Ask A Librarian: How can I get my product or book viewed by librarians?

Image of a glass statue of a woman who appears to be reading a book in front of a bunch of illuminated glass books

This is a question from the FAQ but I’m updating it and fleshing it out. Even as blogs are not the main place where people go for information, I still get pitches from people who find me when Googling “librarian” or some other impersonal way. I know it’s hard to promote a book or software, especially in today’s days of information overload. At the same time, barring you becoming some sort of viral sensation, libraries learn about books in a lot of the usual, normal ways.

The short answer to this question is “Go to library conferences. Have a decent, short pitch. Be familiar with their issues and concerns. Don’t be the typical salesperson.”

For books, if you are a publisher, particularly a small publisher, the most direct route to getting a book in libraries is getting good reviews in a library publication such as Booklist, Library Journal or School Library Journal. Kirkus even has a form to help you. Yes, this can mean giving away some copies of your book. You need to be willing to spend some money and/or time to work on your promotional project.

If you are an author, make sure your book is durable enough to be in a public library. If you self-publish, make sure it’s with an outfit that does the CIP data stuff for you. Make sure your cover is professional looking. If you have an ebook to sell, keep in mind that most libraries do not buy ebooks directly, they use a service such as Overdrive or cloudLibrary. You’ll usually be better off trying to get your book noticed in a library sub-group that covers your book’s topic or audience. A few examples, from my interest areas.

If your topic is regional, consider talking to your state’s library association. Here’s a list of all of their websites. If you’re available to do a reading or other program associated with your book, let libraries know.

Getting galleys or ARCs out to people is also useful, and can be useful for you. Librarians use some of the same paths for this as other readers: LibraryThing and Goodreads. Librarians also get a lot of advanced copies of books via NetGalley (which can also give you feedback on your cover).

For products, the answer involves really figuring out what libraries need and explaining why your product helps out in some way and solves a problem for them, in the world that they currently inhabit. Librarians are continually pitched to by people with very little understanding of their institution or why a particular product or service is any better than what they are currently using. Businesses are often trying to wedge some sort of educational or business tool into the library market without really having done their background research into basic library things like privacy and accessibility. Have some good information on those subjects before you start. Have good printed material that librarians can take home if they don’t buy on the spot. Have a demo. Make it look nice, make the UX top notch.

Do your research. Make sure you know if your book or product is within the library’s budget or collection development policy to begin with. Make sure you are contacting the proper person. Do not spam faculty or students at an academic institution and tell them to contact their librarian. Above all, never pretend that you are a patron in the library’s service area wanting them to purchase a book. Librarians can look stuff up.

As a personal aside, keep in mind that not all library bloggers are librarians, are in charge of purchasing decisions at their libraries, or read the sort of book that you are publishing. Most do not review books on their library blogs. I have been sent many advance copies of books, despite being very clear about my review policy, and then received “When are you going to review my book on your website?” queries. Try not to spam bloggers with your press releases. Communication etiquette still applies, if someone says “No thank you.” move on.

That said, when you make a genuine connection with someone in a position to positively promote your book or product, it can be worth a lot more than a quarter page ad in some random library publication so it can pay to put the work in, in a directed sort of way.