Category Archives: Indies in the Library

NSR contributor and expert on library-oriented publishing Peyton Stafford makes weekly journeys 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 Audio: Libraries Need Indie Audiobooks

Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, both within libraries and without.

OverDrive saw audiobook circulation in libraries increase by 24% during 2017.

RBMedia (formerly Recorded Books), Baker & Taylor’s Axis360, Hoopla and others also saw huge growth in audiobook usage.

Why would a library want to acquire indie audiobooks? Some of the most popular audiobooks are from indie authors. Besides, your local authors may be doing audiobooks, and now you can add them to your local author collections. Adding local author audiobooks is another great way for libraries to support their communities.

Libraries can now add indie audiobooks to their collections through the same channels that they add indie ebooks. Read on to learn how.

But, first, let’s take a quick look at how indie audiobooks are created, and how they can find their way into library collections. As with indie ebooks, it may be easier than you think, both for the authors and for the librarians. Continue reading Indie Audio: Libraries Need Indie Audiobooks

This Library Wants Every Book—Including Indies: The Internet Archive’s Open Library Project

What kind of a library would have a totally open collection development policy? If it’s a book, they want it. If it’s a political ad on TV, they want it. If it’s a sound recording—you guessed it—they want it. It’s the Internet Archive. It wants to preserve digital copies of everything and then share them with the world through its Open Library project.

Mirela Roncevic, Director of No Shelf Required, and I have begun work on a book about cutting edge ebook projects and trends. ALA Editions will publish it in the fall of 2018. As part of my research, I am learning about the Internet Archive and their Open Library Project. The forthcoming book will contain a detailed description of the project, including an analysis of the legal issues surrounding scanning and lending copies of books. Mary Minow, the leading authority on library law, will author the chapter. Today’s article will focus on how indie authors can benefit from the Internet Archive and Open Library.

Before diving into the Internet Archive and the Open Library Project, let’s ask ourselves some questions about the value of books and other cultural expressions. If you are an indie author, you may have already asked yourself these questions. Continue reading This Library Wants Every Book—Including Indies: The Internet Archive’s Open Library Project

Writers Boon, a one-stop guide and marketplace for indie authors trying to find their way

What happens if you map the path from wanting to write to becoming a self-published author, throw in a bit of the Groupon idea, and then build a website for authors? You get Writers Boon, a one-stop guide and marketplace for indie authors trying to find their way through the maze of writing, revising, editing and publishing a book.

Carol Vorvain, the woman behind the project, is an author and attorney who lives in Australia. Her own books are about life and living joyfully and adventurously. You can find them on her website or on Amazon. Continue reading Writers Boon, a one-stop guide and marketplace for indie authors trying to find their way

Topeka-Shawnee Library’s “Community Novel Project:” Seven years of working with local authors and only getting started

If you are an author, have you ever wondered if a library could not only buy your book but provide expert help developing your writing and publishing skills? If you are a librarian, have you ever wondered why your library doesn’t go beyond holding events for local authors and actually publish some books? Lissa Staley and Miranda Ericsson, two librarians at the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library have sorted all this out and created a program, now in its seventh year, that organizes local authors, beefs up their writing and publishing skills, and the produces print and ebook edition of a collaborative work. And yes, you read that right. Two librarians have done all this while continuing their other library work. Welcome to the TSCPL Community Novel Project.

In 2003, Lissa Staley was at work at her job as a librarian at the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library. She noticed that one of her colleagues had put up a new display, so she stopped to look at it. This was her introduction to NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, an event held every November since 1999. She quickly decided to participate and set to work writing a novel of her own. At the same time, the idea that everyone could be a winner, that every participant in NaNoWriMo could win by completing the first draft of a novel inspired her. Everyone could win. No one had to lose.

The next year, 2004, she began programming for local writers around NaNoWriMo. However, many of them requested help getting published, finding an editor, getting an agent, etc. There were no resources, so she could not help them. The local writers groups focused on cracking the big New York publishers. Self-publishing and the tools to support it had not evolved as far as they have, today. Continue reading Topeka-Shawnee Library’s “Community Novel Project:” Seven years of working with local authors and only getting started

Multnomah County Library is setting a powerful example with the Library Writers Project

What happens when you take a world-class public library system, mix in hundreds of indie authors, power up with Smashwords, and use OverDrive to top it all off? You get Multnomah County Library’s Library Writers Project.

As I have researched the issues and realities of indie authors in libraries, I have found that the intersection of indies and libraries is potentially a much nicer place than I had originally thought. The technology and distribution problems have been solved, and the solutions comes from reliable vendors. No doubt there will be new developments, but existing technology and distribution systems are more than adequate to empower libraries to add indie ebooks to their collections and to promote them to their patrons.

Continue reading Multnomah County Library is setting a powerful example with the Library Writers Project

No better time for teachers and librarians to introduce teenagers to self-publishing than now

We live in an age in which the resources necessary to self-publish are readily available. Many adults self-publish their books and see them distributed to online retailers and libraries. Some libraries are beginning to facilitate this, especially with seniors who are memoirists, but what of students? What of adolescents whose hearts are filled with passion for life and who need to express their thoughts and feelings, to know that their words can find readers, and that their ideas matter to others? Now, thanks to Smashwords with its technology and how-to guides, educators and librarians can help these young people find their voices and speak to the world.

