If you think libraries are out of reach for self-published authors, think again.
Library distribution is one of the most exciting (and relatively new) avenues for indie authors to get their books into the hands of readers worldwide. As far back as 2016, 92% of librarians surveyed by New Shelves Books reported purchasing from self-published authors and small presses. And well before the pandemic hit, our authors saw 133% growth in library revenue.
This trend benefits both readers and writers. Readers can check out books by new-to-them indie authors for free, and writers can get their books read more widely.
That’s why we’ve put a lot of emphasis on increasing library reach for our self-published authors. We’ve added as many library distribution partners as possible, and extended our authors’ reach to tens of thousands of libraries worldwide (in every country on the planet!). We’ve also helped pioneer a pricing model for library distribution—but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
This post will answer our most frequently asked questions about how library distribution works, how you get paid, and why we think every indie author should get their books into libraries.
How does library distribution work?
Libraries don’t purchase books directly from authors or publishers the way a bookstore does. You’ll need to use a distributor to get your book into a library vendor catalog. Most libraries operate independently, each playing by its own rules (and according to its own budget), so library distributors aren’t just a necessary go-between. They save you from having to manage relationships with each library independently.
The Alliance of Independent Authors has a great article that goes in-depth on library distribution. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so check out that post for even more detail.
How do authors get paid?
Libraries use two primary payment models: OC/OU and CPC.
OC/OU stands for “one copy, one user.” For libraries, it’s the electronic equivalent of purchasing a physical book for loan. A library might buy one copy of your book and then loan that copy to one person at a time. While your book is checked out, no one else can “borrow” it until the original patron has “returned” it. If the library wants to check out more than one copy of your book at once, they’ll have to purchase multiple copies.
The typical payment to authors under this model is about three times the list (retail) price. You’ll receive a single payment when the library purchases your title, and that’s it—no matter how many people read it.
CPC stands for “cost per checkout,” also sometimes called “simultaneous use.” (It’s also the royalty structure we helped pioneer!) It allows libraries to check out books to as many patrons as they need to at one time based on demand, without requiring them to purchase multiple copies up-front. Readers get access to the books they want, libraries have a lower up-front cost (meaning they’re more willing to take risks on new authors), and authors get paid based on reader volume—it’s a win-win-win!
Under the CPC model, payment to authors is usually 1/10 of the list price per loan. So you’ll get paid less up front, but there’s no limit to what you can earn. If your book is widely read, you’ll earn more with this model than with OC/OU.
CPC and OC/OU are both enabled by default for Draft2Digital’s library distribution channels. However, if you’d prefer to disable CPC, you can do so by visiting our Library Pricing page or Advanced User Options on your My Account page.
What’s the benefit of library distribution?
The benefits of library distribution range far and wide—literally. It’s a great way to get your books into the hands of readers across the globe, many of whom you might not usually reach. It’s also a much easier ask to have people request copies of your book from their local library than to buy from you.
You’ll get lots of exposure, win over more raving fans, leverage the best free marketing (word of mouth), and earn extra money in the bargain.
Besides, who among us doesn’t have a soft spot in their heart for their local library?
Which library distributors does Draft2Digital work with?
So how do self-published authors get their books into libraries in the first place? By using Draft2Digital, of course! We partner with most major library distributors and are always adding more.
We currently partner with:
- OverDrive: One of the most trusted and far-reaching library distribution services in the world, OverDrive currently provides books to more than 38,000 libraries and schools in 70+ countries. Our authors get unique benefits, like lower minimum pricing, better royalties, and no contracts or limitations.
- Bibliotheca: Bibliotheca’s cloudLibrary is a digital lending platform that serves thousands of public libraries worldwide. It also actively engages readers to form connections between new authors and new books readers will love, so it’s fantastic for discoverability.
- Hoopla: Hoopla is the digital service division of Midwest Tape, a leading provider of entertainment media for over 25 years. Hoopla’s mission is to partner with libraries in delivering the best content to patrons as seamlessly as possible—including your books! Hoopla doesn’t currently allow for price changes, so the price you set will stay put once you opt in. This shouldn’t affect your promos, but it’s worth keeping in mind when you first sign up.
- Baker & Taylor: Baker & Taylor is the world’s largest global distributor of digital and print books. They distribute to thousands of libraries and extend our indie authors’ reach to an estimated 1.5 billion library patrons each year.
- BorrowBox: BorrowBox is an app that provides library patrons in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom access to ebooks. The service is owned by Bolinda, a company with more than 20 years of experience in print books, ebooks, and audiobooks. We’re incredibly excited about BorrowBox because it creates a bridge between North American authors and whole new markets of English-reading patrons.
How to get your self-published books into libraries
Step 1: Use a distributor like Draft2Digital to upload your book onto one or all of our library distribution partners. You can do this for all your books by clicking the opt-in popup each time we announce a new library partner, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To add books individually, go to your My Books page.
Step 2: Create demand by asking for your books at your local library. Have all your friends, family, and neighbors do the same. Libraries won’t “stock” your books without requests for them, so don’t be shy! This is a great way to engage your author platform, too.
Note that most libraries will not accept a free book directly from an author to add to their catalog, or an email with a direct request for libraries to purchase from you directly.
We also wrote this post on best practices for library distribution, so check that out for more info.