Ruth E. Walker
Recently, I sat in a planning meeting for a writers’ event and the topic of self-published authors came up. The group was considering offering a workshop to help self-published authors produce a better product.
Among our group of planners is a librarian, and she sat quietly while we brainstormed a possible workshop.
After a few minutes, she offered some careful comments. “Our library system has a mandate to have the self-published books of local residents on our shelves. But often they don’t make it easy for us.”
How so, we wanted to know.
“An ISBN for one,” she offered. “At least then we can process it for cataloguing. And binding! Spiral binding is a real challenge to label. And some binding falls apart.”
The self-published authors in her community are fortunate to have a library system open to their books. Many larger libraries have no such mandate to guarantee local books on their shelves.
Wooing the libraries
In 2017, the Toronto Public Library (TPL) had more than 17.3 million visits to their 100 branches. That’s a lot of readers, so getting your book on those shelves would be pretty amazing. But you better have a polished and professional product to interest their collection department in purchasing your book.
Besides the usual information–title, author’s name, type of binding, etc., the TPL Collection Department needs your book to have, among a number of things, the following:
- ISBN (International Standard Book Number) Canadian authors of self- published books can get their ISBN for free through Library and Archives Canada. (You know, that barcode and number thingie on the back cover of books – it identifies the book and the publisher.) The ISBN is necessary if you want your book sold in bookstores, to libraries or through online retailers.
- a brief summary of the book’s contents (they emphasize “brief” so keep it short — like a synopsis, one page at most is best.) Read the inside jacket of successful books for ideas. Here’s a great example from HarperCollins Publishing’s Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard:
- Girl Mans Up is a brave and authentic debut…In Pen, Girard has create a kick-ass character who makes tough choices, has her friends’ backs, and is done feeling bad about who she is. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth–in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.
- why your book would be of interest to TPL patrons (this is your sales pitch so think this one out carefully.) Again, I turn to Girl Man’s Up — this time a review, but it captures some of why a public library would want this book — to reach young, diverse readers:
- This is a fresh title in the growing sea of LGBTQ YA literature. Pen and her peers are neither quirky nor whimsical… There is no sugarcoating in this very real portrayal of an aspect of teen life that many experience.
You can find these details and more on the TPL website.
But getting your book on the shelves of libraries is more than having an attractive cover, good binding and an ISBN on the jacket. The stuff inside has to be professional as well. That includes layout, thorough proofreading and fact checking and, of course, a book’s contents edited for structure, continuity, style, and story and character arcs.
But that, as they say, is for another blog from our Top Drawer. Stay tuned.
The Last Word
There’s still time and a few spaces left in our April writers’ retreat, Spring Thaw 2019. Bring that work in progress and devote a weekend or more to feeding your muse. All-inclusive means you can focus on writing and let the creative juices flow.
Choose from the 3-day or 5-day options. Workshops, one-on-one consultation, group sessions, full resort amenities and fine dining at Elmhirst’s Resort. Stay in your private bedroom in cozy lakeside cottages. For more than 10 years, it’s been a true escape to write…with Writescape.