Between the shelves filled with paperbacks, soft covers, and hard covers, you’ll find CDs, DVDs, magazines and volumes of encyclopedias. There’s so much to offer patrons that there’s little wonder why writers have a difficult time going from family fans to fortune and fame. As a website content writer, you can agree that creating content appropriate for targeted readers is a chief move. However, how do you translate the same idea to finding your targeted readers in a library?
Befriend Your Librarian
Librarians of yesterday with their gray beehive hair and pinched lips are out. Tatted librarians and twenty-somethings who love to play video games and EDM, while working at the library, are in. Of course you’ll still find those old school librarians rocking the cat printed cardigan and bedeckled eyeglass chain. However, take a moment to break through the stereotypes and you’ll find a golcanda of information about your reader community.
Check Out the In Crowd
Ask your librarian what is most popular within the community. For example, in my rural South Dakota library we’ve got a rampant readership of men who dive into dime store westerns with wild abandon. Those books tend to keep a tale-tell smell of cigar smoke and whiskey. In our county there are three Hutterite colonies, and their female members aren’t allowed to read, vote or drive. However, we’ve checked out our share of Amish romance books concealed in plastic bags to these women. Other libraries focus on Manga and graphic novels for young adults, while many libraries have a love for the National Book Award finalists. All you have to do is ask and you’ll discover whether or not your book would be a popular pick at your library.
Walk the Aisles
Spend time wandering through the stacks, which is library-speak for bookshelves. Look at all of the sections of the library—not just those containing the first letter of your last name. Browse the books and audiobooks and reference sections. See what the general literary offerings are so that you can determine what the general population are reading. While certain books may be popular, the bookshelves wouldn’t have so many other genres of books filling the shelves if they weren’t, too, being read. For instance, in the young adult (YA) area, you might notice series of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, which are older than you. More likely than not, there are young readers who continue to pick up these titles as if they were as fresh as the first snow of the season.
The adult fiction section may contain entire bookcases filled with James Patterson’s novels, or you may find mystery books sprinkled throughout the section. Make a mental note of those genres or titles that are filling the most area in the library. Does your book fit in these genres, or would it grab the attention of readers looking for new titles similar to their old standbys? Then, my fellow writer, you’ve got a good chance of fitting in at that library.
Just last week at the library I had an interesting phone call from an indie author from Ohio. She wanted to send our library a free copy of her book, a fantasy graphic novel for young adults. The book was self-published and her debut novel. She proceeded to explain the various reviews it had received and then asked to speak to our collections department. “You’re talking to it,” I replied. She wanted to know if I had questions regarding the editing process, where the book was being sold, and who had reviewed the book. After stating no to all three, she explained most of the libraries she’d called would not consider accepting a copy of her self-published book unless it had been reviewed by well known reviewers, such as the New York Times Book Review.
Being a future indie author myself, I was taken aback, but instinctively went to bat for the author. I accepted her free copy of her book and promised to display it in hopes of finding readers. After I hung up, I went online and purchased a copy of the book out of sheer respect of her self-promoting efforts.
Shazaam! Book Reviews
I learned quickly, though, that not all libraries are on the same page in terms of indie authors. One way to get around this issue, while not paying companies for book reviews, such as with the New York Review of Books or Publishers Weekly, would be to get your book reviewed by a local newspaper in the same town as your library. Ask someone to read the book or source a reader from a social book recommendation site, and ask them to write a review. Submit the review to newspapers along with an image of the cover of your book. Start small with local papers, and then make your way to the offices of regional news presses. Use these reviews for support when you are asked by librarians to provide such documentation, which erroneously means your self-published book is now worthy of the stacks.
Miranda B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.