When a self-published author contacts someone in the collection development department at my library, we let out a collective groan. Inevitably, our answer to the request to add their book to our collection will feel personal, which is awkward. It will definitely mean more work for us no matter what, and for acquisitions and cataloging staff as well if we do accept the book as a donation or decide to purchase it.
Librarians don’t want to buy your self-published book, but not for the reasons you think.
I’ve been thinking about self-published books and their place in libraries a lot recently, as my library has been updating our collection development policy and brainstorming ways to streamline how we deal with requests from authors to include their self-published materials in our collection and how our collection development work complements our strategic goal of supporting content creation in our community.
Then, this weekend, I happened to catch a link to this post from a former librarian about the relationship between self-published works and librarians, and I thought it made several great points. I started writing a comment in response, then realized I had so much to say I might as well write my own post.
Technically, I’m a collection development librarian, even though I do a lot of other stuff. The stuff I talk about on this blog is mostly about programs and social media and readers’ advisory, and I’ve really only ever talk about one aspect of my collection development work, which is thinking about new books. But most of my work as a collection development librarian is actually collection management.
I spend anywhere from 1-2 hours a day vetting and responding to purchase requests or interlibrary loan requests. Another couple of hours a week are spent going through lists of “problem items” that are billed, missing, lost, or damaged and seeing if I need to, can, and/or want to replace them. I spend a few hours a week going through piles of physically damaged books that are sent to me from the circulation department or are pulled from the shelves by front-line staff, and I evaluate whether I need to, can, and/or what to replace them. Then I hope I have a volunteer to scan them into a weeding list and recycle them, or else they start to fill the collection development office in a maze of carts, and then piles and boxes when we run out of carts. This is just the “regular” weeding that occurs. I also run reports on every collection and cull the stacks based on usage statistics, too. So, only a small portion of my work time is spent actually researching and finding new items to add to the collection, even though that’s what I think comes to the mind’s of most librarians when they think “collection development librarian.”
I buy YA books (fiction and nonfiction, and in physical, audio, and digital formats) and graphic novels (for teens and adults). But I also buy all DVDs and music CDs. So only about half of what I do is books, and about three-fourths fiction. (There’s another full-time staff who handles print and digital for adult fiction and nonfiction, and a half-time staff who buys print and digital fiction and nonfiction).
So, I get less than a few hours a week to spend ordering new books. And I’m a dedicated collection development librarian. In places where collection development is just one of many primary duties, it might be even more of a luxury to have time to sit down and read journals and weigh the needs and interests of your community and select the books that will be best for your library.
No librarian has the time to seek out independently published books, even if they would like to have that luxury.
It’s simply not efficient or cost-effective to acquire self-published books. They don’t often have existing records ready to add to the library’s catalog; these records have to be created. Self-published books might not be available from the library’s main vendor, who might do any number of tasks to make the book ready to be shelved in a library (a protective cover, property stamps, stickers to identify the proper location of the item, etc.). And of that work has to be done by library staff as an extra step if it is purchased by a different vendor (say, Amazon) and that’s only if the policies allow the library to do that (sometimes a library is restricted to specific vendors). These are all issues librarians take into account when deciding whether or not to buy your self-published book. These considerations are made before a librarian even evaluates potential demand or quality of the item.
And a lot of them are of poor quality and are not in demand, or it is impossible to predict or evaluate the demand.
Most librarians don’t hate self-publishing on principle. Many actually support it. There are lots of examples of programs where libraries are facilitating content creation through programming efforts or even by providing the means of production.
It’s not that librarians are completely unwilling to buy self-published books, it’s just that the systems aren’t in place yet (or aren’t yet robust enough) to make it easy to evaluate the quality and to efficiently bring them to patrons.
Self-published authors do have some options for getting their books into libraries. For example, Overdrive has information on getting started making books available through their platform, and Library Journal is working to make it easier for authors/publishers and librarians with self-e.
In time, I anticipate it will be easier to have quality and in demand self published books in print and digital formats in libraries.
