selling ebooks to libraries

How Smart Authors Get Their Books into Libraries

Library of Congress in Washington D.C. – Wikipedia

Do you want to get your books into libraries, but don’t know how to do it?  Get here the background info from librarians – and which library supplier and aggregator is the best for author-publishers!
I just read an article by Nate Hoffelder where he curated: “Why Librarians Don’t Want Your Self-Published Book”.  For sure a catchy title that gets author’s attention! It was first used by Librarian Molly Wetta on her “Wrapped up in Books
blog post from August 17.

Librarians are NOT Resisting Self-published Books.
They are just facing tight constraints on both, their time (to purchase books) and budget.  And they are bound by certain procedures.  Including a book, for example, requires to have existing records ready to add to the library’s catalog.

Librarian Molly Wetta Explains:
“Self-published books might not be available from the library’s main vendor, who has to do a number of tasks to make the book ready to be shelved in a library (a protective cover, property stamps, stickers to identify the proper location of the item, etc.).  This is as an extra step if it is purchased by a different vendor – and that’s only if the policies allow the library to do that in the first place (sometimes a library is restricted to specific vendors).”

“Even when librarians want to buy a self-published book, they are still constrained by a limited budget.  Books need to be in DEMAND and of great QUALITY.  This certainly applies to all books, and not just self-published, but the latter are often more difficult to quantify.
It’s not that librarians are completely unwilling to buy self-published books, it’s just that the systems aren’t in place yet (or aren’t yet robust enough) to make it easy to evaluate the quality and to efficiently bring them to patrons.”
Another Librarian and Book Purchaser Commented:
“I make a special note to go into the self-published section of the Overdrive marketplace and locate some gems.  It appears as if the full Smashwords catalog is not immediately available in the OverDrive Marketplace – as I find the faceted searching very basic and apt to yield similar results.  However, as a librarian, if there is a title you know of, but can’t find, you can place a request to have it added.  Make sure you have a great cover.  I will only purchase books whose covers can sit well next to ‘published’ titles.  Also the better the price, the more copies I will buy if the title is in demand.”

Who Supplies Books to Libraries?
OverDrive, eBooksAreForever, Quality Books Inc., UniqueBooks, eBookPartnership, etc. are suppliers for the libraries.  OverDrive, for example, initially isolated self-published books in a “ghetto”, separating books from Smashwords, from others.  As an author you might see your own book, uploaded from Smashwords on their library list, but librarians who have different pages to order books, don’t see them.  As a librarian explained in a comment:
“The e-books from Smashwords are still separated from other e-books and placed in a ghetto along with e-books from Author Solutions…  This happens in the backend site that librarians use to purchase material – not the site library users / readers or authors – have access to. Librarians looking to purchase ebooks from Smashwords have to know what they are looking for, because they are in a separate catalog and can’t be found through a regular search.

The Problem with OverDrive / Smashwords
“Both are not even remotely solving this first large hurdle to getting self-publishers into libraries.  It has little to do with tiers or the self-publishing ghetto, but much more to do with the fact that roughly 200,000 titles were dumped into Overdrive’s platform without any system in place to help librarians evaluate those titles.  It’s also worth noting that a large majority of the more successful indies bypass Smashwords altogether; why pay Smashwords 15% of net when you can just go direct – with  Also, Overdrive / Smashwords only net authors 45% of list price for library purchases.  It’s just not a solution to the problems librarians are dealing with.”

“When librarians are purchasing ebooks from OverDrive, they are on a special website that is only available to libraries who subscribe to OverDrive.  On that site, ebooks from Smashwords are separated from the main ebook catalog in a special section that can’t be searched or browsed without going to it specifically.  This means that librarians purchasing ebooks, have to make a special effort to go there, and it isn’t intuitive to find it or use it.  There is a public version of the OverDrive catalog, and the self-published titles are integrated there, but librarians doing the purchasing aren’t using this.”

