was hugging all the librarians. I guess libraries played such a big role in me becoming a writer. It was one of my favorite places growing up.

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