In the mean time, indie authors who are looking to get their books in libraries should be professional, courteous, and respectful of the library staff’s time; follow directions for submitting a request/suggestion via their website; and NEVER pitch them via social media (I automatically mark anything on Facebook or Twitter from an author asking us to buy their book as spam).
What are your thought on self-published books in libraries? As a patron, do you have trouble getting independently published books you want to read via your library? As an author, what is your experience in getting your book into libraries? If you work for a library, how is your institution handling self-published books, both digitally and in physical formats? I’d love to hear any thoughts.
62 thoughts on “Why Librarians Don’t Want to Buy Your Self-Published Book”
Speaking as a library patron, I would expect (and demand, if needed) that all self-published works be clearly and consistently identified as such, and that some sort of toggle exist to eliminate them from search results. In fact, the default should be to search for traditionally published works, with self-published available only specifically for those people looking for it. Why? I just don’t have time for that stuff.
This a very elitist attitude to have. Librarians in my town have a very haughty view of the public they serve.Especially toward amazon published fair. They may think this is helping readership. But it does the exact opposite.Public libraries are just that for the public.These institutions of a democracy funded by the tax dollars of the average citizen. As readership is down among many young folks libraries have added many ways to lure in this demographic. Usually with computers, video games and the like. Traditional publication houses and vendors see this and have for the past couple decades. So Libraries need to step up and accept the facts, self published books are the new norm. Amazon has become the giant printing/ publishing leader in a dying industry. Libraries need to get with the times and offer these books to the public. If they can spend millions refitting their libraries to seem modern the least they can do is spend some money on these books because for better or worse self published is now mainstream.
I don’t think you actually read the entire text – I know it’s long and involved, but if you’re a writer or someone who cares about books and publishing, I don’t think that’s too much to expect.
Authors need to learn to work through systems if they want their books in libraries. I am overwhelmingly supportive of independent authors and have done lots of work on projects getting them in libraries. This post is several years old and programs like Library Journal Self-e are now mature. But self publishing is not a norm – people want what traditional publishers are putting out at a much higher rate.
Authors are not entitled to have their authors in libraries, bottom line. It’s a privilege to be on our shelves, and if authors aren’t doing the work to make it easy to purchase titles, they should not expect libraries to bend over backwards to support them.
Coming late to this discussion because I was on vacation for the last week and a half and didn’t see the article headline until today. :)
I am both a reference librarian at a small public library and the wife of a self-published author (I did much of the editing and all of the formatting of the books before they were published in print or electronic versions). So I have a very different perspective than many in our field. It is a challenging topic, as there are still a lot of poorly produced self published books. These tend to draw attention away from some of the really good books. And the methods of promoting self published (or “indie”) books are totally different than how most libraries need to select their collections. For the reference collection, I either need to find a review in a professional or trade journal or resource, or it needs to be on a topic not typically covered by these sources (like local or state history).
My library is fortunate to have a dedicated local author section (and to have the shelf space for such a collection!), but then again we are also in a smaller community so there are fewer local authors. The local author collection does not distinguish between trad published and self published books: they all go in the same section. Any local author can donate a copy of their book(s) to the library without needing to provide reviews or other supporting documentation. Granted, we are not able to purchase the books from the authors (not even my husband’s, for the record), but the library director tries to support local authors by hosting events throughout the year where they can sell copies of their books. We also host a local writers group that meets once a month at the library. All of this falls under our commitment to increase literacy in our community.
Every library has to decide for themselves how to handle local authors who publish their own books, but I find it very short-sighted when people paint all self published books as trash. They aren’t, and the smarter authors know how to produce a book that is better than most coming out of New York.
Check out this article about Windsor Public Library’s Self-publishing Machine: http://blogs.windsorstar.com/news/with-10699-books-printed-windsor-librarys-self-publishing-machine-is-a-hit
From the perspective of open access to information and freedom of expression, it’s unfortunate that libraries continue to be conflicted in their support of self-publishing. I think the “Soon to be Famous Project” is a potentially good compromise for libraries that want to support self-published authors: http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2014/12/self-published-books-and-soon-be-famous-project-masters-session-2015
I guess all libraries are different, but Edmonton Public Library (winner of Library of the year in 2014 courtesy of Library Journal magazine) allows residents to suggest books to the library to purchase. If the books are relevant and available through their usual vendors, they do pick them up.
