SELF-e Gets Indie Books Into Library Catalogs

by Porter Anderson, @Porter_Anderson

SELF-e main logoThe American Library Association’s (ALA) 2015 Annual Conference & Exhibition opened yesterday, Thursday (25th June, #alaac15), in San Francisco with something unprecedented being offered at this year’s gathering: Library SELF-e’s first-ever national curated collection is now ready, an array of 200 indie ebooks that librarians can peruse and consider carrying for their patrons to check out and read.

Big thanks to Elizabeth for letting me jump onto her blog today to tell you about it.

As originally endorsed by indie bestsellers Hugh Howey and CJ Lyons, Library SELF-e is one of the breakthroughs many independent authors have hoped to see.

Until now, self-publishers have been generally stymied in trying to get their work into libraries. And that’s not because librarians weren’t interested in self-published work. No, it’s because there’s so much of it. My Bookseller colleagues and I in London recently estimated that the US alone is producing between 450,000 and 600,000+ new indie titles annually. Do you have time to read all those books? Neither do librarians.

What SELF-e does is give interested indie authors a way to cut through that fog of words and offer their books directly to library collections — at no cost to the author. I’ve agreed to work with Library SELF-e to get the word out to writers for exactly that reason: Here is a new, national-class service that promotes authors at no cost to them and in a critical forum formerly out of reach to indies — our libraries. One key criterion for me: This is available not only to US authors but to anyone, anywhere, writing in English.

The big moment being celebrated by SELF-e co-producers Library Journal and BiblioLabs’ BiblioBoard this weekend in San Francisco is the arrival of the first Library Journal SELF-e Select. This is the curated collection of some 200 indie ebooks that the nation’s librarians now can consider adding to their collections for patrons to check out — without limits: no maximum numbers of checkouts.

Cozies, She Wrote

I now can reveal to you that Elizabeth Spann Craig is one of the best-represented authors in the new collection: no fewer than six of her cozies are there — congratulations, Ms. C! (My favorite title in this group: A Body at Book Club.

Here are the six Elizabeth Spann Craig tittles included in Library Journal's first SELF-e Select national curated collection of self-published works for librarians.
Here are the six Elizabeth Spann Craig titles included in Library Journal’s first SELF-e Select national curated collection of self-published works for librarians.

Very quickly, here is how Library SELF-e works. (There’s much more material at the site, of course, including this excellent page of questions to use in deciding whether SELF-e is right for you.)

(1) When you submit your ebook to the SELF-e system (it’s quick and easy), a team of editors at Library Journal evaluates it.

(2) You can choose to have it automatically included in your state’s anthology for local librarians to discover and consider offering. That one is guaranteed: everybody gets in, and that anthology is provided free of charge top your local libraries.

(3) If you’re not based in the United States, SELF-e and our US librarians still want to know about your work: you simply submit your ebooks and choose the “Outside of US” option as your “state.” (Yes, we’ve basically created the 51st state in the union and it’s all about books. I have no problem with that, do you?)

(4) The big goal is to be selected by Library Journal’s evaluators for its SELF-e Select collection — this is the best of the best submitted. Libraries will be subscribing for the chance to see just which authors and which books are being put forward this way for their special consideration. That’s how the program is paid for: libraries pay to gain access to these curated collections.

(5) There’s currently a competition on, too, that might be something you want to consider: If you’re writing romance, mystery, science-fiction or fantasy, you can note as you submit that you’d like to be entered for a $1,000 prize in your genre ($4,000 total for the four genres), and the deadline is August 31. Here are complete details.

(Note: If you’ve already submitted to SELF-e and would like to be considered for a prize, let me know and I can get the word over to the SELF-e team.)

Issues and Answers

LJ Self-Published eBook AwardsObviously quite new on the scene, Library SELF-e is not for every author. That, again, is what its “Is SELF-e right for me?” page is about.

Here, for example, are a few points to bear in mind:

  • You must have the electronic rights to an ebook you submit. This can include traditionally published authors who are getting the e-rights for their backlists, of course, as well as self-published writers.
  • You will not be paid royalties when books are checked out by library patrons. SELF-e is designed to generate libraries’ discoverability potential for writers, not a revenue stream.
  • Let’s say that your self-published work finds a strong readership response and a traditional publisher offers you a contract you’d like to take. You’re not stuck. You can cancel your participation in SELF-e and libraries carrying your work will remove their copies within a specified time frame.

You may find that SELF-e’s biggest asset for you is the help it’s giving libraries that want to interface with their local writers. Instead of having to say an automatic “no” when indie authors ask if they can get their ebooks into the collection, librarians with SELF-e are able to direct authors to the program for submission through the BiblioLabs SELF-e system. The books then come through to the libraries in their state anthologies.

Mitchell Davis
Mitchell Davis

Mitchell Davis, chief business officer with BiblioLabs, told Library Journal’s Meredith Schwartz about the local author-librarian relationship this way:

In the last 15 years…millions of books [were] self-published. Librarians know there are good books in there, but they don’t have the bandwidth to sort through [them]. So it seemed like a perfect marriage for Library Journal to become a readers’ advisory service for self-published books. I think that solves a really huge problem for librarians: it lets them make self-published books available with confidence and without a lot of hassle. It also solves a problem [when] local authors want their book in their local library and libraries have had to turn [them] away. Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) told us they were getting multiple emails a week and would have to say no. SELF-e lets the librarian say yes and engage their writing community more viscerally.

