“Harnessing the Power of Public Libraries” by E.J. LeRoy

banner.jpegEnjoy an exclusive guest post from E.J. LeRoy, author of “Babel of Silence,” featured in our upcoming anthology ON TIME.

 

We live in what I like to call the “Age of Free.” In this Age of Free, we get free shipping, free installation, free Wi-Fi, free on-demand movies, free over-the-air television, free hugs, free e-books, and tons of free online content. But where does this new era leave writers, editors, and publishers? Since so much of our entertainment today is free or close to it, how are those of us in the trade of the written word supposed to make any money? Things were bad enough for writers before everybody started demanding everything for free. But now, the worldwide overload of free stuff can feel like a literary apocalypse taken right from the pages of science fiction. Is this the end of the paid writer as we know it?

Let’s not panic—yet. What if I were to tell you there is an underused venue out there that buys books and then lets people in the community borrow them for free? If what I just described sounds a lot like a public library, that’s because it is. And in the Age of Free, they can be a valuable resource.

A lot of writers don’t give much thought to libraries. Or if they do, it may be a negative thought as in, “How dare those people borrow my books and not buy them? What cheapskates!” Confession time: even though I’m a writer, I am definitely one of those cheapskates. If my local public library doesn’t have a book I want to read, I usually don’t go out and buy it. But that doesn’t mean I throw my hands up, say, “oh well,” and give up. Instead, I ask my local librarian to consider buying a copy of the book for me and my fellow patrons. After all, public libraries have a budget to spend, so they may as well spend part of that money purchasing books their tax paying patrons request. There’s actually a name for this practice. It’s called “patron-driven acquisition,” and it’s about time more of us indie authors took advantage of it.

Every public library system is different. Some are centralized, others are cooperatives, and others are consortiums. But a good number of them support patron-driven acquisitions by supplying a “request a purchase” form on their website for patrons to fill out with their library card numbers. This can be an effective method for getting small press titles in front of an audience without having to give away books while still letting people read for free.

True, a library may purchase one copy of a book that circulates for a long time and never earns the author another cent. But that’s one copy that may never have been purchased otherwise. This is especially true for readers like me who wouldn’t go out and buy one. Of course, a lot of readers like to try before they buy. A patron who sees an obscure small press title at the library may like the book enough to purchase a copy and maybe buy some for friends as well. Maybe those readers will become fans of the small press and its authors. This could lead to increased sales. But without library visibility, this may not happen. Avid readers may not be aware these awesome books exist. One small display of new books at the library could change that. There’s no guarantee, but why not request a small press title just in case?

On the subject of visibility through libraries, let’s not forget about interlibrary loans. Many library systems allow patrons to borrow books from libraries outside of the city or state for free or for a small fee. This is another great incentive to encourage local public libraries to purchase small press titles. Because of interlibrary loans, I have been able to read many indie science fiction anthologies that my local public library didn’t have or wouldn’t buy. Other readers use this service too. And here’s something really cool: If a book gets listed in at least one library that uses WorldCat, a national library catalog, patrons throughout the country can access stories they may not otherwise have read. And that means more awareness and potential sales.

So what does this have to do with Transmundane Press and their newest anthology, ON TIME? Great question! As a contributor, I intend to do my part to encourage sales and visibility of this title by requesting it at my local public library. Sure, I’m only one person, and the library might purchase only one copy as a favor because I’m a local author. But this anthology has many contributors. And I bet most, if not all, of them have access to a local public library system and a library card in good standing.

For the sake of argument, let’s say ON TIME has thirty contributors who hail from different library systems. If every one of those contributors requests this anthology at their local public library, Transmundane Press may sell thirty copies. And those thirty copies may not only get in the hands of readers in those thirty library systems but circulate around other library systems throughout the country via interlibrary loan. Readers who like what they read may then be inspired to buy a copy of ON TIME to keep. Maybe they’ll find new favorite authors to follow and buy their work as well or fill out library forms to request future Transmundane Press titles. And the more copies Transmundane Press sells of ON TIME, the more likely the editors will want to continue producing anthologies for authors to contribute stories. There’s no guarantee library sales can make all this magic happen, but it’s sure worth a try.

In the spirit of the vintage “I WANT YOU” poster, I am recruiting my fellow ON TIME anthology contributors to fill out patron purchase request forms at their local public libraries. If your library has a local author request form, use it. I WANT YOU to bring attention to ON TIME and Transmundane Press today through the power of patron-driven acquisitions. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s free. And who says we can’t profit from the Age of Free?

 

 

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E.J. LeRoy is a freelance writer, poet, and aspiring novelist whose work has appeared at Submittable Content for Creatives. “The DeVore Incident,” LeRoy’s first published speculative short story, appears in the Transmundane Press anthology In the AIR. Visit the author’s website at http://ejleroy.weebly.com.  ​

 

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