I was a fortunate recipient when someone (I didn’t ask anyone to do so) suggested my novel to them and they bought a copy. After it received a couple dozen hold requests, they picked up more copies.I have to say, it was very flattering and I can’t wait to get another one into circulation there.
Yes, I am very familiar with Edmonton. We also accept purchase requests from patrons (which is why I note in my post that I spend several hours a week vetting them).
We would totally buy a self-published books (available through usual vendors) if there was patron demand, just like Edmonton. But that isn’t a universal truth.
The Greater Victoria Public Library in Victoria, BC (where I am the Head Cataloguer) started an Emerging Local Authors Collection this year, intended for (mostly) self-published books. Clear guidelines were posted on the library’s website, including the geographic area where the authors live, durability of books and the fact that one copy of each book would be donated by the author. The books were fully catalogued (by me) and the collection was launched with an evening reception for the authors and their guests. The books are prominently displayed at our Central Branch, and have been circulating briskly. At the end of one year, books that have proven themselves by high circs may be added to the permanent collection (which is, of course, subject to weeding. Already a small number of titles attracted enough holds on our public catalogue that additional copies were purchased). The rest will be offered for sale to library users (as is routinely done with withdrawn books). Next spring another collection will be made available, possibly including ebooks. And yes, I am one of the authors with a book in the collection. I sent in my application like any other local author. I think this is a good way to showcase local authors. But it did take considerable time for two librarians (a collections librarian and a cataloguer) to make it happen.
Yes, it is a good way to showcase local authors, when there is the time/staff to make it happen. It’s what we’re working towards. Will we accept everything? No! But quality, in demand works will make it into the system.
This is great! I just shared it on my fb page. I’m a teacher and thought that this is wonderful to share with others so they know what they are getting into when starting to write. https://www.facebook.com/danyelleekelly?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Yes, self-publishing is a big job, because not only do you have to write, you have to do everything else, too! It’s a big system and there are a lot of things to consider.
Reblogged this on ldbush21.
Librarians that use Overdrive have access to hundreds of thousands of self-published ebooks from Smashwords. You could at least update your digital collections to include the massive literary scene created by independent authors. Overdrive hides these titles within a “self published” section, but you can still order them within your existing system. Smashwords will even support your selection process with lists of best sellers. These are proven self published titles that readers happily pay for every day. To find out more see the extensive information about accessing indie titles at Overdrive at the Smashwords blog http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/05/smashwords-and-overdrive-to-bring.html
Like I mention in the post, I am perfectly aware the Overdrive provides access to self-published books. We’re not opposed to purchasing them on principle, but without reviews from professional sources, even best-sellers are not our top priority with it comes to digital purchasing. Like I said, ebooks in libraries is a huge subject in and of itself. Another issue is that local authors who want us to carry their books who haven’t published through Smashwords have difficulty understanding that we can’t simply add it to the collections.
Hi, Molly. I’m an indie-author and have self-published four books to date. I donate copies to local libraries and schools, requesting them to be added to the shelves, in the hopes that I will get some positive local exposure. One (of the three libraries) has been phenomenal in supporting my cause. The others have been non-responsive. It has been much the same with local schools, who expect reviews from Kirkus etc. It does get discouraging at times; but, I’m hopeful that the word will get around.
The comments back and forth here are valuable and interesting. Thank you for the initial post and the ongoing conversation. We are about to revisit our collections policy and I’m printing this out as a point of discussion. As a Children’s Librarian I am constantly approached with self-published children’s books that are not well done, for all of the reasons already noted above. I drew a line in the sand a while ago–only local authors and only if the book is a full outright gift with absolutely no strings attached. In other words, if the book does not gain a healthy circulation then it will be withdrawn–no call to the author, no explanation required, no second copy accepted if you find your book is no longer here. We are not a book museum or archive, we are a public library that needs a relevant, balanced, current & classic collection that we decide upon. Shelf space is at a premium and always a huge issue.
