(image from The Library of Virginia. Presumably, reader, this could actually be your local library that you’re trying to get books into! Though I think by this point it would’ve made the transition from black and white to color.)
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) announced their awards this past week, and some of our books made their Great Graphic Novels for Teens list and their Popular Paperbacks list! This was an occasion for great joy in the office (we had champagne, or perhaps that was for the other people in our parent company who won a Newbery Honor and a Caldecott Honor) and at the same time we got a question here on our blog about how libraries get books.
So! Here is how our books get into libraries.
The first thing to say here is, if you’re a reader and go to your local library, your opinion matters! Many libraries have a book buyer on staff who selects the titles that are bought for the library. One of their first priorities is, what are the people who are actually using the library reading? What’s being checked out? What’s popular?
If you would like your library to carry specific books, sometimes this can be as easy as asking your librarian for them. If that doesn’t work, ask your friends who have similar reading tastes to request those specific books from the librarians as well. Your library may also have a Friends of the Library association that does volunteer work to support the library — organizing book sales of discarded or donated books, doing fundraising, doing outreach, etc. Talk to them — frequently they have a voice in the purchasing decisions at the library — or at least in how the money they raise in fundraising and book sales gets used. The power in libraries is often in the hands of The People, and the good thing about The People is that you, O Graphic Novel Reader, are one of them!
Here at First Second, we do a lot of specific outreach to librarians, because we know that sometimes you are too tired/hungry/aquamarine/upside-down to accurately request our books from the library. As with everything, the main task here is getting information about what we’re publishing (and how awesome it is) to the librarians. We do that in a variety of ways.
We go to librarian conventions. With our parent companies MacKids and Macmillan, First Second has a presence at around five library conferences a year. We exhibit, have breakfasts, show upcoming books, distribute catalogs, and make sure as many librarians as we can pin down know how wonderful our upcoming books are!
We talk to librarians and send them books. We have an extensive mail and e-mail list of librarian contacts who buy books for their library system (and do other cool librarian-related things). We keep in regular contact with them by sending them e-mails about what’s coming up from First Second and books that fit their age category interest. That way, they know what to buy.
We work with professional publications that specifically reach librarians to review and promote our books. We send review copies to publications like SLJ, LJ, The Horn Book, PW, VOYA, etc. that are read by librarians. We also work with librarian bloggers and librarian websites to feature our books and our authors (and sometimes our company!). That way, our books are vouched for in the librarian community by some of the finest librarians in the industry. Bonus points for us!
We work with award committees for librarian awards to make sure our books are on their radar. Award lists are another way that books are vouched for by the finest librarians in the industry, so we make sure that committee members receive copies of our books and that we tell them why they are super-awesome.
We have local librarians over to our offices to tell them about our upcoming books. It’s like a party! With lots of conversation about books! (It’s actually more like a presentation than a party, but there are still cookies.)
The library market is a pretty important market for us — it’s where a lot of kids read their first books, and it’s where people who can’t necessarily afford to buy every book that crosses their path can find new books to read. We’re very pleased to be recognized in this year’s YALSA awards and reach new libraries — and librarians — that way!