Introducing Authors’ New, Free Entry into Libraries: SELF-e

Today’s guest post is by journalist and publishing consultant Porter Anderson:

At the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York this month, I had the pleasure of presenting some of the best news for independent authors this year: the roll-out of the SELF-e program from Library Journal and BiblioBoard.

SELF-e is an all-new discovery platform that authors can use to get their ebooks into the American library system. Here’s how it works.

The SELF-e project is a client of my consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, and I’m delighted that C.S. Lakin has invited me to tell you about it here at her site. Thanks, Susanne.

To be clear, as a consultancy client, Library Journal pays me a retainer, not an affiliate fee. That means there’s no incentive here for me to rack up lots of new authors for SELF-e. My role is simply to let writers know about this new opportunity. I want you to have the information you need to evaluate SELF-e and decide whether it’s right for you.

Here’s how it works:

  • You use a PDF or EPUB version of your ebook to upload your ebook here. It takes 10 to 15 minutes.
  • As you go through the process, you’ll be asked for your state of residence.
  • Non-US residents writing in English are welcome to submit, too: they just hit “Outside the US” at the bottom of the drop-down of state names.
  • Once your manuscript is submitted, the Library Journal editorial evaluators do their work.
  • If you’ve indicated that you’d like to be included in your state anthology of curated ebooks, your work is automatically placed there and made available to librarians in your state system.
  • If you’ve also indicated that you’d like to be considered for the special SELF-e Select curated collection to be offered to the national system, Library Journal’s evaluators will take that into consideration.

Key Points of the SELF-e Program to Check Out

  • SELF-e is free to authors. While no revenue is coming directly into the program itself yet, the financial model will eventually involve libraries and library systems subscribing to its national anthologies in order to have the best self-published work in their collections to lend to patrons.
  • SELF-e is for ebooks only. And you must hold the rights to your ebooks in order to submit. Perhaps you’ve just written your ebook. Or maybe it’s part of your backlist, the e-rights of which have just been returned to you by a publisher. As long as you have the digital rights to your ebook, you can submit it.
  • SELF-e is not a revenue play. It’s a discovery platform. There are no royalties paid at present for check-outs. These would constitute very small amounts of money, anyway, but the team hopes that once it can recoup the costs of creating this new mechanism for library access for indies, then it might be able to consider payments of some kind to writers.
  • SELF-e does not control your rights to your material. The only license you grant to the program is the right to offer your ebook to libraries for the purpose of this program in their collections.
  • SELF-e is reversible. If your book is spotted by a publisher who wants to give you a deal, or if you decide the program isn’t right for you, you can come back out of SELF-e. You retain all your rights and any libraries that were offering your ebook to patrons will remove it from their collections for you.

Among the Most Coveted Readers in the World

SELF-e’s most important offer is the chance to have an author’s work introduced to one of the largest concentrations of English-speaking readers anywhere, the U.S. library system. Library Journal reports that some 299.9 million Americans hold library cards — more than 95 percent of the population.

In fact, during our session on SELF-e at the Writer’s Digest Conference, one of the attendees showed us a shot of her 4-year-old son with his new library card. You want that kid finding your work, right? Of course right.

Library Journal’s Patron Profiles research on U.S. public library users indicates that more than 50 percent of library patrons go on to purchase ebooks by an author whose work they discover at the library. Studies cited by Library Journal indicate that library patrons tend to read more than twice as many books as non-patrons in a year, and that they are buyers as well as borrowers of books.

As you start to think about whether SELF-e is the right approach for you to use in expanding your audience recognition, check the “Authors” tab on the Web site. There you’ll find a series of explanatory articles and resources. There also are endorsements by indie bestsellers C.J. Lyons and Hugh Howey.

As I told the group at the Writer’s Digest conference, I also recommend that authors click on the “Libraries” tab on the site. Because it’s there that you learn the “reverse story” of the struggle that authors have had in getting into libraries: librarians have wanted the same thing but had no way to make it happen.

The problematic scene was this:

  • Indie author approached a busy librarian and politely asked if there was a way that her or his ebook could be considered for the collection.
  • Busy librarian had to say no — not because she or he wanted to but because the library simply had no way to ingest that ebook into its system, evaluate it, and then make it available to the library patrons who might enjoy it.

The way SELF-e fixes that scenario is this:

BiblioBoard is a service created by BiblioLabs to serve as an interface between libraries and their patrons. The librarians know this as the PatronsFirst mobile library. When library users jump online to check out digital books from libraries, they’re often using BiblioBoard’s PatronsFirst system. This gives them SELF-e’s capability to accept local authors’ ebooks and have them evaluated by Library Journal (founded in 1876 by Dewey, himself), one of the main resources our libraries turn to for reviews of new books to consider.

