6 Steps to Get Your Self-Published Book Into Libraries

Image: author reading at children's library

Todays post is by debut childrens author Ilham Alam (@IlhamAl50397575), whose rhyming picture book, Wonder Walk, is available now.

I’ve long dreamed of getting my book into the public libraries at home, in Canada. But because I published with a hybrid press for my debut children’s picture book, I had to do the work of getting the book into libraries myself.

With trial and error, I’ve identified six steps that have helped my book enter library circulation, even though I did not have the might of a traditional publisher’s marketing team, agent, or PR team.

While this worked for library systems in Ontario, Canada, the same steps should work for any local library system. I’m also sharing the template I used to approach libraries.

1. Research, research, research.

Look at the public library’s website to find out whether they have a system for accepting self-published books into circulation. Or you can contact the head librarian or the procurement librarian for the specific department that corresponds to your book genre. For example, I always looked for the head children’s librarian of the system that I was reaching out to.

2. Nice people finish first.

Whether you approach via phone, email or in-person, always remember to be polite and approachable. When you find out the name of the relevant person to contact, address them personally and show you care.

3. Create a sell sheet.

Prepare a basic sell sheet including your book’s cover, title, the publisher, available formats and ISBNs, pricing, a brief description of the book, why it will appeal to library patrons, significant blurbs or awards, and how it can be ordered. This information can be incorporated into an email, or it can be designed and printed as a one-page shell sheet that you can take with you if meeting librarians in person.

4. Show off (persuade) a little.

If you pitch the library via email, definitely include links to your profile on your publisher’s website (if there is one), your own author website or blog, and your social media channels.

For easy reference, on a single page of your website, compile your review links, pictures of your book’s cover, social media links, and photos of any author events you’ve done. Then link to this in your pitch email.

In your pitch, mention other libraries that have already bought your book, if any, as that helps validate the quality and desirability of your book.

5. Ensure your book is available from library wholesalers.

This makes the difference between your book getting accepted or rejected. And I found this out the hard way! Ensure that your book is available through Baker & Taylor (US and Canada), WhiteHots (Canada) and Library Services Center (Canada). Libraries can then easily find your book and buy it from these wholesalers.

6. Offer to do an event.

Let libraries know that you are happy to come in and do author readings and book signings. It’s a win-win: you get more exposure and the library gets to have programming for their community members. This is especially helpful for smaller libraries.

To do this, however, you must do your part to promote your appearances, as you want to ensure there is good attendance at your author reading.

Librarian pitch template

Hello [Name of Librarian],

I hope that this email finds you well. I’m a Canadian author of children’s books from nearby Toronto. My debut picture book, Wonder Walk, has been released by Iguana Books and is available through library distributors such as Library Services Centre, WhiteHots and Baker & Taylor.

Written in rhyming verse, Wonder Walk is perfect for pre-schoolers and celebrates the parent-child relationship, when the insatiably curious Johnny asks his mom endless questions about the cuddly cuddle-bug and the curt red bird, and all the other natural wonders that he sees.

Beagles and Books wrote, “With big, bold illustrations and concise, rhyming text, Wonder Walk is a story that young children will enjoy and may prompt families to take their own walk together to observe nature and ask questions.”

Libraries in the Durham region such as in Whitby and Clarington have added Wonder Walk to their children’s collections. I was hoping that Blue Mountain Public Libraries would be interested in adding Wonder Walk to their collections as well.

Here’s more information about Wonder Walk at Iguana Books:

[web address]
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1771803236 ($25.99)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1771803076 ($9.99)

Moreover, here is a link to my author website, Story Mummy, which includes more reviews for Wonder Walk:

[web address]

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

For more insight

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion.

Ilham Alam is a debut Canadian children’s author of the rhyming picture book, Wonder Walk. She lives with her kids, her husband and a twenty-pound kitty named Beauty (who owns them all), in a house that’s booby-trapped with Lego. While her own name means “inspiration” in Arabic, her crazy family is the inspiration for her storytelling. Find out more at her website.

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Amy Reade

This is fantastic! Thanks for the great post.

Ilham Alam

Hi Amy, I am glad that you enjoyed the post and found it helpful

Evan Balasuriya

Do people buy the book at the library and do the library get a percentage of the sale price.

Jane Friedman

Hi Evan: Libraries vary greatly in their policies as far as selling books at library events. Some, in fact, don’t allow it. So you’ll have to check with each library on their policy.

Mary Zisk

Thanks for this post Ilham. Getting my middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy, into libraries has been my goal. Your advice is very helpful. I’ve had a disappointment in trying to reach libraries through a recommended book marketing group. I paid them to have my book included in their email marketing. I was shown a comp of the ad for my book and they were accommodating making some changes. The emails went out 4 times during a month, and I received a report of email Opens and Click Throughs in percentages. I received no sales through Ingram nor… Read more »

Ilham Alam

Thank you for sharing your experience and I am so sorry that it did not work out for you as expected. It is so frustrating that there are so many author marketing services out there, that will charge a big amount, without delivering the results, at all, even if they come recommended and/or are credible business services.

Caroline B. L.

Thanks for this helpful post! I’m a traditionally published author with a small/mid-size publisher. Would this method be more effective than using a library’s purchase request page?

Jane Friedman

If the library outlines a specific process for you to follow, use that instead.

Carolyn B. Leonard

Great ideas. Thank you for the sample letter to libraries. Keep on going!

David Irvine

Yes! this is fantastic for self-publishers. I had no idea you could do this. I’m now armed with you pitch template and will be using these steps to see what happens. Thanks for your amazing write-up.

[…] Branding and building a following are essential parts of being an author these days. Tiffany Yamut has a guide to branding yourself as an author, Amy Collins gives us crowdfunding tips, Anne R. Allen urges commenting on blogs to build your platform, and Ilham Alam shares 6 steps to getting your self-published book into libraries. […]

Md Akhtar Uz Zaman

Great Job Ilham Alam!!!!!!