That’s the situation we’re grappling with as well. It’s not that we don’t support self-published authors, or that we don’t want their books on principle — but we can’t take everything. Shelf space is a HUGE deal for us — we need books that circulate, not that languish on the shelves. We are going to pilot a local author ereader to try and accommodate some requests, which I’ll write about at some point. For us, it’s all about balancing staff time/resources with all of the demands.
I’ve been lucky to have the support of my local libraries, one purchased several copies of my self published book and hosted an author event for me, while others have had me in to talk with reading groups. My book has been professionally edited and had the cover designed, plus I also approached the right person to ask, which I think was a big help. I’ve also offered to donate copies to other branches.
However, I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I think my own experience has been based on luck as much as anything else.
We are definitely looking for ways that we can support authors with events and such — and yes, professional editing and design and contacting the right people is key!
I work in the publishing industry (a regional publishing association) and one of the services we provide is a liaison between librarians (usually at conference) and publishers of all business models. We see a lot of what you’re talking about, and not only with self publishers. We also see librarians having challenges finding chapbooks, small and independent presses, and basically any publishers whose distributors may not reach regional libraries and smaller library systems.
This is an EXCELLENT post. Thank you very much.
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Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
Thanks to Molly for this information :D
Be sure to click on the links given in Molly’s article…
VERY interesting reading :D
thank you for this post, it made very interesting reading, as yet i hadn’t approached a library, not even my local one, about any of my books, and now that i have read your post i am glad i didn’t, thank you for showing a side to this i hadn’t realised and now that i do i can see why my poor local library is floundering so much, it is such a shame go back a few years and everyone i knew was a member of the local library now i do not know of anyone who uses it, not even myself or my children and we are all avid readers, i guess it is hard for libraries to move with the times especially when, as you show here, the amount of work involved and the little time and resources are not there to even hope to keep up is very sad indeed, i hope your personal life and your library does go from strength to strength but as a once regular library user i can guarantee if you asked say twenty people in my local town where the library is they wouldn’t even know, i think the battle was probably lost when the internet came in but i would have loved to see the library become as much a part of modern information and leisure point and it could have been possible but as you point out the money and the time simply aren’t available, i remember when in university they insisted we use their library yet every time i went to find or request a book needed it was not available and that was the university library and if they can’t keep up what hope is there for our little town library? sad to see the demise of a much loved and needed place, thank you again for giving us this insight and like i say i hope you and all the staff at your library are able to continue even in these difficult times, have a great day
I wouldn’t say it’s difficult for libraries to “move with the times.” Many libraries have embraced digital and technological resources and are thriving community centers. I wouldn’t say that times are difficult, just in transition.
i think perhaps you misunderstood me whilst agreed with your comments and perhaps i should have put it more clearly but simply in my experience for those libraries in this region times are difficult and you may not have noticed that i hoped for your experience to be better and hopefully go from strength to strength, however it is not so for those libraries here where i live, they have little or no money, no support, no resources. and relatively few interactions within local life as it used to be, those groups that used it in the past no longer do so and also much less attendance for its actual service to the point of i believe it has now closed down, so while you may feel that in your experience many libraries have tried to embrace their concept of moving with the times that’s great, and i hope they continue to do so, but sadly not here nor anywhere around here, in my experience i could only hope those that are left in other areas manage a little better but i do feel and see the days of a library being within the heart of a community are gone, for groups there are more easily accessible places with better options and for purposes of reading literature many now use personal e readers or amazon, if only those libraries had been able to be in any kind of transition then i would have hoped for them a future but sadly they have long ceased to exist and from what i was told today the local council decided a library was no longer considered a need for the local community. so i shall still say yes it is great you are able to be in a library still being used but that it is not our experience and i still say i hope your library faces a future where it will still be used by many people and one day i would like to see a library here again but i doubt i ever will. i hope you ave a nice evening,
Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
An informative post for authors wishing to get their books into libraries. Kevin
I am grateful to my local library in Crystal Palace for adding my self published book, “Dalliance; A Collection Of Poetry And Prose” to it’s shelves. I popped in and asked whether it was possible to donate copies. The library said yes and I left one to be added to stock and a further copy to be sold to raise money for the library.
