Some months ago I attended a workshop by our own incredible Judy Gann about marketing to libraries. I'd heard Judy speak about this before, but the point was driven home last spring when I heard her share once again about what an untapped source our libraries are. I came home from that conference determined to complete my list and get a mailer sent to every library on it.
From April through August I worked diligently at night, consuming much of my free-reading time and sacrificing sleep, which I'm perfectly OK with — the sleep part, not the reading part — comprising a data base of libraries that would eventually number 2,365 and include all 50 states. I don't know how I found it, but when I first set out on my mission I discovered a very helpful site that I've used exclusively to develop my data base: http://tinyurl.com/njh7od). It lists libraries, state by state, with links to most of those libraries, and more importantly, their catalogues. There are more than 17,000 in all, so my list contains less than 15% of the libraries found on that site. I'm sure there are other, even more comprehensive sites to choose from, but this one worked well for me. It allowed me to follow the link to a library, enter my name in the "Search Catalogue" feature, and find out if the library carried any of my books. I prepared specific mailers for libraries that carried none of my books, and for those that carried one or the other of my novels.
It's fun to find that you're "checked out" in, say, Woodstock, NY, or that, by coincidence, the county in which you were born is the only one in the state that carries your book(s). It's encouraging to receive an email from a librarian who received your mailer, ordered your books and read them. And to hear from a reader who borrowed one of your novels from her library — and became a fan.
The site also tells the size of the population served. So in California, for example, I targeted libraries or library systems that served a population of at least 20,000; while in states with smaller population centers I might select libraries or systems serving a population of 5,000-6,000.
The benefit of targeting library systems over individual libraries, obviously, is the potential for selling more than one copy of your book(s). In checking back, I've already found libraries that have purchased up to 10 copies of my novels since receiving my mailer. And the beauty of libraries purchasing your books is that there are NO RETURNS, hurray!!
I sent out mailers as I was working on my list, not waiting for it to be complete. Now that I've finished — for now at least, for I plan to expand the list next year — I've gone back to some of the library sites I targeted to find out if the work and expense is paying off. I'm happy to say it is. I'll talk about that in December, when I post again about marketing to libraries.
Sharon K. Souza is the author of Lying on Sunday and Every Good & Perfect Gift, as well as the novella and play, A Heavenly Christmas in Hometown. www.sharonksouza.com