A smart point that Howey makes in his endorsement is that SELF-e’s program allows libraries to let patrons check out its ebooks as frequently as they like. This is different from the library distribution systems often used by major publishers. In SELF-e’s model, there are no wait lists or turn-aways. One or 100 patrons could check out your ebook at once. And this, as Howey reminds us, means that your ebook could go viral if it really caught on: thousands of readers could access it at once.

A great question asked during our session at the Writer’s Digest Conference was whether small publishers might be able to use SELF-e to submit their authors’ ebooks to libraries. The answer: Yes. BiblioBoard’s founder Mitchell Davis was with us in the session and said that, in fact, this already is happening, as a new way for small presses to have their writers’ work offered to library collections.

Now is a great time to submit, too: Library Journal’s 2015 Self-Published eBook Awards program is offering a total $4,000 in winnings — $1,000 each to a writer in romance, mystery, science fiction, and fantasy — with a deadline of August 31 at midnight. As with SELF-e itself, there’s no fee to enter the contest.

Just use this page to make your submission to be included in the contest program.

You’re On the Ground Floor

Jane Davis
Jane Davis

The first national SELF-e Select curated collection has just been presented this summer at the American Library Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

It’s all just that new, you’re in on the ground floor if you check it out now and consider what SELF-e might do to help the reading public find your work.

One of the authors whose work was chosen for the first national SELF-e Select anthology is the English writer Jane Davis. These Fragile Things, chosen as one of two of her works to get special highlighted attention, “puts a family under the microscope in a time of crisis,” she says.

“Daughter Judy survives a near-death experience but goes on to claim that she is experiencing religious visions. Father, Graham, claims it is a miracle while mother, Elaine, demands a medical explanation.”

Davis tells us that she has been writing for around eleven years and has seven novels completed.

JD-TheseFragileThings“My goals,” Davis says, “are to prove that quality fiction is to be found in the self-publishing sector.

“I am currently issuing new editions of all of my paperbacks to take advantage of more economical production to get a foothold in more bookshops.”

In that regard, Davis says, she’s aware of library users as book buyers and looks forward to tapping into the U.S. library system as one of the international writers using the SELF-e service:

I have struggled to get my self-published books stocked in libraries in the UK, but have been out speaking to librarians on both my own account and on behalf of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). I have also spoken to writers at a number of libraries about self-publishing and to library book clubs. I am pleased to note that some book clubs have ordered my self-published books through their libraries and that they are now in stock.

Davis is both a traditionally published and self-publishing author whose first novel was published by Transworld in the UK. She has self-published five books and a three-book boxed set. And you have the same option Davis has exercised to consider SELF-e’s program and decide if it’s right for you.

If there’s information you need, please let me know — my contact page is here — or you can send an email to the SELF-e team at

Special thanks again to Susanne Lakin for this chance to bring you the news about SELF-e’s arrival on the scene.

Porter Anderson [Photo Christine Reynolds, PPA, FDPE, CPP]Porter Anderson @Porter_Anderson, BA, MA, MFA, is a journalist, speaker, and consultant specializing in publishing. Anderson is The Bookseller’s Associate Editor for The FutureBook in London, a sister site focused on developments in digital publishing. He is also a featured writer with Thought Catalog in New York City, writing on publishing and on #MusicForWriters in association with Q2 Music. More on his consultancy, which includes Library Journal’s and BiblioBoard’s SELF-e among its clients in 2015:

Feature Photo Credit: pennstatenews via Compfight cc

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    1. Hi, Sue,

      Thanks for your good question. Submission with a small publisher will likely depend on who (you or that publisher) holds the e-rights to your book. So pending whether that rights holder is you or the publisher, the book can certainly be submitted. Might just talk it over with your publisher. (SELF-e is very much open to publisher submissions and would be glad to speak with your publisher about more authors’ work, too.)

      Thanks much and holler if you need more info.

      On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson

    1. Here’s information from the Amazon Kindle site:

      Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates. When you enroll in KDP Select, your books are automatically included in both programs.

      When you choose to enroll your book in KDP Select, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital. See the KDP Select Terms and Conditions for more information.

  1. It sounds like a good opportunity for ebook authors to garner more readers for their books. I shall certainly consider it myself with a future work that is coming out before too long. Thanks for the information.

  2. That’s really exciting, especially for those of us in far-flung but English-speaking corners of the world. And how hospitable to open the doors to non-US residents when so many other places are closed off to us. Brilliant! Rushing off to upload a couple of titles NOW!
    Thanks for sharing the news.

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