I am originally from Liverpool and contacted the city’s Central Library explaining my connection to the city and asking if the library would take copies of my book. I was delighted when they wrote back saying they would accept two copies.
Thank you for this informative article.
Yes, every situation is different. Each library has different resources and priorities.
Wow! I must admit that this is the first time I’ve heard this perspective, and it is certainly an eye opener. I have been a published fiction inspirational author for over 11 years. The first three years, I had a traditional publisher. I have been a self-publisher for over 8 years. I have easily donated (with no problems that I’m aware of) many copies of nearly all of my books (including my self-published ones) to several different libraries. I simply went in and spoke with them, introduced myself, offered to donate some copies, and they readily and happily accepted them. I don’t know what process they had to go through in order to accept them, but I know they are on their shelves because I have seen some there myself. Also, many other people have shared with me that they have seen them there. I have never asked libraries to purchase my books. I feel that by their being willing to accept my books as donations and put them on their shelves, they are doing me a great public service by helping me to make my books available to the public, especially to people who really love to read but simply cannot afford to buy them. Thank you for sharing this insightful information because we don’t always know everything that goes on behind closed doors in others’ professions. Sometimes, things can be a lot more complicated than we realize. But as you mentioned, I look forward to the day when it will be easier for libraries to catalog self-published books because, in my opinion, there are just as many good self-published books out there as there are traditionally published ones.
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“Librarians don’t want to buy your self-published book, but not for the reasons you think. “
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I live in a small town and a couple copies of all my books are in the library. They are frequently checked out by citizens interested in the local author’s work. I also host signings and talks there. It’s been a great relationship. I understand the reluctance and time constraints to handle the vast influx of indie books, but I think libraries may want to engage with local authors. It’s great fun for authors and the community alike. :-D
Reblogged this on Adventures of an author's wife and commented:
An interesting article.
Sometimes the author can have an hour one afternoon as part of library’s special events calendar. He/she could bring a box of books and sign and do a reading.
Yes – these are becoming more and more common. It’s likely a programming or events coordinator that would handle it, though, rather than the collection development team.
I find it interesting that you don’t consider the fact that you are refusing to consider a large portion of the works being published today. Hugh Howey isn’t worth having in your collection? Really?
Your points have validity. I am not saying otherwise, but there is more to it that you mentioned.
I haven’t been concerned with getting my books in libraries and I do publish both ebook and print. Frankly, the amount of money I would make wouldn’t be worth my time, from an author’s perspective so there are other sides to the coin. But when libraries don’t consider a substantial portion of the books being published in today’s world, they might need to consider that there is a problem.
I never said that I’m not considering that I don’t have the time, capacity, or systems in place to to purchase self-published materials; the entire post is that I’m considering it.
For the record, we do have Hugh Howey. Because he is in demand. I don’t have time or resources to go looking for the next Hugh Howey.
Of course there is more to this than I mention; this is a thousand word blog post, not a dissertation.
The amount of money you make trying to get your ebooks into libraries isn’t worth your time; seeking out ebooks isn’t worth my time.
Obviously, I do consider this a problem, which is why I wrote about the issue and the systems currently in development to make the ability to acquire ebooks easier.
But I also consider it a problem that the majority of interactions I have with self-published authors (certainly not all, but the majority) reek of desperation and entitlement (I get pitches in my inbox constantly through my blog, and almost every single completely ignores what I say I’m interested in reviewing). The point of this post is that I don’t hate self-published works on principle, but there are other constraints on my professional time that many self-published authors are not taking into consideration.
I agree. I understand librarians have to be mindful about their acquisitions, but a wholesale refusal to consider a whole segment of written works is frustrating. Indie authors are a huge segment of the fiction ebook market. I blogged about this April when I asked “When will library patrons get to enjoy indie authors?” http://www.herladyshipsquest.com/2015/04/when-will-library-patrons-get-to-enjoy.html
Yes! Which is why I never mentioned a wholesale refusal, but instead say that myself, and many librarians, are trying to find ways to make the system work!
