Indie Authors and Libraries

By Joe Crawford from Moorpark, California, USA (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Libraries are wonderful for indie authors. They open up a whole new audience of readers, but unfortunately the route to getting an indie book into a library is not always very clear.

The American Library Association (ALA) has a great fact sheet that goes over what libraries buy, when they look to buy books, what the library market looks like, and marketing opportunities. The fact sheet even has a section specifically for indie authors, providing a link to a number of articles and resources about self-publishing and libraries that are accepting self-published books.

According to GoodeReader, more libraries are opening up to the idea of purchasing indie books, which is good news. Libraries in general are changing. In fact, one library, University of Iowa, has started digitizing fanzines.

Until recently, it seemed the best way for indie authors to submit their books to libraries for consideration was via Smashwords, which distributes to Overdrive (who recently announced they are working on a way to convert PDFs to EPUBs) and Baker & Taylor, and IngramSpark, which distributes to libraries. However, indie authors don’t really get to pitch their books to librarians this way, which makes the whole process less likely to succeed.

From what I can tell now, there are two new platforms that basically cater to indie authors looking to get their books into libraries.


SELF-e is, according to Indies Unlimited, “a fairly new program designed to connect indie authors with libraries and create a win-win partnership.”

It’s a joint venture between Library Journal, a national publication, and Biblioboard, which helps libraries engage with their communities. The idea is to help libraries get access to self-published ebooks. The program is free, though authors do not receive any royalties for their books–it’s more like a book promotion tool for authors. And libraries can support the indie authors whose work they believe in, potentially helping boost the writers’ careers.

According to a post on Jane Friedman, many librarians want to acquire self-published books, but since there are over 600,000 indie books published each year, it’s pretty daunting trying to figure out which ones are good. So libraries pay for a subscription to SELF-e, and only public libraries are able to purchase titles from SELF-e’s catalog.

Authors give SELF-e a non-exclusive right to the books, so they can distribute their books through other channels as well. In exchange, SELF-e becomes a discovery tool, reaching out to potential new readers.

If you like the sound of SELF-e, you can submit your book for consideration here.


Ebooksareforever (EAF) is a platform that will be coming out of beta soon, and it’s an acquisitions platform for libraries.

According to JA Konrath, who is working on EAF along with August Wrainwright, librarians are often “slightly overwhelmed with the idea of having to discuss ebook acquisition with indie authors.” And though they talk to many indie authors at conferences and trade shows, they often respond with “we can look for [the book] through Overdrive,” even though that will probably not pan out.

According to Konrath:

If a librarian is asked about a popular title by a few patrons, he/she may attempt to source the book. Let’s assume the book was published by a small independent press. Within a few back-and-forth conversations, the librarian will not only be able to inquire about the desired book, but will also gain insight and easy access to all of the other books available from that small publisher.

This effect is amplified the larger the publisher is. If they target a publisher with thousands of titles, a relatively small amount of effort could result in many new books for their patrons.

However, when looked at in reference to indie authors – all of which act as individual publishers – each of these interactions is completely separate of all others.

It’s a lot of time and effort for librarians, and oftentimes, indie authors pitch their books with a simple “You should add my books to your library,” sans marketing materials or description of the book. This also makes things much harder.

EAF is working to make the process easier for both sides. For authors, this means paying out 70 percent royalties (in the current beta prices are pre-established at $7.99 for novels and $3.99-4.99 for shorter works, though this will change with the official launch), authors have a non-exclusive contract so they can distribute their books elsewhere, including Overdrive, all sales are final but authors can opt out of the program at anytime, and authors can offer their permafree books. Payments will be through Paypal, either monthly or bi-weekly.

Authors are encouraged to tailor their back matter to libraries to offer a better experience for patrons, though this is not required. During the beta period, only authors who have sold 1000 ebooks or have more than 100 reviews will be accepted. EAF is set to launch later this year.

For libraries, this means perusing a curated collection of ebooks, helping authors and publishers succeed by paying a fair price for ebooks, purchasing ebooks and owning them forever, and having access to bestsellers and not as well known indie authors.

Just For Fun

If you want to get an idea of the library landscape, here is a map of US Bookstores and Public Libraries.


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