“Self-published ebooks are available in the main purchasing catalog through eBookPartnership,  but the ones from Smashwords aren’t and never were.  This issue was never resolved because OverDrive refuses to consider it as a problem that needs resolution.“

The Solution for Authors: eBook-Partnership
eBookpartnership works with more than 65,000 libraries! and additionally places your book in North America also to Apple, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Ingram. In Europe, they upload / deliver to Askew & Holts, Blackwell’s, BlioBook, Depository,, Waterstones, Whitcoulls, and WH Smith for example.
You certainly can make yourself more flexible in terms of organizing KDP sales promotions – place your book by yourself to all Amazon’s Kindle Stores: US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Brazil, Japan, India etc.  However, eBookpartnership can upload it for you to Amazon as well.  There are no fees for updates to your metadata from them – which is very rare among aggregators – but you can do it faster on Amazon by yourself.

The Benefit of eBookpartnership
eBookpartnership’s annual fee – no hidden costs – is for 1 to 9 titles just $50 (£35) per title. Authors can save at least several dozen hours for uploading their books, and even more hours (and headache) for accounting with these retailers.  If you work on Windows, you would need to use a Mac computer for the upload to Apple. It’s easier to let them do it.
Best of all, eBookpartnership does not take commissions. You will keep 100% of the revenue from online retailers and “brick & mortar stores”.
However, you should always buy your own ISBN’s, preferably a block of ten before publishing and don’t forget to register – for free – your book worldwide with Bowker’s database, which goes to all bookstores and libraries in the world.

Promote Your Books to Libraries
Many libraries accept purchase requests from their patrons (which can be online on their websites or in person in the library).  Once a book is in their shelves and receives a couple dozen hold / lending requests, they will order more copies!
Minimum requirement for selling to libraries or their suppliers is certainly that you are the owner of the books ISBN (NOT from Smashwords, CreateSpace etc.) and that you listed your book into the worldwide database of books in print titles at Bowkers.
And don’t forget: ALWAYS have your contact, social media sites, your book sales pages and a request for a review in your last pages of every one of your books, no matter if print or e-book! See also The Secret of Professional Author Publishing.

How to Demonstrate the Quality of Your Books
Aside from proofing high sales numbers, authors could put their e-books into Biblioboard’s Self-e platform, which means visibility which could lead to sales.  Maybe even paid book reviews from a legacy source (PW, Kirkus Book Reviews etc) would help?

Books for library use in the USA need to be registered with the Library of Congress Catalog “Books in Publication”.  A note printed on the upperleft back cover should indicate the type of book and the topic: reference/book publishing, writing/reference, history, autobiography, parenting, and so forth. Get detailed information about registering your books (before and after publication date) from the Library of Congress website and information about Bowker’s worldwide book listings at our blog

A note, printed on the upper left back cover of the book layout should indicate the type of book, and the topic, such as history, autobiography, writing/reference, parenting etc.

Local Authors Collection at Libraries
“The Greater Victoria Public Library in Victoria, BC, Canada – GVPL – started an Emerging Local Authors Collection this year, intended for (mostly) self-published books.  They report: “Clear guidelines were posted on the library’s website, including the geographic area where the authors live, the durability of books and the fact that one copy of each book would be donated by the author.  The books were fully cataloged and the collection was launched with an evening reception for the authors and their guests.  The books are prominently displayed at our Central Branch and have been circulating briskly.  At the end of one year, books that have proven themselves by high circulations may be added to the permanent collection.”
Writer Audrey Driscoll: “ Next spring another collection will be made available, possibly including e-books.  I am one of the authors with a book in the collection.  I sent in my application like any other local author.  I think this is a good way to showcase local authors. But it did take considerable time for two librarians (a collections librarian and a cataloger) to make it happen.”

Have an excellent book who’s genre is in demand, which has been professionally edited, with a fantastic cover, lots of positive and professional reviews and proven sales, many people that request your book at libraries, your own ISBN, listed at the Library of Congress, listed in Bowker’s worldwide database of books, and distributed to libraries via eBookPartnership, and be included in the Library Journal’s curated collections, SELF-e Select.

