Indies in the Library

NSR contributor and expert on library-oriented publishing Peyton Stafford makes a weekly journey into the world at the intersection of indie authorship and libraries. He explores how new technological platforms have made indie authorship viable in ways that vanity publishing never was, and at how libraries can not only adapt but thrive as patrons increasingly demand books by indie authors.

Indie book reviews: Separating the wheat from the chaff

If you want to add indie ebooks to your library, how do you pick the good ones and avoid the duds? It’s not as if an ebook that never circs is going to clutter your shelves, but at the same time you want to focus your energy on acquiring ebooks that your patrons will enjoy. You need ebooks with positive reviews–and not only positive reviews but positive reviews from credible review sources you can trust. After all, reading the reviews takes effort. You don’t want to have to evaluate the sources of the reviews, too.

Or, if you’re an indie author, how do you get a review that librarians will respect, so they will buy your book? An author may also ask, do I even need a review?

When I began research for this article, I wanted to know two things

  • How the review process works for indie author
  • How librarians can find credible reviews of indie books so they can make good choices of what to buy for their collections

I began with a little online research.

Jane Friedman wrote an excellent post on paid reviews for indie authors, and PW has a recently updated  article on the same subject by Daniel Lefferts and Alex Daniel in the BookLife section for self-publishing authors. Some authors find that paid reviews do create additional book sales, while others do not. Continue reading Indie book reviews: Separating the wheat from the chaff

Honoring local authors in their hometown libraries: This is how San Jose PL does it

Wouldn’t it be great if your library could host one author event after another, with every event well attended by both authors and appreciative readers? San Jose Public Library (SJPL) has a strong record in this area, and in this article we will look at how they do it without working themselves to death in the process.

Serving a diverse population of nearly one million, SJPL comprises fourteen branches. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, The King Library was named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and occupies a corner of the San Jose State University campus. It is SJPL’s main branch and consistently produces top-flight local author events. This large, nine floor library provides services to residents of San Jose, as well as to the students and faculty of San Jose State University, home of the renowned SJSU School of Information. I don’t have to tell you that it’s a busy place and that library staff have a lot going on, besides author events.

Librarian Deborah Estreicher manages the author events, and she was kind enough to give me an hour of her time on the phone. Speaking in a calm, thoughtful voice, she explained what she does and how she does it. Managing the author events is not a full-time job for her. The rest of the time she is a reference librarian. She did not initiate the local author events at the library; rather, SJPL had been putting on author events for several years after another librarian started them, but when that librarian left the library,  the events fell to Deborah and her supervisor to take over. These events are not held on Indie Author Day, but rather they are scheduled to fit the needs of the library and the community. Continue reading Honoring local authors in their hometown libraries: This is how San Jose PL does it

Indie Author Day: Librarians and authors sound off on the benefits of participating

In anticipation of Indie Author Day 2017, to take place on October 14, this article will summarize what I found after speaking with several librarians and an author who had participated in Indie Author Day last October.

Four themes emerged:

  • The Indie Author Day name sends too narrow a message
  • Libraries need to do more, and earlier, promotion to bring in readers as well as authors
  • The most successful aspect of Indie Author Day was networking among the authors. In one case, this resulted in the founding of a writers group at a library.
  • …and what about paying the authors for the books?

Mel Parish, the author who organized Eastchester Public Library’s Indie Author Day 2016 spoke to me at length about her experiences with it. 

“It was good to get together with other authors,” she said. However, the name of the event conveyed the message that it was a day for authors, and not for  readers (and book purchasers). 

Calling it Indie Author Day sends the message that it is a day for authors, rather than for readers, so it attracts authors. At Eastchester, several of the people in the audience were actually either writing books or planning to, and they wanted to learn more about how to become an indie author. It wasn’t clear that the event was for readers as well as for authors, so people thought that it was especially for authors who hoped to get their books into public libraries, which can be difficult, since librarians see being published by one of the Big Five as the stamp of approval for a book, and they won’t buy books from the smaller independent presses or from indie authors. 

Continue reading Indie Author Day: Librarians and authors sound off on the benefits of participating

Indie Author Day: What it’s about and what it does for indie authors and libraries

In last week’s article, The Rise of the Indie Author in Libraries, we looked at the indie author phenomenon and why it is important to libraries. We found that with the development of the worldwide web and easy access to computing equipment, self-publishing has grown from being a money-maker for vanity presses, but not for authors, to becoming a money-maker for the authors. While one still finds poorly written books being self-published, a new breed of highly professional authors has arisen—writers like John Locke (the current author, not the English philosopher)—who consistently write and publish bestsellers, who outsource to get expert editing, cover creation and book design (just as most traditional publishers now do), and who operate more like mini publishing houses than like the self-published authors many librarians feel cannot produce books that meet good editorial standards.

There are huge financial incentives for authors to self-publish their ebooks, rather than accept the 19th century two-year publishing schedule and Scrooge-like royalties that come with traditional print publishing. As the analysis at Author Earnings has demonstrated, authors are already making money by self-publishing in e. Some, such as Hugh Howey, then hand off print editions to a traditional publisher that can distribute printed books through wholesalers to bookstores and other retail outlets. With the new publishing technology and the global digital marketplace, the author gets the best of two worlds instead of the worst of the one traditional world. The effect of this new financial model and the technologies behind it cannot be overestimated. Continue reading Indie Author Day: What it’s about and what it does for indie authors and libraries

The rise of the Indie Author in Libraries

This is the first article in an ongoing series that will examine every aspect of indie authorship and how developing relationships with indie authors and their communities can benefit both libraries and writers. We will explore why trusted names in the library business, such as Ingram, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal support indie authors. Likewise, we will look at the efforts of libraries—from huge Los Angeles Public Library to not-so-huge Williamson County, VA—on behalf of indie authors. We will examine the forces that have led to the rise of the indie author, and since NSR is about digital content in libraries, we will look closely at how the internet, the worldwide web, and ebooks are the technologies that have made indie publishing viable in a way that vanity publishing never was.

What is an Indie Author?

Let’s first try to understand what an indie author is, and why knowing something about what makes indie authors indie helps librarians understand how to work with them.

We all know how traditionally published authors work with their publishers, or at least we have a general idea. We know that the author is supported, and to some extent directed, by an editor or several editors. The editor may guide in the development of a manuscript, that is in developing characters and plot in fiction. The editor will assure that the manuscript receives thorough fact checking and vetting in nonfiction. Every manuscript will be copy edited. The cover will be designed and executed by a professional. The book will be typeset in a pleasing font and printed on book paper. The finished book, whether printed or digital, will truly be a finished product. Whether we care for the opinions expressed or the fantasies created within, we know that the book meets what we commonly call good editorial standards. Continue reading The rise of the Indie Author in Libraries

Introducing Indies in the Library™: A new column on NSR

How does a library benefit from working with indie authors? Does working with indie authors help a library achieve its mission? How are indie authors different from vanity press authors and self-published authors? Does anyone want to read indie books, even if the library stocks them? What if they are ebooks? How does a library handle that? If a library wants to help indie authors, how can it do this? How do other libraries work with indie authors, and what can I learn from them? If I am an indie author, how can I work with libraries to further my cause?

If questions like these run through your mind, then the new NSR column Indies in the Library is for you.

The first article, The Rise of the Indie Author in Libraries, covers some surprising facts about indie authors and why librarians should take them seriously—such as that several of them have sold millions of copies of their books, and if your library cannot supply them, then your patrons will look elsewhere. Continue reading Introducing Indies in the Library™: A new column on NSR