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Libraries and Sel-Pub Authors
Reblogged this on Bookshelf Battle and commented:
Don’t hate on the librarians, self publishers. Here’s why they aren’t able to accommodate your self published book by Molly Wetta.
I’ve talked to a lot of librarians and they often tell me of this nightmare scenario:
A good citizen and frequent library user has cleaned out his house and triumphantly enters the library with boxes of books from 1952. They believe the library is in dire straights when it comes to the budget, usually not wrong, and believe they’re really helping out by offering all of these books up.
Meanwhile, the librarian sees little value in spending time to catalog all those old books. She can explain that and say no thank you but the person will just be offended and be like, “Well that dumb librarian turned down a goldmine here.” Or she can be polite and say thank you and take them with the secret intention of just throwing them all away after the guy leaves, but you know the guy’s going to return and ask when the books are going to be put out on the floor.
So there’s no winning there and that’s probably very similar to what’s happening with self publishing.
I’ve heard of some librarians who will put up a self publishing book table or hold an occasional self published book discussion and let the self publishers greet a few people who show up. But that is extra work for the librarian and up to them if they want to pursue that.
It’s tough. Self publishers should try to come up with some kind of viable online library. I suppose Amazon comes closest.
The policies we have in place at my library handle this scenario. All donations are given to the Friends of the Library. If I want to add something to the collection, I can, but if not, they either sell or dispose of it.
Yes, many libraries do programming for self-published authors.
It’s the “or dispose of it” that’s kept me from donating copies of my books to the local library. And sell – I’ve seen the “sell” shelf. “Pay what you want” – as a donation to the library. I’d rather donate the price of the book to the library and sell it elsewhere, if that’s all the value it has to the library. It’s unfortunate, but Amazon has become my library and I think I have a better selection of books in my home than my local branch has in its collection. :(
I think the quality of the book sale is more a reflection of the Friends of the Library group, who typically sponsors and organizes book sales, rather than the library itself. The Friends group is a separate organization in most cases. The “value” is more of a cost/benefit issue than intrinsic worth — is there someone to handle it whether it goes into the sale or to the collection?
It is unfortunate that your library’s local branch is in such poor shape. Getting involved with the Friends organization or foundation or volunteering or supporting the library with local politicians and government can have a huge impact on the resources it gets.
Thanks for the link back to my post. I think this is a really important conversation for libraries and librarians to be having. Libraries are going to have to respond to this as self publishing keeps booming in both physical and ebooks, but a lot of it is still going to fall on the shoulders of the content creators. Appreciate you stopping by!
Great points, and something I think a lot of authors needed to hear. I’d also add that authors should be careful to contact the right person, and look at what their job actually does (find that information on their website or simply talk to someone at the library to ask who to contact), not just the title. When I worked at a library as an Outreach Library Assistant, I recall getting a package with a self-published book in my box. If that person had taken the time to read the staff directory fully, they’d have realized that collection development would be the appropriate place to contact and that my job was actually managing and driving the bookmobile program.
I hold out a lot of hope for programs like self-e and Overdrive for getting self-pubbed books available to library patrons (though I’ve heard Overdrive does their best to hide self-pub titles and make them difficult to find in a search).
On a happier note for print self-pubbed books, a library near where I currently live is incorporating a good handful of self-published books in their Local Authors shelf. Being that they only take local writers, it keeps the workload down and adds a local interest aspect for library patrons.
Yes, Connie, authors should do their homework before contacting someone. That’s just common sense.
And the local angle is one we’re exploring, too. It’s a good compromise.
I am a self-published ebooks-only author (for now) who offered my ebooks FREE to my local library county/regional system and they turned me down. Given everything you put into this post about the reasons librarians don’t turn to self-pub authors’ books, I didn’t see one word about ebooks at all, only print.
So, please, illuminate the darkness, here: why, oh why, would a librarian turn down FREE EBOOKS???? Add in that I am a native of this area who recently returned to live here full-time, am a trad published nonfiction author, and have a doctorate….???
The reason she gave was : “Your books do not fit into our collection purchases plan at this time.”
Generic, BS and INCORRECT, since I wasn’t asking them to purchase anything.