I send a big thanks to Tonya McQuade, poet, teacher and pioneer in both ebook publishing and in educational leadership.  Tonya McQuade began writing poetry as a child. She has won awards for it, published a book of her own writings, and appeared in anthologies. She has taught high school English for over 20 years. But in 2014, she found herself inspired her to go into self-publishing with her students. Continue reading No better time for teachers and librarians to introduce teenagers to self-publishing than now

Smashwords, libraries, and the [new] culture of authorship

Libraries have traditionally promoted a culture of learning and a culture of books. Now they have the opportunity to promote a culture of authorship. — Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords

In our time, late in the second decade of the 21st century, libraries have an opportunity to not only continue their traditional mission of providing books and encouraging literacy, but of extending that tradition into a new world of library-based publishing in which the library grows beyond being the locus of literacy in its community and transforms itself into the champion of the creative force of authorship.

As I have been writing these articles on Indies in the Library™, the word “Smashwords” keeps coming up. Especially, as I wrote the last article, about educating indie authors on how to work with libraries, I realized that the Smashwords’ technology and distribution platform solves two of the largest barriers to libraries acquiring indie ebooks: putting the books into library distribution channels and getting them into ebook platforms that patrons are already comfortable with. I wanted to talk with the person who had the vision to create this.

Kat Brooks of IndiesUnlimited knows Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, and was kind enough to make an email introduction. Mark and I then managed to schedule a phone call. He has a very busy schedule speaking, not only at writers’ conferences, but at library conferences and even at individual libraries that are developing their programs to work with indie authors. I was eager to hear his thoughts on indie publishing and on the future of publishing and libraries. Continue reading Smashwords, libraries, and the [new] culture of authorship

Welcome, local author. Your public library wants you!

As the indie author revolution grows, more and more libraries are providing services to them. Many libraries have extensive information on their websites. Pike’s Peak Library District sets an excellent example at But, what do you do when an indie author/aspiring writer walks in the door and needs something he or she can carry home with them?

Many indie authors are first-time writers, especially those who write memoirs. They may be of retirement age and somewhat uncomfortable with technology. For instance, they would rather you give them information in printed form than refer them to your website. They may have an ebook edition of their book, but they paid someone to create it for them, and they do not understand library ebook purchasing procedures. They didn’t know your library had services for them, and you need something to give them so they can begin learning about the services.

Continue reading Welcome, local author. Your public library wants you!

What’s the best way to get indies into libraries?

Has one of your library patrons ever asked why your library had a Kindle bestseller title in print but not as an ebook? Maybe someone who preferred reading e rather than p? Or have you ever wondered the same thing, yourself, when you found an ebook you wanted to read but then found that your collection development people had missed it, or that they had trouble adding it to your collection?

In an earlier article in this column on indies in libraries we looked at indie authors whose ebooks have become bestsellers and discussed why libraries would want to add these to their collections. To summarize what we found, while libraries focus their acquisitions efforts on books from the Big Five, there is a parallel universe of publishing that generates bestsellers and sells them to the public. Some of these bestsellers get into library collections, but not all. The issue for libraries is acquiring as many of these bestsellers as possible to minimize their loss of patrons to Amazon and other ebook services that provide instant access to the titles.

These books are not the old-fashioned self-published books with bad covers and typographical errors that many library and publishing professionals still think of when thinking of independent authors and independent publishing; rather, these are professionally written, edited and produced books (mostly genre fiction) that have been published by highly skilled writers who take advantage of the new realities of publishing. They purchase the editorial and design services of publishing professionals through marketplaces, such as Reedsy, where they can contract for services from editors and others who are current or former employees of the Big Five. They publish and distribute their books on platforms, such as Amazon, that are built to drive sales for them. And they market their books through book blogs, store appearances, and direct email services, such as BookBub.

In this article, we will look at the practical aspects of adding indie ebooks to a library collection, how indie authors distribute their ebooks, and the channels that libraries can use to add these books to their collections. Continue reading What’s the best way to get indies into libraries?

Indies Unlimited, a one-stop source of reliable information for indie authors

You’re sitting behind the Reference Desk or maybe trying to slip unnoticed through the stacks on your way to a staff meeting, when an elderly lady or gentleman quietly asks for help.

“I am trying to write my memoir. I’m a retired (doctor, lawyer, construction worker—you know the drill, so fill in the blank) and I want to write the story of my life. But I’m stuck. I thought it would be easy. After all, I lived it. But now I see I don’t know much about writing, much less about getting published. I just spent $4000 with a company that was supposed to help me with the writing and then print the book, but all they did was type up my notes and print them on cheap paper with a shoddy cover that didn’t even show the photo I sent them for it. Now, what do I do?”

In your mind, the question is not only what does your patron do, but what do you do? The patron doesn’t need a referral to a long list of resources that might or not be of help, much of which is appropriate for published indies but not for novices. He or she needs direction to a reliable, trustworthy resource that is written for someone in his situation—the beginning, unpublished author. Continue reading Indies Unlimited, a one-stop source of reliable information for 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