Guest blog: Sue Howes on submitting your self-published book to a library

Today's blog is from Sue Howes, who is writing in this post about things to bear in mind if you're interested in getting libraries to stock your book.

Sue is the author of The Bay Mare. She's a school librarian, and owns Jack, a Fell pony, and loans the very naughty Yoshi, with whom she does agility.

Sue Howes' The Bay Mare is available via Amazon.

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For my day job I have the joy of running a school library, and with this hat on I do have a few things to say about self-published books, and e-reading.

I very rarely buy self-published books for the library. This is mainly because our suppliers don’t offer them, or if they do, they do not come with our usual discount, which makes a huge difference while finances are so stretched. In addition, library suppliers will send books ‘serviced’, that is with protective covers which extend the shelf life of the book, and sometimes with Accelerated Reader info attached. Accelerated Reader is a way of monitoring reading in schools, where students’ reading skills are tested; they are steered towards books at their reading level, and encouraged to take the quizzes set on the books. This allows their teachers to see how well they are doing, how much time they are spending on reading, and whether they need any intervention to improve. Servicing, AR info, anything that saves me time is a bonus.  

That is not to say that I have not bought self-published books. Very occasionally, I do. For instance, I bought a series of novels about surfing (very popular here in North Devon) which is a topic on which very few stories are available.

E-reading and library books – this is a field which is changing so rapidly that we have all been advised to delay investing in an e-book platform, until things have settled down a bit. Platforms are set up by various companies and a library can buy into the platform. A platform is web-based and allows access to various book titles. Some platforms hold a wider range of titles than others. Readers can borrow e-books – these are downloaded onto a device from the platform, the library pays a small fee to the platform provider, and the book is then available on that device for a limited period. Once the loan period is up, the book deletes itself from the device. The device can belong to the borrower, or the library.

I do have some e-readers (Kobos) in my library, and these were used successfully with our Carnegie Shadowing group last year. There are copyright issues with Kindles which limit their use in a library. While it is legal to download an ebook on up to six devices, Amazon say that ebooks are sold for personal use and therefore cannot be used in a library, unless of course you only download free books like the classics. There have been rumours of test cases being prepared against schools who have registered Kindles to the school, although I have not heard of any court proceedings as yet.

So you can see that the e-reading market is not really established in school libraries, at least. It’s expensive and confusing at the moment. I’m not sure what the situation is in public libraries right now, but I shouldn’t think that there is a library in the country which isn’t strapped for cash. Therefore, if your burning desire is to see your book in a library, it’s probably best not to publish it exclusively as an e-book, or at least, not just yet. If you do print your book, you need to make sure it compares favourably in price to other books of similar type; again you can check this in your library or bookshop. If you can offer a discount that would make it more attractive.

My top tip – this really is so important - if you want your book to be available in a library, get it proof-read. I have sent books back to mainstream publishers because they had spelling and punctuation errors in them. Some self-published books are so full of these that I find them irritating to read, and they would not have shelf space in my library.

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Sue Howes' The Bay Mare is available via Amazon.


Elaine Brown said…
Amazon are very restrictive on what they will allow an author to do with their book - which I find totally wrong. My books are available for almost all e-readers for that reason. They aren't in print at the moment, but I am working towards that. Thank you for the very helpful article.

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