How Libraries Vet Books in the Age of Self-Publishing

Later today I’ll be a panel member at the Ohio Library Council’s annual conference, speaking and answering questions about how libraries should go about considering self-published books.

There’s a lot of debate across the literary world about self-published and small press literature.  With only five companies controlling the vast majority of publishing in the United States, more and more quality materials are produced by self-publishers every day.  But there’s still a lot of really bad work being self-published as well.  How is a library to decide what to add to their collection?

Self-publishers who do things right submit to the same grueling process that a traditional publisher would employ to improve and produce their book.  I outline the five steps that all self-publishers should use (and which are used by traditional publishers) in my book, The Self-Publishing Handbook, which you can currently get for free (click).  Three of these five steps can be detected by a library purchasing committee in 10 seconds or less, and the other two are easily identified with a little more investigation.  Chances are that if a self-publisher is taking the time to correctly complete these steps, and investing in their project to do so, they’re far more likely to have produced a book with quality content as well.

There are certainly exceptions.  There are plenty of terrible self-published books that the author bothered to spend a few thousand dollars on and make look pretty.  And there are rare diamonds in the rough, amazing manuscripts thrown together with free tools on CreateSpace.  The only real way to determine the value of a book is to read it. But for librarians who are bombarded with thousands of titles to potentially purchase, or just regular readers sorting through Amazon, the production quality of a book is a great starting point.

It’s not that difficult to produce your book correctly, it just takes patience and resolve.  You owe it to yourself to do things right, and you’re also doing a tremendous favor to potential buyers, whether they’re librarians or regular readers.  With so many books to sort through, production value is a reasonable first step in determining the potential quality of a book.

Quality production may be less expensive than you think.  The Self-Publishing Handbook provides lots of tips for hiring editors, designers and artists to help with your book production, but it also includes tips for the DIY self-publisher.  You can grab the book for free for a limited time here.

Librarians will be looking at your book.  I love our libraries.  Let’s make their job a little easier.

Brad Pauquette is the CEO of Columbus Publishing Lab, the owner of Columbus Press, and the director of Columbus Creative Cooperative.  Check out his books on Amazon, or visit his website at