Do Libraries Shun Self-Published Books?

Does today’s library “world” and the world of the independent (indie) author/self-publisher ever meet? From my little corner of the world, it seems the library shuns independent authors. Is this the case, in general? Does anyone see any inklings of this trend changing as self-publishing gains momentum? …Your thoughts?

The fact is that most readers aren’t interested in reading self-published books. There are some exceptions (and more today than in the past), but other than that very small group, they have no audience. Most sell less than 100 copies, all to people who know the author personally.

Libraries have limited shelf space and can’t waste it on books no one wants to read. This is especially true of novels, where there are plenty of better-known options. A local history book might have a chance as a reference source, though.

Many self published authors think of it in terms of getting readers to come to them… It’s the other way around. You have to go to the readers and give them something special – not just another book.

Libraries have limited shelf space. They also have a limited budget for acquisitions. Like video stores, the audience for libraries is mostly looking for blockbuster books from name authors. Mostly, librarians try to meet the demand for books which the public wants to read.

That said, many libraries have an interest in local authors. If you were to donate a copy of your books, your local library might be grateful to have them. It would be a good way to increase your name recognition locally. Your local libraries might also have programs like writing circles and book signing. Becoming a popular author can involve a surprising amount of public events.

If you want to get digital books in your libraries, you’ll need to find out what e-book arrangements the library has. Around here, Overdrive is a big one. I’m not sure how one gets a book on Overdrive, but I bet the Overdrive website would explain it.

Libraries traditionally follow a limited number of magazines which publish reviews, so if an independently published work is well reviewed then it could well be acquired. While I have no idea of the current sources some time back they included Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly. [My knowledge of this was quite a few years ago]

Are they really books?

Ha ha! Libraries with books, good one :slight_smile:

Most public libraries have collection development policies that require that titles have positive reviews from library review sources, or based on the reputation of the publisher and/or author. The run of the mill self published book by someone using CreateSpace doesn’t usually qualify. That said, Library Journal has started including some and there are a couple of other trusted sources that have started reviewing self published books. But I assume the author is probably well known in their field, or has earned the review somehow.

The guy down the street who has never published anything before, and didn’t have a professional editor/proofreader, probably isn’t getting their book in a library.

They’re interested if and once the book gets a wide audience, but then, libraries don’t purchase every 3rd-party published book either.

My mother’s library group recently studied the first book in a self-published trilogy that shattered sales records a couple of years ago (well, the first book did, the second was almost ready when the first took off, and by the time the third came out it was published simultaneously in e-book and paper and there were reservations for the paper copies). It was self-published in electronic version, the paper version was taken up by a professional publisher.

Just curious: what was that trilogy?

Our local library system, which services a population over half a million, will carry s/p books by local authors, but that’s about it. A while back, I tried to acquire one through interlibrary loan, but they wouldn’t even search for it for me after I told them it was s/p, so I went ahead and bought it off Amazon.

Publishers buy and sell books they think will appeal to a wide audience, and some have at least a basic level of quality in terms of craft. None of this is guaranteed for self-published books. Sure, some may be good and popular - but for each that is, there are 10,000 that sell a dozen copies, are total garbage, or both.

This is a true story that happened to me a couple months ago. I was browsing the “New Arrivals” shelf of a nearby library when I stumbled on a self-published book that was really, hilariously bad. It was barely coherent. I even noticed another title by the same author next to it on the shelf. I flipped through the book and smirked a bit and then I noticed an inscription written on the front page of the book: “To all my friends at Xville library” or something along those lines and signed by the author. The handwriting made it clear that this fellow likely had a mental disability and I felt like a right cunt. Thank God no one saw me smirking and guffawing at the book. It was clear that this guy purchased the copies of his “book” and the librarians were nice enough to stock it. I even considered checking the book out as a sort of penance, thinking that the librarians might mention it to him, but really the book was too awful to do even that.

I still feel a little bad about the whole incident.

Dolores Redondo’s Baztán Trilogy, also available in English. The site doesn’t mention the self-publishing beginning but let me put it this way… nobody except the RCC publishes a book in all four official languages simultaneously on the first edition, and Redondo is not the Pope.

An unexpected side effect of her success is that Baztán Valley (no English version, link to the Spanish version) is getting more tourism than they had since vacations at the beach became fashionable. They’re not complaining!

Our town library has a room set aside for books written by locals. I had no idea that some of the better-known authors in the collection are local. They must live on the other side of town, LOL.

They will take self-published books but only if the subject matter is timely. I interpret that as nonfiction over fiction, especially if it has something to do with local history, interests, etc.

I’ve seen a couple of self-published books at my public library, in a section on “local interest” I think.

A cousin who works at a library told me they only carry books that have been recommended from literary reviews. Self-published books have a low likelihood of being picked up, because publishers aren’t hawking them.

The problem with self-published books is that there’s absolutely no quality control. There’s no way of knowing what the writing or the editing is like. Some self-published books are world-class and edited to a shine; others are gobsmackingly awful in every way, written by people who have never read a book in their lives, and not edited at all in case the editor compromises the writer’s genius artistic vision. Without reading every offering, the librarian’s got no way of knowing where an individual book falls on that spectrum.

With trade-published books, there’s some kind of quality control. The book’s been selected by people who know and love books, it’s been edited by professionals - it may not be a work of genius, but at least it’s not going to be one long dump of incomprehensible gibberish with no punctuation. And if it’s got good reviews from trade publications, there’s another level of quality control right there. The librarian can afford to take it on trust that the book is going to be, on the most basic level, readable.

When we lived there the Princeton Public Library had a large bookcase of “Our Princeton Authors.” No ebooks back then, and the shelf had books by unknowns like John McPhee and Joyce Carole Oates. (Who doesn’t live in Princeton, but close enough.)

There’s an independent bookstore that carries self-published books by local authors. Most of them are children’s books or stories about local history or prominent members of the community (or some overlapping combination thereof). These are the ones the library also carries.

I actually own one of them, because I knew the author and saw that he was having a book signing at that store. He combined his love of long-distance bicycling with a murder mystery, and there were some cultural and other references in it that indicated he wrote it in the mid to late 1990s; it looks like he decided to go ahead and publish it himself several years ago. I did read it, and it was good, and with a little editing and revising, I really think a regional or specialty publisher could have picked it up. Who knows - maybe he’s in the process of it.

A friend of mine published a book. I gave a copy of her book to my public library. They were dubious about accepting it, but looked in their resources and found that 75 other libraries had bought the book. I just looked in the card catalog, and her book is not listed there, so I guess it ended up in the book sale. It was a good book with a very narrow target population.

Many of the self published books brought to my library are really, really bad. We get quite a few children’s picture books. We finally had to quit reviewing them because it’s just not worth the time it takes to read them. The librarians now won’t consider a book unless it has professional reviews.