Thursday, April 16, 2015

When will library patrons get to enjoy indie authors?

Last year when my ebook distributor Smashwords announced its deal with Overdrive, a supplier of digital content to libraries, I was excited to finally have my ebooks available to libraries. With some estimates showing that indie authors enjoy 20 to 30 percent market share among ebook buyers, it was high time that library patrons had their chance to discover works by independent talent.

The Author Earnings Reports published by well-known indie author Hugh Howey who analyzes sales data at ebook retailers, particularly the Amazon Kindle store, showed in July 2014 that indie authors were the publishers of 25 percent of the Kindle bestsellers. As for daily sales volume of ebooks at Amazon, 31 percent were titles authored by indies.

Some self published authors enjoy enormous success and have thousands of loyal fans. Then others, like myself, have impressed modest audiences who have left good reviews at online retailers and come back to buy more of my books year after year.

My ebooks within the Overdrive system, however, are segregated into a “self published” section, which reduces the chance of library buyers finding them. Even the president of Smashwords, Mark Coker, said in a recent interview that we authors refer to it as a dungeon.

Despite proven track records of happy readers and several years worth of sales for many self publishing authors, Overdrive adheres to the view that self published works don’t deserve placement alongside works from publishing companies. This attitude probably derives from the fact that indie ebooks cost much less than ebooks licensed to libraries by major publishers.

Will Librarians Consider Us?

Despite Overdrive's financial motive of keeping affordably licensed digital content hidden from buyers, I can hope that some library professionals might be interested in the self published content now available to them. Indie authors in general offer an excellent value, especially to budget-conscious librarians who must get as much quality content as they can for the money they have to spend.

I was heartened by this news report about a library in Ohio that actually held an indie-author oriented event. Authors are book lovers and know that libraries contribute greatly to a literate culture. It would be natural for libraries to support authors in their geographical service areas.

In March, the Cuyahoga County Public Library showcased indie authors and presented workshops on marketing. The event was public so even readers were allowed to interact with local indie authors.

With a large segment of the ebook buying public choosing to read indie authors, it would be nice if more library patrons could have the same opportunity.

What could be some reasons that libraries have been slow to embrace self published authors, even the successful ones?

1. They may not know about them! Self published authors rarely get any shelf space in a bookstore. They are discovered by readers browsing online book stores like Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, Nook, Smashwords, and iBooks. The internet marketing efforts of indie authors also earn them readers bit by bit, but all of this is likely invisible to librarians who depend on marketing materials from mainstream companies.

2. Some people are prejudiced against self published authors. They think that if a publisher did not produce a book, then it’s not any good. The fact is most authors have no way to even have their work seen by a publisher. Also, as the legions of indie authors show, there are thousands more writers with talent than publishing companies apparently have capacity to produce. Furthermore, business interests require publishers to focus on highly commercial work similar to what has already been successful. They typically cannot take a risk on anything new or different. This creates a literary culture driven by an accountant's ledger.

3. Librarians probably have to focus their limited budgets on popular titles that their patrons are requesting. However, the low prices of indie ebooks could allow libraries to buy some and therefore broaden their selection of digital titles. Because it’s usually only the buying public and not the library audience that is exposed to independent authors, library patrons may be largely unaware of these popular independent authors in the marketplace.

I know that my distributor Smashwords has prepared curated lists of its top-selling ebooks to help librarians choose titles with proven track records for pleasing readers. I urge acquisition librarians to consider this content so their digital collections will fully represent the literary scene.

Libraries by their nature allow readers to discover new entertainment and information free of the need to pay for it. This is a profoundly important service and has helped me personally learn a great deal over the years as well as enjoy books even when I didn’t have money to buy them.

In the spirit of making literary works available to everyone, librarians should take a look at indie authors and incorporate them into their purchases. Failing to do so would deny their patrons access to a large portion of modern literature.

A significant portion of talented writers are self publishing. Their talent competes alongside authors produced by major companies. Many of them, including myself, earn thousands of dollars and more every year from their efforts, and libraries have no reason to ignore them. 

To being exploring self-published titles from Smashwords within the OverDrive system, librarians need to find the self published section. It is outside the main catalog at OverDrive. Once within the indie ghetto catalog, you can search for titles. Please enter a search for me, Tracy Falbe, to see the fantasy novels I have available.

A note from Tracy Falbe: Be the first to know about my new releases and special sales at Brave Luck Books. Join the Readers' List. Ebooks and audiobooks available worldwide. Print in select countries.