by Cat Woods
Personally, I love libraries. I love the atmosphere, the sense of peace and the very smell of thousands of amassed books. I hope someday, my books will love the library as well. As a writer of juvenile literature, I fully realize the library market has the ability to make a title.
Young kids take weekly trips to the library from their classrooms. There, they are exposed to hundreds of books and authors they otherwise would never hear about. Think of libraries as television commercials for the elementary student. Students are captive audiences to the books on the shelves, and when they find one they like, they become instantly gratified. Books are checked out and drug home in back packs for use as bed time stories. In this scenario, both parents and children can fall in love with an author and look for new titles to grace their private collections at home.
In middle school and high school, books are often bought for classroom curriculum. If your title is picked, multiple copies are purchased to be read year after year. Not to mention, teens and preteens visit the library to check out the newest author-of-the-month. This age-group reads voraciously and will often latch onto a genre or two with such gusto that librarians struggle to keep titles on the shelves. This can lead to outside sales, as youth are notoriously impatient when it comes to waiting.
Each month, library boards wrack their brains to find presenters who will bring patrons into their facility. They adore authors who can offer a fun or exciting program to any age group. They use you to make their library a happening place to be. After all, their funding is impacted by their circulation. And more funding means more sales and more choices, which in turn feeds circulation. It's a win-win situation for all involved.
Yet, some writers I know shy away from the library market, pooh-poohing it as an unnecessary avenue in which to sell their books. After all, library books are free, no?
Well yes, to the public. But not really, because every book on library shelves has been purchased with real money. Often times at double or triple the cost of a book store edition. Thinking e-books? Many libraries have already weighed in on the great debate and are showing their support to both patrons and writers by connecting them through e-book subscriptions.
Check out Books and Such Literary Agency's blog for a low-down on how it all works and how this motivated agency is making inroads in the marketing world. With over 2,500 on the Library Locator—the nifty thing Books and Such is part of—this "free" market could help an author sell-through and earn back an advance.
So, is the library market an untapped avenue for you as a writer, or does this free service seem a bit too trifling to pursue? Which shelves would you like to see you work on and why?