Marketing to Libraries

ALA Library Fact Sheet 5

Companies and products listed in this Fact Sheet are named for informational purposes only. ALA does not endorse specific products or companies. Contact companies directly for further information.

Please be aware that individual libraries are responsible for their own book purchases and collections. There is no one that chooses and distributes books to all libraries -- and that includes ALA.

If what you want to do is donate your books to libraries, please see the ALA resource guide: Book Donation Programs for information on organizations that provide that service. ALA does not does not accept or distribute donations of books or any other materials.

ALA has a review magazine called Booklist (see more details below), which shouldn't be misunderstood to mean that it is a list of books that ALA recommends that libraries get. It is a journal with reviews of books and most other library collection materials.

Feel free to go directly to ALA's Marketing & Advertising Opportunities.

What Do Libraries Buy? | The Library Market in General | How and When Do Libraries Buy? | Reviews | Advertising | Direct Mail/Library Mailing Lists | Authors for Libraries: Connecting Authors & Libraries | Special Note to Self-Published Authors, Authors with Print-on-Demand Books | Review periodicals and services for self-published and print-on-demand titles | Exhibiting/Arrange to Have Your Book Displayed at a Trade Show | Additional Marketing & Advertising Opportunities for Books and Periodicals | Request Partnership with ALA | Selective Bibliography


What Do Libraries Buy?

Libraries purchase books for adults, young adults, children, and special readers (emerging literates, large print, braille). They also purchase newspapers and magazines, reference sources, scholarly journals, electronic resources (individual and aggregate online databases, computer software, ebooks and ebook readers), audiovisual materials (DVDs and online streaming video, audiobooks and music recordings in various formats including streaming and digital downloads), and microforms (microfilm and microfiche).

Sturdy, better quality books are an important selling point to librarians who are interested in books lasting for more than a few borrowers. Also, books printed on acid-free (alkaline) paper are more desirable because pages printed on acid paper become too brittle to use after 50 to 100 years.

Additional insights can be gleaned from the annual Materials Survey compiled by Library Journal (LJ), a library trade magazine published by Media Source Inc. Latest edition: "Materials Breakout | Materials Survey 2015," by Barbara Hoffert, from March 2, 2015.


The Library Market in General

For the big picture on the publishing industry, there is BookStats, a publishing industry statistical survey produced jointly by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). The Book Business magazine, a publication of North American Publishing Company (NAPCO), explains that trade publishing refers to general-interest fiction and non-fiction for adults, children and young adults, while a figure for US publishing overall encompasses Trade along with K-12 School, Higher Education and Professional/Scholarly Publishing, in stating that the 2013 BookStats Volume 3 reported Trade publishing had a net revenue of $15.049 billion in 2012, while the overall US publishing industry figure was $27.124 Billion for 2012. BookStats Volume 4 reported Trade publishing generating $14.63 billion in net revenue, while the overall US publishing industry was $27.01 billion in 2013.

Libraries provide a significant market for publishers and vendors. The latest in the federal nation-wide public library survey series, Public Libraries in the United States Survey: Fiscal Year 2012 (December 2014), of the Public Library Survey (PLS) series, reported that total collection expenditures were $1.22 billion. Of that amount, 63.0 percent was expended for print materials; 16.7 percent was expended for electronic materials, including e-books, e-serials (including journals), and databases; and 20.3 percent was expended for other materials, including microform, audio, video, DVD, and materials in new formats (see Table 26 on pages 16-17 for full details).

The Library and Book Trade Almanac™ 2015 (formerly The Bowker Annual) includes total acquisitions expenditures for various "categories of expenditure," including books and other print materials, periodicals and serials, AV (audiovisual) equipment and materials, microforms, and electronic reference, for public, academic, special, and government libraries, reported individually for all 50 states (along with regions administered by the USA, including the District of Columbia). The information comes from the American Library DirectoryTM 67th Edition 2014-2015, and includes only those libraries that reported annual acquisition expenditures (1,904 public libraries, 778 academic libraries, 122 special libraries, and 44 government libraries) on pages 373-381. Both titles are published by Information Today, Inc.

