Working with Libraries

Working with Libraries: Tips for Success for self-published authors

  1. Library standards

Libraries have collection development policies and selection standards for choosing items for their collections. These policies connect to the mission and vision of the library and may be general or very specific in detail about the library’s collections and selection process. Read OPL's collection policy  to learn how the library approaches collection management.

  1. Libraries use specific suppliers.

Many libraries, particularly mid-size to large libraries, prefer to purchase library materials from suppliers who work directly with libraries. Baker & Taylor, Midwest Tape, and Overdrive (an exclusively digital supplier), are examples of several large companies that work primarily with libraries. Libraries choose to work with these suppliers for a number of reasons including customized selection tools, discounted pricing, cataloging and invoicing solutions, and processing work. Explore the options of getting your book or media item into distribution through these suppliers.

  1. Libraries want books that circulate.

Libraries, particularly public libraries, are in the business of moving materials. With limited budgets and shelf space, libraries want items that will be checked out regularly. At the point of selection, librarians are looking for items with positive reviews from reputable sources. They need books with durable bindings that will stand up to repeated checkouts.  Libraries consider not only the quality of the text, but also the illustrations and where the item will fit best into their collection. In short, they are seeking items that will add value, quality, and diversity to their collections.

  1. Professional advice:
  • Read "How To Master Your Book's Amazon Description".
  • Choose an editor who will give you honest advice - not your parents, spouses, siblings or friends. Edit, edit, edit!
  • Do not write books about your family, friends, or pets unless you can make it a compelling story.

About children’s books:

  • Picture books should have minimal text to be classified as picture books.
  • Hire a professional illustrator. Illustrations are the first elements of a picture book by which the reader will form an impression.
  • Price typically should not be higher than a book by a well-established author.
  1. OPL typically has one or two copies of local author materials in the collection. These materials will have a “local author” catalog heading and be subject to the same deselection process as other materials in that collection. What to include with your donation is listed here.

Librarians also rely on professional publications for authoritative, unbiased reviews of current books and media. Some libraries will only purchase materials that have been professionally reviewed. A positive review in one of the following review sources can go a long way in establishing an author in the library market. Librarians look for reviews both in print publications and online.


A treasure trove for readers, Booklist, published twice a month by the American Library Association, leads the pack in genre showcases, read-alike recommendations, editor’s picks, top lists, and reviews for both adults and children. Unique among its peers, all materials reviewed by Booklist are recommended for purchase.

Kirkus Reviews

Once upon a time, a scathing review from Kirkus Reviews could bring an author to tears, and this publication, published twice a month, is still known for its acerbic, witty reviews of books for adults and children. Their magazine features a section dedicated to self-publishers called Kirkus Indie which offers professional reviews of self-published books (for a price!).

 Library Journal

The flagship journal of the library community, the venerable Library Journal, published 20 times a year, reports news and issues that affect public and academic libraries. In their substantial review section, adult books and media are “highly recommended,” “recommended,” “optional,” or the dreaded “not recommended.”

Publishers Weekly

As the name implies, Publishers Weekly is the book industry’s weekly news magazine. Industry trends, publishing news, extensive pre-publication announcements, and reviews of both adult and children’s books are featured in their magazine. Check out BookLife, a site for self-published authors.

 School Library Journal

The sister publication of Library Journal, School Library Journal provides news and reviews for both school librarians and public librarians serving children and young adults. Published 12 times a year, School Library Journal critically evaluates approximately 6,000 titles a year for children and young adults with recommendations both for and against purchase.

 Credit: Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library

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