If you are anything like me, you are spreading your love of Romance through professional discussion, hanging with friends, and on social media. Since I am a librarian, I also do this through Collection Development (purchasing guidelines). I handsell and do what’s called Readers’ Advisory at my Reference Desk, in the stacks, or elsewhere in Libraryland.
Like you, we librarians look for creative and unique ways to make your books stand out (by new-release and/or appeal, etc.). Marketing can be a huge part of what makes that successful.
So, for this post, I’m going to “chat” as if we were talking in person. My experience with marketing change as time goes on because of my own advocacy of Romance within my library community.
Some of this is technical, but please bear with me. Think of this discussion as a checklist. Hopefully knowing these things can help in establishing a long-term relationships with your librarian and library.
Here are some questions to keep in mind as you read along:
1) How do you remind your potential readers of your title(s)?
2) Have you thought about building a relationship with your local public librarian, or with librarians in nearby systems?
3) How do you, as an author, use the library? Are you a patron, too?
4) Do you network with others in the community?
5) What, if anything, do you have/bring with you when you introduce yourself?
Okay, let’s say that libraries spend billions annually on their materials. You may often hear us called a “solid” and “reliable” market. According to Library Journal, Romance is the 3rd highest in circulation of print and eBooks in Public Libraries (after only Mystery and General Fiction). Romance may represent a small portion of a local library’s Fiction collection, but it often represents insanely high circulations in printed formats, eBooks, and audiobooks. Coming to us can only supplement discovery of your title(s).
Marketing to librarians is just like marketing to anyone, except that we make purchasing decisions for our communities’ collections. These are usually based on: relevancy, cost, target audience, appeal, what we know of our circulating collections, and (in more and more cases) by demand. Every librarian, library, and library system is different, with different rules about developing their collections and marketing. So, what title, theme, or trope will work for one library may not work for another.
Pre-publication book reviews and vendor lists are still very important. But, especially within genre fiction, we are taking a more patron-driven approach to developing and maintaining our collections. The access to authors and publishers on social media, as well as marketing on social platforms, has much to do with that.
Romance patrons are there to discover a new-to-them author or re-discover an old favorite. It helps to discuss your midlist with your librarian in addition to your forthcoming books.
I, for sure, fangirl the HEA. But how does this translate to actual placement in collections? How does this get the word out to your readers when placement on real or digital shelf space (for whatever reason) is not possible?
Email, call, or especially visit the library and tell them that you’re a local author. While some librarians might feel overwhelmed at “a pitch,” try to befriend them in a legitimate way. Talk about Romance Novels, not just your own. It’s always fun to talk books, especially those book boyfriends and book besties!
What To Expect When Visiting With A Librarian:
I might utilize a buy link for discovery purposes in terms of book details & ISBNs. So, providing these details to your library while you are meeting with them is a must.
If you have your book on hand, the librarian will check the content, quality of the cover, overall appearance, as well as the longevity of the binding of your book, text of the eBook, and playback of the audiobook. This is a standard practice. Be prepared if they ask you to borrow it for review before they officially decide to accept it into their collection.
Things To Remember When Supplying Your Book To The Library:
In the meantime, see if your library has an official way to make suggestions for purchase of your title(s). (Some libraries offer a web-form).
If the libraries don’t carry the titles, because of their respective Collection Development policies, they may not program anything surrounding it.
Collection development policies and vendor acquisition contracts may also be the same reason why some libraries cannot accept donations of your title(s).
If your books are in the system or were accepted as donations, local author stickers are a great idea if you are allowed to affix them.
Does your library have a Friends of the Library group? Since they are a library’s fundraising arm, they have different rules in terms of programming, community outreach, and even selling your book(s) if they select you for an event. Each Friends group operates differently, so ask for more details.
Other Things That Can Help Get Your Books Into Patron’s Hands
If a library operates book clubs (meeting in the library or at a location outside of the library), authors may offer autographed copies of their title and/or autographed download cards, and some even enclose their own book discussion questions. Sometimes there might be an author visit/Skype/Google Hangout.
Would you share your social media information your librarian? (Hopefully, your librarian already knows it and is following you).
If I know what a patron likes, I will pass along social media resources to them, be it profiles, newsletter info, or Live Tweets/Facebook Live/online parties with authors/publishers. While patrons would love the chance to help their favorite authors, I can’t totally rec them joining a Street Team (because of the sell angle of what that is). But I can and do rec the profile if a patron wants more information on the author. And when they find an author they love, often times, check-outs turn into their own purchases.
You could also ask your followers and newsletter subscribers to ask about your book next time they are at their local public library. I personally love the kind of dialog that opens up.
Swag is such fun, especially if it’s a usable item (device items, USBs, clips, tote bags). Bookmarks, notepads, and pens are still a hit with patrons every time. Make sure you check with the library’s policy in terms of distributing swag (and no items can include direct buy links on them).
When A Librarian Says “No”
If you have approached a library and you have gotten a flat out “no” in the past, try again or move on to the next branch or location. You will find librarians excited to share and accept your title(s).
Marketing like this may feel like a lot of work, but you will be on your way to finding the right librarian to partner with for the right reasons.
I often say that I’m just one librarian, among many, and we all have insight on what works and what doesn’t. So, tap into as many of us out there who can help. I definitely look forward to discussing everything libraries and fangirling Romance with you. Find me anytime over on Twitter at @NBPLRomance.
(*fangirl = everyone).
Frannie Strober Cassano first stumbled into the romance section of her local drugstore as a teen, and then found herself back there during the Fifty Shades of Grey “phenomenon.” You can find her gleefully discussing book boyfriends, tropes, and Happily Ever Afters over at her Reference Desk or on witter, @NBPLromance. Frannie presented ‘Diverse Read-A-Likes’ at the 2017 RT BookLovers Convention and ‘Making The Library Your Fan(girl)’ at the New Jersey Romance Writers earlier this year. She is also a reviewer and contributor to several Trade publications and Romance and author blogs.