How Indie Publishers Can Get Their Books into Libraries

Note: This article originally appeared on


One of the most frequent questions I get from independent authors and publishers I meet at writing conferences is “How do I get my book into libraries?” Here are some insights and advice for indie authors in how best to get their book onto library shelves.

Library Organization and Purchasing Decisions

America’s 123,000 libraries fall into four basic types: Public, School, Academic and Special (armed forces, government, corporate). Like bookstores, most libraries purchase content from book vendors like Ingram rather than directly from publishers. So right off the bat, if your book isn’t in a library vendor catalog, you are behind the curve.

Librarians utilize their resources wisely and book distributors make it quick and easy for them to order thousands of books from a variety of publishers by serving as a one-stop-shop versus librarians attempting to approach thousands of different publishers to order each book individually. Not only do distributors save librarians time, but they also guarantee librarians the assurance that they’re working with a company that’s well-respected and trusted within the publishing industry versus taking a chance on an author they just met.

Having your title listed with a distributor that’s familiar to them demonstrates that you’re an author that knows what you’re doing.

Upload your title to IngramSpark to make it available to over 39,000 retailers and libraries.

Importance of Reviews

For both public and academic libraries, decisions to purchase are typically based on professional reviews that librarians recognize and value. So getting a positive review in a publication that both vendors and libraries recognize is critical to getting your book purchased by libraries. Keep in mind that many review publications require submission prior to publication, so be thinking about this before your book comes out as opposed to after.

Libraries Require Good Book Metadata

Just as IngramSpark reiterates in its webinars and social media the importance of good book metadata in selling to bookstores, libraries are just as demanding. Good book metadata tells industry professionals, like booksellers and librarians, all they need to know about your book before they place their order and after. Here are the metadata must-haves for your book to even be considered for purchase by a library:

  • Accurate BISAC or subject codes – three are better than one
  • Complete description that is well written
  • Accurate age range (intended audience based on comprehension level)
  • Regional information – is the book about x place or is the author from x place?

What Else Do Librarians Look For?

Librarians want books that will appeal to their patrons and drive traffic into their libraries, so consider approaching your ideal libraries with your marketing plan at the ready. They need a description of your book and relative details, your relative qualifications as an author, how you plan to promote your book, and how you plan to help the library promote your book. You need to demonstrate to them that your book will do well on their shelves and give them the x, y, z reasons why. The higher the checkout rate at a local library, the more successful the library is rated, so find out what types of books do well for them and really determine whether your book would be a good fit.

Now that you better understand how libraries pick titles, make sure your book has what’s required and put together your library proposal with an emphasis on how your book embodies the librarian’s goals beyond the fact that you believe your book is the best book there is.





Robin Cutler is the Director of IngramSpark and as such is committed to helping independent publishers easily get their content into the hands of readers around the globe. She is a leader in the independent publishing space with broad knowledge of indie, academic, and trade publishing, content creation, and distribution, and marketing and author strategies. When not developing new programs and services for IngramSpark, she can often be found sharing her expertise at industry events around the world.