Self-Publishing and Libraries

For the past year, I’ve been researching the self-publishing market and looking at the relationship between self-publishers and libraries. The result is this book:  SELF-PUBLISHING AND LIBRARIES: WHAT LIBRARIANS AND SELF-PUBLISHERS NEED TO KNOW.

This book covers the issues involved in getting self-published books into libraries from every angle – technology, cataloging, platforms, vendor access, librarian bias – and from the perspectives of BOTH self-published authors and librarians. It also contains in-depth analysis of the history, current state, and likely future of the self-publishing movement.

During my research, I discovered that most librarians are still locked into the “vanity press” view of self-publishing. They genuinely believe that self-published means a book wasn’t “good enough” for a “real” publisher despite the fact that long-established authors are now defecting from traditional publishers to self-publish instead. Significantly higher royalties (70% versus 12%) and greater artistic control mean that for many authors self-publishing is their first choice. So we’re seeing a publishing market that bears no resemblance to the vanity press stereotype.

I also discovered that librarians don’t really understand the review process. One librarian after another told me that they relied on the professional reviews like Kirkus and BlueInk because they were unpaid and unbiased. They were genuinely shocked to learn that those “unpaid” reviews actually cost authors hundreds of dollars. Or that authors could suppress bad reviews from those services, making the “unbiased” part questionable as well.

At the same time, self-published authors are remarkably oblivious to libraries. Every day, they pass up opportunities to have their works included in library collections by failing to publish wide, ignoring the issue of cataloging, and sometimes just failing to make libraries aware that their works even exist. Financially, this can be a costly mistake. Libraries spend over a billion dollars a year on materials (both print and e-books). In some genres, library sales make up 50% of total sales.  That’s a huge market to ignore.

By helping both sides to understand today’s self-publishing market and the way in which libraries select and add materials, I am hoping to help increase the number of self-published works that make their way into our public library collections.