By Porter Anderson (On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson)
That might just be librarians gathered for the American Library Association’s (ALA) big Annual Conference & Exhibition. It opens today, Thursday (25th June) in San Francisco.
And among the news you may hear coming out of the gathering, one of the most upbeat announcements is that the all-new Library Journal’s SELF-e Select is being launched. That means that close to 200 self-published ebooks are in this curated collection, vetted and ready for the nation’s librarians to consider offering to patrons.
My thanks to Shari at Where Writers Win for this chance to tell you about Library SELF-e, a free-to-authors program I’m working with as a client in my Porter Anderson Media consultancy: my role is to help get the word out to indie authors.
If you’ve been in books and publishing for long, you’ll know that one of the main discoverability routes that’s been hardest for indies to crack is the public library. That’s pretty ironic because most of us first became hooked on books and reading at the library, right? So what’s the problem? — it’s that “tsunami of content” you hear people talk about. With an estimated 450,000 to 600,000 or more indie titles being published annually in the US alone, librarians simply can’t hope to find and preview the best material.
Library SELF-e works this way:
- As long as you hold the rights to your ebook, you can submit it to SELF-e using this quick submissions portal. The process is quick and self-explanatory.
- SELF-e is open to English-language submissions from anywhere in the world. If you’re not in the United States, choose the “Outside the US” option rather than a state.
- You have the option to be included in your state library system’s Indie Anthology, a guaranteed placement that will give librarians in your state a chance to preview and consider your work. (Librarians all over the States will be able to see the “Outside the US” submissions.)
- If selected by Library Journal’s evaluators, your book will be included as a highlighted work in the Library Journal SELF-e Select, that curated collection of the best submissions, offered to librarians nationwide.
And there’s extra incentive this summer to submit your ebook: Library Journal will award $1,000 each to writers of the submitted ebooks in mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy. The deadline for the competition is 31 August 2015, and each genre category will have one winner and two honorable mentions. Here are details on the contest.
Note that SELF-e isn’t for every author.
- You can only participate in the program if you have control of your book’s digital rights. But that doesn’t have to mean your ebook is new work; this could include a backlist, of course, to which your ebook rights have reverted to you from a publisher.
- That “e” is important, too: this program is for ebooks, not for print.
- And authors are not paid a royalty payment when a library patron checks out their ebooks with SELF-e. The way this free-to-authors program’s costs are covered is through subscriptions that libraries pay to Library Journal in order to have access to these curated collections of pre-evaluated indie ebooks.One of the advantages of this royalty-free setup is that a SELF-e ebook offered by a library to its patrons can be checked out as many times and by as many people as the traffic will bear — there are no limitations placed on the amount of success that a SELF-e title might have in the library online setting.
And let me introduce you an indie author who’s one of the lucky writers represented in the inaugural Library Journal SELF-e Select curated collection.
In fact, Lisa J. Yarde, who blogs here, has four ebooks of her Sultana series in the new collection. The first of the series, Sultana: A Novel of Moorish Spain, has been specially honored as a SELF-e Select highlight.
“As a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli),” Yarde tells me, “I had seen information about Library SELF-e posted to the group’s Facebook page in April.” And that’s the indie authors’ grapevine at work: there was a presentation about SELF-e at Alli’s IndieReCon event at Foyle’s flagship bookstore in Charing Cross Road in London on the 17th of April.
Yarde picked up on it quickly. “I decided to submit the four available titles in my historical fiction series,” she says.
She describes her work as being set in the Moorish Spain of the 13th to 15th centuries. “Each book chronicles the turbulent lives of the last Muslim rulers of Spain,” she tells me, as their grip on power and their territory increasingly dwindled. The main characters and some of the secondary characters are based on historical figures, who influenced the politics of the land and Spain’s future. A common theme throughout the series has been the importance of the bond between family members; when there are divisions, even a mighty dynasty can fall.”
Library patrons may be new to Yarde’s work, but she is no newbie in her field: “I’ve been writing historical fiction steadily for at least 20 years,” she tells me. “In 2010, I decided to self-publish. I had two agents in the interim who, while they believed in my work, found it difficult to sell the books to traditional publishers.”
Like many self-publishers, Yarde is quick to say that the job involves teamwork. “Hiring a cover artist and editor, and working with beta readers have been key,” she says. “For me,there’s no such thing as going it alone in self-publishing. Reviews of the series, while slow to come in, have been largely favorable and have opened up other opportunities for translation in particular.
“I‘m particularly fascinated by Europe in the Middle Ages,” she tells me, “so much of my focus has been on that period. The cliché ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’ is applicable to a modern-day reflection on the time. While we may pride ourselves on technological advances, basic human nature has not changed. As we have loved and hated, and seen our society shaped by great discoveries and conflicts stemming from religious and social differences, so too did medieval people have similar, fascinating experiences with consequences that still influence our lives.”
Both fans of historical fiction and of travel literature read Yarde. “I’m fortunate that the primary setting of the novels, Granada’s Alhambra Palace, invites interest from travelers worldwide as one of the best remaining examples of Moorish architecture. It’s important for me that readers know that a vibrant, cultured people once inhabited the rooms.”
And in getting her ebooks into the library system, Yarde says, she’s looking for the wider readership that digital publishing can deliver: “The ebook explosion has been such a critical part of the process for me,” she says. “At least 89 percent of my readership has come through digital sales. The format of ebooks and the variety of platforms on which they have become available have had a huge impact on how we read. Libraries have always been an important element, allowing readers who might not be inclined or have the ability to spend large sums on books, to have access to the content. Having self-published ebooks in libraries is a huge boon to those authors who don’t have publishing houses and marketing teams behind them. ”
Like many of us, Yarde credits libraries as her own means of discovering good work. “Libraries can help authors grow their readership; I know because I’ve discovered some of my favorite authors of historical fiction — who inspired me to write — through libraries.” If anything, the health of the library system, she says, helps balance the pressures on bookstores: “As the publishing landscape has changed, where we have unfortunately seen the diminished presence of bookstores, I believe library access remains critical to our reading future. I’m excited to see how digital content will factor into that future.”
And with luck, librarians in the US library system — as well as at libraries in New York City, her home — will soon be making her ebooks available to patrons through the SELF-e system.
“Throughout the years,” Yarde says, “my goal has remained the same; to share certain perspectives on the past and bring history to life for readers.”
A lot more of those readers might be about to discover her work.
Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He is The Bookseller’s (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He is a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he’s a regular contributor of “Provocations in Publishing” with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various companies and players in publishing, such as Library SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair’s Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.