by Grace Burrowes

We first heard from Grace when she emailed us to ask why her payments were so much higher than the reported earnings on her dashboard. We realized her library sales (which are not accounted for in dashboard reporting at this time) were driving up her earnings significantly. Here she explains why libraries are such a valuable resource for indie authors.

When Kobo made the Overdrive distribution channel available for my indie romance books, I added it to every title I could, then forgot about it. Fast forward a few months, and my earnings have gone up fifty percent, all of that increase attributable to library sales.

The bump in revenue is likely temporary, but library exposure has benefits beyond a spike in my bottom line. If I could focus on one means of discovery for my books, I’d focus on libraries.

Why? I can give you three main reasons.

First, because librarians are highly trained, degreed professionals whose expertise is putting the right books into the hands of the right readers. No other delivery channel has that edge. Librarians are hard-wired to think in terms of which book suits which reader—not which book will generate the most revenue for the librarian’s employer. Not which book is trending in the all-too-vulnerable-to-manipulation-and-wrong-turns algorithms.

The perspective at the library is not retail, not cyber-sales, not data mining. At the library, success is matching books with readers, period. There is no more expertly targeted delivery for my products, and—mirabile dictu—libraries can in most instances be both high tech and high touch: You can go there in person, and ask a human to help you find a good book, or you can fire up your laptop at 3 am, and make the same inquiry without ever setting foot on the library premises.

What other delivery platform can do that for your book without keeping one eye at all times on a book’s earning capability? What other delivery platform can provide an actual, human word-of-mouth recommendation for your book with the credibility of an educated professional behind the suggestion?

Not a one, besides the library.

Second, the library demographic is not a shopping demographic, but rather, a reading demographic. Books are not loss leaders for libraries, stocked along whatever contours are necessary to lure as many people as possible to the cyber-store, or onto the retail floor. Libraries are for people so passionate about reading that they’ve developed a relationship with an institution devoted to book culture. A library reader is, on the whole, willing to invest more than a single click worth of effort to connect with a great book. Those readers might not have a lot of disposable income—who does?– but they are very likely to have big mouths about books.

I want the name of my book on their lips, and libraries are how I get it there.

Finally, my tagline is “I believe in love,” (and it has been for years). In my small town, the library is the only daytime cold weather shelter we have, the only free public cooling station. We get 100-degree days, we get zero-degree days. Libraries are bomb shelters and hurricane shelters. They are public gathering places where everybody is welcome.

The library doors are open, no matter what. You might not feel that libraries should be responsible for public safety. Fair enough, but my county library is also the only place people can go for free access to the internet. My county has a nearly 20 percent adult illiteracy rate and the institution doing battle with that dragon most consistently is the county library.

If I believe in love—and I do—then I am exceedingly gratified to think that when I reduce the compensation I receive for my books in the hope that I’ll find new readers, some small residual benefit might also go to an institution that’s keeping people safe, championing book culture, and teaching people to read.

Libraries are compatible with my brand at the level of my values. They offer the most expert, disinterested, credible discovery my books can find, and they reach a readership that is passionate about books. What’s not to love?

[bctt tweet="Why libraries are SO important for authors"]


NYT and USAT bestselling author Grace Burrowes began penning romance novels as an antidote to empty nest, and soon found writing to be much more than antidote. Grace writes Regency, Victorian, and contemporary happily-ever-afters and has garnered best book of the year honors from Publishers Weekly, The Library Journal, the iBookstore, and Kirkus Reviews. She is a recovering child welfare attorney living in rural Maryland, and she loves to hear from writin’ buddies and readers!

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