Must-see webinar: “Evidence for Indies – Exploring the Library Journal Self-Published Book Survey Report”

Now includes full Q&A transcript! Available free on-demand.

As both community hubs and book discovery centers, libraries offer self-published authors a unique option to fulfill their literary ambitions — whatever those may be. From indie authors interested in an alternative path to commercial or critical success to local writers seeking to offer their books to an audience of community members, libraries can enable local authors to be found and flourish.

“Evidence for Indies” examined Library Journal’s groundbreaking Self-Published Book Survey Report, a first-of-its-kind study that examines the relationship between public libraries and self-published books. Library Journal’s Reviews Director Kiera Parrott joined librarian Carla Sarratt and indie publishing experts K.S. Brooks of Indies Unlimited and Carl Pritzkat of Booklife to discuss the report’s implications on matters ranging from self-published book acquisition to programming for local writers. Chockablock with insightful information, this webinar appeals to both librarians and indie and authors.

Watch the full webinar now, or read on for our recap. Additional resources, including the complete Q&A transcript and the panelist bios, are also available.


The Survey

Indie and self-published books are doing phenomenally well in the consumer market, accounting for 80% of Amazon’s bestsellers. To see how this translates into public libraries, Library Journal conducted the Self-Published Book Survey in 2016, which polled 260 public libraries. While 74% of respondents reported that their collections included self-published print books, only 20% said the same of self-published ebooks. The disparity, librarians said, was largely due to vendor restrictions, lack of reliable reviews, lack of time to read and evaluate self-published ebooks, poor quality titles and budget concerns.

Carla Sarratt, an indie author and Virtual Services Librarian at New Hanover County Public Library (NHCPL), recalls her first-hand experience of the challenges that the survey sites — which she has faced as both an author and a librarian — of getting self-published ebooks into libraries. Despite these challenges, K.S. Brooks notes that self-published books have improved in quality over time due to competition with traditional publishing houses. As the industry evolves, more authors take measures to improve their books. At the same time, librarians are noticing that improvement. Carl Pritzkat argues that education of the self-publishing process, from writing to editing to cover design, will build credibility for indie authors’ work. As the survey suggests, libraries play a vital part in that education through programs like author book talks, writing workshops and helping authors with research.

New Hanover County Public Library: An Indie Author Day Case Study

NHCPL’s Indie Author Day event consisted of six break-out sessions over the course of a four-hour event. In addition to featuring local authors’ creative ways to market their books — including by making book trailers — one presentation discussed crafting characters. Inspired by new connections made with local authors, Sarratt has kept in contact with authors who attended the event in order to keep working on ongoing writing programs before the next Indie Author Day.

At NHCPL’s Indie Author Day, Sarratt informed local writers of their library’s writing resources, including SELF-e, an author discovery platform made possible by Library Journal’s partnership with BiblioBoard, and Pressbooks Public, publishing software for libraries made possible by a partnership between Pressbooks and BiblioBoard.

Sarratt insists that having indie authors be part of library programming is more valuable than merely including their books in collections. One suggestion Sarratt has for authors who would like to have their books in libraries is to volunteer to facilitate a program related to their book. Libraries can help drive submissions, too, as NHCPL did when they required authors to donate their books to the library as a condition to participate in their recent author fair. They also have an anthology, created via Pressbooks and BiblioBoard’s Creator tool, of stories written by patrons that feature accounts of living in New Hanover.

The Value of Indie Author Day

One of the best values of Indie Author Day is that it can be tailored to each individual library’s author community. Carl Pritzkat, who attended Indie Author Day events at two libraries in Georgia — one in Evans and one in Augusta — found that Evans’s event resembled a writing workshop, while the Augusta event was more akin to an author fair. Both events, despite their program differences, allowed self-published authors, who tend to work alone, to engage in a supportive community to help motivate them to complete their projects and goals. In this way, the library is re-established as a place in community that helps authors build a foundation and a network to succeed.

No matter where it happens, Indie Author Day is a fantastic way to start a dialogue between authors and libraries, especially since, as K.S. Brooks notes, writers can tend to be introverts. It’s also a useful method by which authors can gain firsthand insight into how truly interested libraries are in getting local books into their collection, both in print and in ebook format. Good way for libraries, authors and readers to build a strong relationship.

More Resources for Self-Published Authors

Indies Unlimited

Founded in 2011, Indies Unlimited has a staff of over a dozen of authors with a variety of experience that offer free advice to self-published authors.


Founded by Publishers Weekly (PW), BookLife combines all of PW’s previously-published content related to self-publishing along with fresh advice to support indie authors. Most importantly, it offers a free and easy way for self-published authors to submit their books to be considered for review, giving authors a chance to address librarians’ concerns over quality content. In 2016, BookLife also started an annual contest for the BookLife Prize in Fiction to support new authors.

Sneak Peek at Some Questions We’ve Answered:

  1. What criteria do libraries use to select books published by indies?
  2. How do I get the most publicity for my novel?
  3. It seems that libraries don’t advertise for their events very much beyond the library. Why not?
  4. When will the next Indie Author Day be?

With insightful data and practical advice from experienced authors and librarians, this 35-minute webinar, featuring three panelists and moderator Kiera Parrott of Library Journal, is available on-demand. You can also access the full Q&A transcript — which includes responses to questions that were answered both during and after the live Q&A session — and panelist bios.

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