My ebooks have ISBNs, are available in every ebook format, and have professionally done covers as well. So, BOOM.
best to you,
Sally, how would they deliver these ebooks to patrons? Libraries usually subscribe to ebook services, like Overdrive. If they’re offered individually, outside of a service package, setting up a delivery service in house for just a few books might be unfeasible. It’s sad that you got such a dismissive and generic response, but depending on the circumstances (and I know I’m just guessing here), I can imagine some reasons why free, even very high quality, free books might not work for them.
I agree, their response to you was a bit rude, but there may have been legitimate concerns (which they could have voiced) behind it.
My ebooks are distributed by Smashwords, which has library distribution connections. Also, my ebook Volume I was accepted in this way:
“Your ebook, ‘This Changes Everything,’ has been accepted for the Indie Missouri module! We look forward to sharing your book on BiblioBoard Library with readers across your state.
“Though your book will be available to readers throughout your own state, unfortunately Library Journal did not select your book for inclusion in Library Journal’s SELF-e curated collections.
“The Indie Missouri module will launch when we have enough accepted books from Missouri. Consult the “Where” page on the SELF-e website for more information about upcoming module releases.
“Thank you for participating with LJ’s SELF-e service and best of luck in your writing endeavors.”
It’s true, 200,000+ Smashwords titles are available to purchase through Overdrive. But this doesn’t mean that authors can “donate” their book to their library.
The email means exactly what it states. self-e is brand new — it was piloted in a few big systems and is now being rolled out to more locations, which you can see on the “where” page. For example, it will eventually be available through my state library, but it’s brand new and not yet implemented. As your email explains, in your state, there have not been enough submissions yet to launch the local module, but eventually it will be available.
I mention ebooks at the end of the post — when I discuss self-e and Overdrive. I was already at a thousand words and didn’t want to just keep rambling forever :) ebooks in libraries is a complicated subject in and of itself and deserves its own post.
But, as Connie also explains, it’s next to impossible to offer ebooks to patrons outside of whatever environment/service the library participates in (the main one is Overdrive, which is the only one that supports Kindle formats, but some libraries also use 3M cloud library or Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform). The library would have to build and host the infrastructure to be able to deliver it, as well and manually build the catalog entries (which are done in a batch update). So your “free” ebook isn’t free; it costs them time and labor to add to the collection, and in most cases, there is a traditionally published alternative that would serve the same information needs. The work of marketing and making a book available to libraries that is traditionally done by a publisher shouldn’t automatically fall to the library just because someone is self-published. Authors can do this on their own, and many successfully do. That’s what they sign up for when they self-publish. Like I said, the decision to no include a self-published book in the collection is not automatically a reflection on the quality of the content, but on the logistics of making it available. The response you got was probably a form rejection, because librarians are inundated with these kind of requests. It wasn’t meant to be rude.
Like I mention, many libraries, including my own, are exploring options to support both print and digital ebooks that are self-published and of local interest — it’s just a lot of work. Libraries have lots of competing goals, and the decision to focus and support local and/or self-published authors may trade off with other priorities, like classes to teach computer skills, outreach storytimes, or any other goal.
I’m a children’s department manager who does less collection development these days, but I would add that something really good happens when a book goes through the traditional publishing process. I have seen so many self-published picture books that would have benefited from editorial feedback, and better author/illustrator matching. For example, sometimes the illustrations look like a child did them (not in a good way), or there is too much text per page considering the target audience. These self-pub authors and illustrators have been very enthusiastic, and I admire that they put themselves and their work out there. Unfortunately, the quality of self-pubs that I’ve come across so far is nowhere near the quality of traditionally published books. I confess to being somewhat offended that everyone (celebrities, ex-teachers, and grandparents alike) seems to think that they can write a children’s book.
Meg, you are so right about the quality of self-published picture books. It’s kind of insulting to the process that some people just think anyone can write a picture book and they don’t know the first thing about early literacy, what’s appropriate for certain age levels, etc. It’s kind of like how some people seem to think that anyone can do a storytime, like how do you need a degree for that? when in reality it’s so much work and thought and attention to detail. Not everyone has the skills to pull it off!