For more in-depth library information, see ALA Library Fact Sheet 4 - Library Operating Expenditures: A Selected Annotated Bibliography and ALA Library Fact Sheet 6 - Public Library Use.


How and When Do Libraries Buy?

Two-thirds to three-quarters of book sales to libraries come from a jobber or distributor or wholesaler (see ALA Library Fact Sheet 9 - Library Products, Services and Consultants for online and print resources which compile names of library vendors, including book jobbers, distributors, and wholesalers). Libraries purchase books through such distributors as Baker & Taylor, Ingram Library Services, Emery-Pratt Company, and other book suppliers and wholesalers. Most of the balance is bought directly from publishers.

And, as Information Today explained in the October 2013 article, Who’s Who in Ebooks:

Just as books don’t magically appear on library shelves, ebooks don’t automatically pop up in a library’s online catalog. Librarians work with ebook vendors to get econtent into the hands, or rather, onto the e-readers, of their patrons.


For e-books, the largest vendor for libraries in purchasing and then circulating ebooks to patrons is OverDrive; Digital Book World reported in December 2013, Six Libraries Reach Over One Million Ebook Checkouts Through OverDrive in 2013, and Teleread reported in December 2014, Ten library systems pass one million digital checkouts in OverDrive in 2014. But beyond that, Baker & Taylor provides the Axis 360 digital media circulation platform. There is Ingram Publisher Services Inc. And there is the forthcoming ProQuest Ebook Central teamed with MyiLibrary®. As stated in the Good e-Reader in September 2015, Libraries Report 2015 Has Been the Best Year Ever for e-Books.

When libraries buy is governed by when their fiscal year begins and ends. Most (but not all) public libraries are on a July-June fiscal year. University, college and school libraries for the most part follow an academic year calendar. A flurry of spending can occur as the end of the fiscal year nears and almost always just after it begins. In general, though, libraries make purchases throughout the year.

Books are chosen according to the collection development policy of the library, which can call for a title to have been reviewed in an established periodical, such as those listed below.



As noted above, books are chosen according to the collection development policy of the library, which can call for a title to have been reviewed in an established periodical. Librarians depend upon reviews, especially those found in the following professional review magazines, journals, and newspapers, when making purchasing decisions:

Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin reviews adult books (fiction and nonfiction), books for youth (children and young adults), and reference books and also newly released videos, DVDs, audiobooks, spoken word audios, and children's music CDs. See the Submitting Review Material to Booklist web page for submissions information, including details on E-Book Only Submissions.

Choice reviews print and online scholarly works recommended for college and university libraries. See the Choice Submission of Books and Electronic Media for Review (Guidelines for Publishers) web page for more details.


AudioFile reviews unabridged and abridged audiobooks, original audio programs, commentary, and dramatizations in the spoken-word format. See Contact AudioFile for further assistance.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books reviews new children's books. See the Bulletin Information for Publishers for further assistance.

The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Magazine both review children's and young adult books that are published in the United States. The Horn Book Magazine also reviews audiobooks. Books produced by publishers that are not listed in Literary Market Place are not considered. See Horn Book Submissions for further assistance.

Kirkus Reviews reviews adult fiction and nonfiction, titles for children and teens, and iPad Book Apps. See Kirkus Publisher Services for submission requirements.

Library Journal reviews books, novel-length romance ebooks, graphic novels, zines, audio, video, and e-reviews (online databases) that have the potential to interest a broad spectrum of libraries. See Library Journal Submitting Materials for Review for further assistance.

The New York Times Book Review reviews books published in the United States and available through general-interest bookstores. See The New York Times Books F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions) for further assistance.

Publishers Weekly reviews children's books and also adult books in the following categories: Nonfiction, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, Poetry, Comics, and Lifestyles (cooking, gardening & home, health & fitness, or parenting). See the Publishers Weekly Submission Guidelines for additional details and mailing addresses.

School Library Journal reviews new children's and young adult general trade books, original paperbacks, and reference books from established publishers. In order to be considered for review, books must be of national interest and be readily available from national distributors at an institutional discount. Also reviewed are DVDs & audio recordings (audiobooks and CDs), and reference products and online resources. See the School Library Journal Submitting Review Materials for additional details and mailing addresses.

