Friday, September 20, 2013

Stop Saying "I Can't Get into Libraries"

For the longest time in the U.S., the best method for reader discovery of books was the public library system. I'm not going to expound on Benjamin Franklin and his belief in an educated populace. You can find that on Wikipedia.

Unlike bookstores, libraries as a whole are very welcoming to most authors. Their whole purpose of existence is to promote reading. (If you think that is the purpose of a bookstore, I've got a clue you can buy. It'll cost you a piece of green paper with Mr. Franklin on it.)

What astounds me is the unreasonableness of both traditional publisher and indie publishers in regards to libraries. Traditional publishers charge libraries twice as much for hard cover editions with a special plastic slipcover that costs them a few cents. Plus, they expect with normal wear and tear, the library will replace the book every few years, so they count on a library paying hundreds of dollars for the same book.

However, e-books don't wear out. The traditional publishers are absolutely freaking over this fact. Some refuse to sell libraries. Some sell with licensing limits. If you're a writer with a traditional publishing company, you may be fucked. Try to talk politely with your editor and give him or her the numbers they need to give to the money people to get your books before more eyeballs.

Then there's indie authors who stomp into a library and demand that they carry the author's books. The behavioral issues with bookstores I mentioned Wednesday apply to libraries as well. In other words, be nice and do your homework.

Some libraries will take paper donations; some won't If enough patrons request a certain book, the library will generally order it. But don't have your family and friends do this. It's just like having them give five-star ratings on Amazon. People will eventually catch on, and they will not be please with you.

Here's a caveat: Not all libraries have the wherewithal to go electronic. You have to remember libraries depend on government funding, donations, and fund raising sales. E-book infrastructure can be very expensive. Screaming at some poor librarian because she doesn't take e-books (yet) will only make you look bad.

Don't throw a hissy fit if a library doesn't carry erotica. Yes, it may be some self-righteous prick censoring your free speech. Or it may be the library's charter or bylaws prohibits certain content.

Which brings me to--know how your library system works! Which means do your research! Yes, I know I'm repeating myself, but I'm amazed how many people have no fucking clue of how their local government operates. If you want to make changes, get involved.Volunteer. Run for the Library Board of Directors.

All I ask is that you don't sit on your hands and whine. Most libraries are public affairs, which means citizens have a say. That doesn't mean bully your neighbors or threaten to to blow up the library because they won't carry your autobiography about your carnal love affair with your Dalmatian.

Want a hint? Just because your own small town library doesn't have electronic lending, that doesn't mean you cannot contact the bigger libraries around the country. Many, such as the Harris County Public Library (Houston, TX), are building their e-book section

If you're an indie writer, you need to think like a businessperson. No one's going to do this for you. Decide if it's worth your time to get your books into libraries. Like I said, it may get you tons of readers in the long run.

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