Self-Published Titles Hitting the Virtual Stacks

Library10 (800x600)Another reason not to be exclusive! There’s no doubt that indies and self-published authors have made headways in recent years, and are finally getting their due. While I’m late to this – I would probably be late to my own funeral – libraries and educational institutions are getting their hands on self-published and indie titles including e-books and audio books.

Why is it important to have your book in libraries? It’s a mode of discovery. According to a phone survey of 2,986 Americans ages 16 and older conducted in 2011, and subsequent surveys conducted in 2012, of Americans that read e-books, 12% borrowed an e-book in the last year. Among those who read e-books, 41% of those who borrow e-books from libraries purchased their most recent e-book. (SOURCE:

I discovered the most recent planform by chance, when Mark Leslie Lefebvre, of Kobo Writing Life, mentioned a payment program for authors with titles in Canadian libraries (more on that at the end). Only problem is, you have to actually have your book in the library to begin with.

So that’s when I discovered Overdrive, the digital distributor of a catalog of over 2 million eBooks, audiobooks, and videos. According to their website (, they distribute to over 30,000 libraries (90% of all US libraries) in 40+ countries, including my local library and most likely a library near you.

But here’s where things get exciting. Yes, they distribute titles from the big five publishers, but as of May 2014, aggregator Smashwords began distributing thousands of indie and self-published titles too. OverDrive and Smashwords created curated buy-lists that libraries can use to purchase the most popular indie authors and titles. Smashwords authors will earn 45% of the library list price they set.

If you don’t have an account with Smashwords, don’t fret. If you have less than 5 e-books and assuming that you aren’t exclusive, you can submit you e-titles for distribution through the Smashwords Dashboard Channel Manager and set your prices through the Pricing Manager. According to the OverDrive agreement, you cannot sell your title to libraries for less than $1.99, but you are welcomed to sell your title for less than you sell on Amazon or Kobo, for example.

While the entire Smashwords catalogue is available through Overdrive, your new titles most likely won’t be on the buy-lists – unless you are a best seller currently – but you can approach your local library to request that they include your book in their selection. More about the Smashwords / OverDrive agreement here:

Alternatively, if you have published 5+ titles, you can submit your titles directly to OverDrive. If approved, OverDrive works with the publisher (you) to confirm a wholesale discount (Distributor Cost) that will be used to determine the amount the you are paid for each digital product sold. You choose your suggested retail price and digital rights management. Here is the link for more information: and you can apply by emailing OverDrive directly:

I would be remiss not to mention that authors with available hard copy books(hard cover, paperback, print-on-demand, etc.), can get your book into libraries even if you are self-published and don’t have an agent. Libraries are now looking to obtain self-published titles, especially from local authors. Most libraries have a website and there might be an area on their site for self-published author submissions. My hometown of Toronto, for instance, currently has this kind of submission process. If not, you might have to contact your local library directly. This is another way to get exposure from the local crowd.

As well, pretty much all libraries have a “suggest a book” link on their website, where you can ask friends and family to recommend your book. The only caveat is that you sometimes have to have a library card for that particular library.

Finally, as I mentioned above, the Canada Council for the Arts, offers a Public Lending Right Program, and pays authors with titles in Canadian libraries, a lending royalty above and beyond library acquisitions. There is only one time a year to apply and the current deadline is May 1, 2015. Here is the website where you can get more information and download the application: I don’t know if there is something similar in other countries, but if anyone knows, please share in the comment section below.

Categories: Ebooks and Self Publishing.

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