Science Books & Films (SB&F) reviews science-based books, videos, software, and websites for all age groups (K-College, Teachers, and General Audience). See SB&F FAQ/Reviews & Reviewing (at the bottom of the page) for further assistance.

Video Librarian reviews both theatrical and non-theatrical DVDs, including Blu-ray, that are new to the marketplace for public, school, university, and special libraries. See How to Submit Titles for Review in Video Librarian or Video Librarian Online for further assistance.


FOR PUBLISHERS ONLY: See the Submission Guidelines for the Junior Library Guild.



Space advertising is available in the American Library Association's most well-known periodicals and corresponding websites and e-newsletters including American Libraries; Booklist; Choice and our other long-running titles for college and university libraries; and in several more ALA periodicals, where indicated. Download the media kit or rate card, or contact the designated advertising representative, for details to appear in ALA print and online properties.

New vendors and other companies with library-related services may be a good fit for the online American Libraries Buyers Guide. Those not yet included can create a basic listing for free. For more options, see the Guide Media Kit.


Direct Mail/Library Mailing Lists

Direct mail advertising -- postcards, catalogs, fliers, brochures -- is an effective way to target specific audiences and is useful in providing detailed information and therefore receiving orders for products. Mailing lists for libraries are rented for one time use by a number of organizations and companies, including our American Library Association Mail List Rental. See ALA Library Fact Sheet 3 - Lists of Libraries for other library mailing list, library directory, and library e-mail list information.

Books that are just sent to libraries without their having been ordered or requested by the library staff are subject to collection development and gift policies. Books not accepted into a library collection can and usually are sold at a book sale or discarded outright.


Authors for Libraries: Connecting Authors & Libraries

The ALA Library maintains a list of resources about library author visits and addressed the topic in the entry, Author Events, in our Ask the ALA Library Blog. However, in 2010, ALA's United for Libraries (A division of ALA) launched a formal program and membership level, Authors for Libraries, described as "a unique partnership to connect authors with libraries, Friends of the Library groups and library Foundations as well as to keep authors informed about issues and concerns affecting libraries on a national level." Authors can join Authors for Libraries for $39 and receive a subscription to The Voice, the newsletter of United for Libraries. In addition, a link to the author's website will be placed on the Authors for Libraries website, where library staff, Friends groups and Foundation staff can search for local authors for library talks and book signings as well as information about forthcoming books and resources for book groups.


Special Note to Self-Published Authors, Authors with Print-on-Demand Books

As noted by Carla King in her March 1, 2010 entry on the PBS Mediashift Blog, Self-Publishing, Author Services Open Floodgates for Writers. For the most current information, see News Reports on Self Publishing.

Please be aware that you may run into difficulty in getting your self-published/print-on-demand book or e-book reviewed and into libraries. See the "vanity press" entry at the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

This may prove confusing, especially if you were able to sell a copy to libraries in your own area. Know that your local public library or libraries may have purchased a copy in a show of support for local authors, something which is usually part of the overall collection development policy. But this will not be the case with other libraries around the country.

For tips and advice on marketing your self-published/print-on-demand book to libraries, see Libraries and Self-Published Books, a compilation of resources, including, from April 18, 2015, Libraries Opening to Self-Published Authors.

Writer Beware provides a greatly-detailed article on self-publishing, Overview: The Evolution of Self-Publishing.

Concerning other issues with self-publishing, see Bewares, Recommendations & Background Check of the Absolute Write Water Cooler online forum.


Review periodicals and services for self-published and print-on-demand titles include -

Foreword Reviews Magazine has a couple of book review submission options, Foreword Reviews and the Clarion Review fee-for-review service.

Kirkus Reviews has the Kirkus Author Services program.

Library Journal accepts original (i.e., previously unpublished) novel-length romance ebooks for review consideration. Also look into SELF-e, a collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioBoard® that enables authors and libraries to work together and expose notable self-published ebooks to voracious readers looking to discover something new.