Next Steps

To follow Elizabeth and other authors in using SELF-e to reach library readers, keep an eye on this map. It shows you where submissions are being made (gray), where indie anthologies are already out (blue), and where they’re being put together next (red).

And bear in mind that your own local library does not have to be a SELF-e subscribing library for you to submit. You can certainly be represented in your state anthology, if you’d like, and you can have a chance to be in the ongoing releases of national-level Library Journal SELF-e. If you’d like to be in touch with me about SELF-e, drop me a line at my site or a comment here on today’s post.

Meanwhile, if you’re working in romance, mystery, science-fiction, or fantasy, you can have your submission entered into Library Journal’s 2015 Self-Published eBook Awards. Don’t forget that 31 August deadline and best of luck!

Porter Anderson [Photo Christine Reynolds, PPA, FDPE, CPP]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.

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15 thoughts on “SELF-e Gets Indie Books Into Library Catalogs

  1. Hey, Alex,

    Thanks for your note, and for reading the piece today. To some degree, the digital dynamic may have caused us to lose sight for a time of how influential libraries can be in creating discoverability for authors’ work — this does indeed look like quite an opportunity for indies.


    On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson

    1. Agree, Diane, that’s exactly the advantage anticipated for this new offering the American Library Association is seeing this weekend a their conference. The curated collection that Library Journal delivers to its subscribing libraries is the key, in that librarians can “see” the SELF-e Select choices in that “sea of books” you’re talking about.
      Thanks for the note!

      On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson

  2. Thanks, Elizabeth, for hosting Porter.

    Porter – Thanks for sharing this news – that’s fabulous! So glad that more indie authors will be represented, and that libraries will have easier access to them.

  3. Indeed, Margot, very much appreciate Elizabeth hosting me here at her blog — AND congrats to her again on the inclusion of her titles in Library Journal’s SELF-e Select curated collection that’s now being presented at the American Library Association’s conference in San Francisco. Quite a testament to the work Elizabeth is doing in her series, isn’t it?

    Do alert folks to the cool competition that @LibrarySELF_e is holding, too — titles in mystery, science-fiction, fantasy, and romance are all eligible.

    Thanks for reading, and for leaving a note!

    On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson

  4. Curation: it’s the answer for libraries, and the answer for indie publishers, and now it’s the answer for indie publishers to get into libraries.

    What’s with all the common sense? Next you’ll tell me someone has discovered an honest politician.

    I may be missing something, but the point of the “Is SELF-e right for you?” page seems to be simply to emphasize that yes, it’s for everyone — unless your goals are financial. I guess I was expecting more of a true decision-tree with actual decisions to be made.

    Fascinating program. I’ll be checking it out, in part because libraries have been my “third place” for half a century. If I can give back even more than I already do, I’m delighted.

    1. If you know libraries as that “third place, ” Joel, you’re ahead of the pack already. :)

      Agree with all you’re saying, the common sense of it is terrific, huh? The libraries are pleased, too — personnel are telling me that they find the subscription very reasonable and the service a godsend. Especially the ones who want to work with their local authors. In the past, they’ve had to say, “Sorry, we don’t even have a way for you to submit a self-published ebook to us.” Now, they can say, “Oh, sure, jump on the SELF-e site and submit. And then the SELF-e system routes that new submission right into their state “Indie Anthology,” as it’s called, so the libraries then can sort things out and work with their local writers.

      You’re correct about the Is It Right For You? page. It’s basically reminding writers of the outer parameters — they have to have their own e-rights, etc. — and emphasizing that there are no royalties in this approach. For some, this will be a problem. For most, I find it’s not, particularly as library checkouts aren’t anticipated by many as a key profit center. Still, some would prefer an approach that paid them for a checkout, so they’ll be looking elsewhere, which is just fine.

      I like the transparency of the Library Journal team, they’re very upfront with all this…as you say, like common sense has fallen on us here, lol.

      Thanks and good weekend,

      On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson

  5. Wow! Thanks so much for explaining this, Porter–this is definitely something I want to do with the first two books of my series and again when the third comes out in a couple of months. Getting our self-pubbed books “found” is like carving Mount Rushmore with a nail file–and all alone. Self-e just might help things along.

    1. Meg, you’re so smart.

      Series are perfect for SELF-e. We’re finding that they’re some of the most avidly submitted (and happily received by librarians) out their. Note, for example, that our host here Elizabeth is working with her Mytrle Clover series in the ebooks she has in the Library Journal’s SELF-e Select, and I was just writing about the historical fiction author Lisa J. Yarde here — at Where Writers Win — and she, in fact, has the first four of a six-ebook series in the curated collection, as well.

      Congratulations on being this close with No. 3!

      And yes, here’s hoping that Library SELF-e can get you some discoverability without completely trashing that nail file at Rushmore, lol. Great image, and too true! :)

      All the best and let me know of any problems, should you need something, when you submit.


      On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson

  6. Hi Elizabeth and Porter – what a great bit of business-book knowledge to be made aware of … and the idea of ‘local’ caught my attention … ripples in the water …

    Looks really good – and congratulations to you Elizabeth for sharing this with us and your participation – I’ve duly noted, so that when the time is right .. it’s something I could do .. cheers to you both – Hilary

  7. Fantastic, Hilary,

    Hope it will be something you can use with your work, sounds like you’ve picked right up on the idea!

    All the best with it!

    On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson

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