Talk to the programming or events coordinator at your library and offer a free reading from your books or a free class for local writers where you explain the writing / publishing process – and maybe even find a couple of new readers or book buyers for your own work.
Once you have “your foot in the door” your next books will be much easier to get into libraries.
More about the first of Library Journal’s curated collections, SELF-e Select in a future blog post.  Stay tuned.



If you would like to get a mentor and our support in all things publishing, have your book intensively promoted and learn how to navigate social media sites – or learn how you can make yourself a name as an author through content writing: We offer for three months all this and more for only $179 – or less than $2 per day!  Learn more about this customized Online Seminar / Consulting / Book Marketing for your success:

To learn more about professional book marketing and publishing, please read also
“Book Marketing on a Shoestring”

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Selling Audio-Books and E-books to Libraries




How Do Libraries Get Their e-Books?
OverDrive, the main distributor to libraries has more than 1,000,000 e-book titles available and growing. They were the early pioneers in the digital lending space and developed the e-book lending systems used by most libraries today. Overdrive uses the same Adobe DRM (Digital Rights Management) system as Kobo, Sony, B & N and Google Books to protect files from piracy and manage the lending period of library e-books. Overdrive also offers a program called “Advantage” where individual libraries and library systems buy extra titles or copies to fill local demand.
Audio-Book and e-Book Lending Exploded
In these statistics you can see the tremendous growth in circulation numbers from just one library during the last years. In the meantime the numbers are much higher!

August 2005 – 231
August 2009 – 16,680
Nov. 2009 – 17,521 ——— 776
Jan. 2014 – 57,672 —– 191,303

Technology Challenges
Libraries face many challenges from setting up their internet infrastructure to the actual ebook license acquisitions. In regards to e-Books the initial problems were: staff training and learning how to use and upload e-Books to different devices. Integrating the titles into the library system’s online catalog took some time. Getting a download link from the catalog took even more time.

Trade Publishers are the Problem
Acquiring the ebooks, is a problem for most libraries because e-book licensing from trade publishers can cost as much as or more than a print book. Several publishers still refuse to sell to the library market. Other publishers are taking advantage on cost and “metering.” Random House will charge $83 for an eBook and Harper Collins has a 26-time checkout limit. Libraries “buy” the books, but ownership is determined by the vendor/publisher agreements. If a contract is not renewed will the library still own the titles?

The e-book library market is split between vendors and devices. Costs of content and administrative fees are increasing which can make e-books more expensive than print. Library users persevere because the rewards of checking out e-books from a library are tremendous with the ever-growing inventory of e-books. Yet there are usually a couple extra steps between checking the item out and loading it onto a device. Using an app does seem to solve a lot of this trouble.

Selling e-Books to Libraries
The Washington County Library System in Minnesota, United States, has been growing their e-book collection in the last few years. Their entire system is using an innovative method to develop their ebook portfolio. Local authors are encouraged to submit their own novels in electronic format to add to the existing library system using “Library Local Connect.”. A similar initiative is currently in place in Douglas County, Colorado, USA. This helps libraries to increase their online e-book portfolio and gives exposure to local authors.  Ask your library if they have a similar program.

Small Publishers
Overdrive downloads into the library catalog. However, as an author, if you’re interested in getting your ebooks into libraries, you have limited choices. They are explaining on their website:  “OverDrive delivers BEST-SELLING digital audio-books, eBooks, music, and video for download directly from a custom-built ‘Virtual Branch’ website. The world’s leading libraries, including New York Public Library, Toronto Public Library, and Singapore National Library, use OverDrive to deliver content to their patrons.” 

Which means dealing with the wholesaler/distributor OverDrive works only for authors who can proof great sales numbers. Hopefully sales to libraries will one day be commonplace.



If you would like to get more support in all things publishing, have your book intensively promoted and learn how to navigate social media sites – or to learn how you can make yourself a name as an author through content writing: We offer all this and more for only $179 for three months – or less than $2 per day! Learn more about this customized Online Seminar / Consulting for writers:

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Tagged: ebook and audiobook lending, how to get your ebook into libraries, libraries, OverDrive, selling ebooks to libraries, trade publishers block ebook lending, Virtual Branch

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