Publishers Weekly (PW) has launched BookLife, a website dedicated to indie authors, along with the established PW Select service.


Publisher Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate, offers Title Submissions services, including for Self Publishers. See additional resources at Bowker's Self Published

See the IngramSpark self-publishing/print-on-demand author services and distribution resources.

See the Self-Publisher's FAQ from the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (formerly SPAN, Small Publishers Association of North America).


Exhibiting/Arrange to Have Your Book Displayed at a Trade Show

Another way to gain exposure is at professional conferences. Vendor booths or tables at library association conferences are seen by thousands of librarians every year.

Authors who wish to participate in the ALA Annual Conference and/or the ALA Midwinter Meeting should first contact their publishers, as the publishers may already be longtime ALA exhibitors with a booth set up for scheduled author signings and presentations. For authors where this is not the case, information on exhibiting at ALA's national conferences can be found at:

The ALA Chapter Relations Office compiles the list of State and Regional Chapters (the American Library Association has chapter relationships with state library associations in all fifty States, the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and with regional library associations in the Mountain Plains, New England, Pacific Northwest, and Southeastern regions) and the Affiliate & Chapter Planning Calendar.

Another option found at ALA's Marketing & Advertising Opportunities is to exhibit at ALA's various division conferences; again, see the Affiliate & Chapter Planning Calendar.

Should solo exhibiting prove unavailable, consider the services of the book exhibit companies that can arrange to include your book in their display, along with other titles, at library conferences, including the following:

Association Book Exhibit,

Combined Book Exhibit,

FYI: Combined Book Exhibit provides the articles, Replacing The Myths About Marketing To Libraries and Tips on Marketing and Selling to Libraries


There are also organizations and companies dedicated to supplying libraries with the books of small presses and independent publishers, which also display books at trade shows, including:

Consortium Book Sales & Distribution,

Independent Book Publishers Association,

Independent Publishers Group,

Perseus Books Group,

Quality Books Inc.,

Small Press Distribution,


Additional Marketing & Advertising Opportunities for Books and Periodicals

Sending advance reading copies (ARC) to libraries directly is recommended.

Many libraries are members of book clubs or monitor club selections. See the posts on book groups at The Booklist Reader of ALA's Booklist publications.

For books and periodicals, librarians often consult standard reference works such as Books In Print as well as the Magazines for Libraries™ Update and Ulrichsweb™, and it is a good idea to make certain newly-published materials are listed in these sources.


See the April 2015 Library Journal article on the annual report by MPA on the state of the magazine market, A Thriving Print Scene | Best Magazines 2014.


Request Partnership with ALA

To speak with the American Library Association about a program or project in collaboration with your company, please see ALA's page on Partnership Opportunities. There, you can complete the Request for Collaboration Form. Once you have submitted the form, a small administrative team shares your program proposal with the appropriate unit or units. This is the first step to planning a meeting to discuss ways to work together.

The ALA Development Office provides information on corporate giving options, including Corporate Support and the ALA Library Champions.

For specific inquiries to the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), please complete their Request for Corporate Sponsorship Form.

For specific inquiries to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), please complete their Request for Strategic Partnership Form.

If, after you have reviewed the form, you determine that a sponsored partnership is not the right vehicle, please consider one of the other Marketing & Advertising Opportunities.


Selective Bibliography

The following books are currently in print and include information on marketing to libraries specifically:

Abel, Richard E. and Lyman W. Newlin, eds., with Katina Strauch and Bruce Strauch, editors-in-chief. Scholarly Publishing: Books, Journals, Publishers, and Libraries in the Twentieth Century. Wiley, 2002.

Edelman, Hendrik and Robert P. Holley, eds. Marketing to Libraries for the New Millennium: Librarians, Vendors, and Publishers Review The Landmark Third Industry-Wide Survey of Library Marketing Practices and Trends. Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS, a division of ALA) in cooperation with Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Warren, Lissa. The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity: A Comprehensive Resource--From Building the Buzz to Pitching the Press. Carrol & Graf, 2004.


NOTE: Previous versions of this fact sheet can be accessed via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine using the original URL <>.


Last updated: November 2015


For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail:; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.