One thing I learnt, only really when I started being an indie author, is how authors earn money from library sales. Some people think we don’t earn anything from reads in a library, others have no idea how it happens. So… I thought I’d discuss this.

One thing worth noting, how this works in indie and trad are slightly different.

Paperbacks & Hardcovers

With physical products, most libraries just buy from Ingram, Amazon (less likely and often just goes through Ingram) or Baker & Taylor (which is hard to access as an indie) or, in the case of audio, other audio direct wholesalers. With direct purchases, as indie authors, we earn the same price as with any sale to an individual.  In this case, we don’t actually earn much more.

Traditional publishers however have special ‘library editions’ which I understand they sell at a much higher price, thus earning them a higher amount per sale. One thing to note though, as an independent author, is that most libraries actually prefer hardcover editions rather than paperbacks. This is due to longevity of the product. So it’s a good reason to have that.

Also, large print works are often purchased by libraries and puts your work in a much, much smaller category that is not as competitive. Of course, you still have to have enough demand, but once you start getting asked for, it can turn out to be regular sales in that series (in my experience).

Digital Products

With ebooks, we get to price them differently and there are 2 methods of sale / distribution:

⁠- straight purchases (where we earn whatever specific library price we set which is often higher than usual retail price – generally 3-5x retail) or; ⁠

– rental (where we get priced a % of the library price we set. This often is in the $0.40-0.80 range depending on price of book but we get paid each time it’s used in the library and allows our books to be listed in ALL catalogues).

Now, note that the straight purchase price for INDIE authors is a lifetime license to use that single copy. If they have a lot of demand, the same library might ⁠purchase ⁠multiple ⁠licenses. ⁠

However, trad pub gets a bunch of other options. They’ve been known to set limits on how long the license lasts for (In terms of time and/or number of checkouts) and also number of concurrent users. ⁠

Library pricing by trad is also significantly higher, like in the $50-60 range per license I believe. Whereas most indies are in the $10-20 range for a single lifetime license.  

Pricing and availability is roughly the same whether you look at audio or ebook, with how much we earn being slightly more with audio, but not significantly more if we are talking about checkouts.  Distributors are different in this case, with only a few groups (like Overdrive) distributing both ebooks and audio. However, most can be accessed via digital distributors like Draft2Digital or FindAway Voices or the like.

Exclusivity Wrinkles

Being in a genre that is predominantly in Kindle Unlimited (LitRPG), it’s worth noting that it’s often hard to find such works listed in libraries. This is because of exclusivity arrangements for ebooks via Kindle Unlimited or via ACX (for Audible & iTunes distribution only).

Choosing not to be inclusive means a loss of funds (in Kindle Unlimited page reads) or a lower royalty for ACX.  This can sometimes be covered by having books in other marketplaces, but especially for progression fantasy and LitRPG audio, is almost never possible. 

Alright, that’s about all I have to say about Library Pricing and Earnings. Do feel free to ask any questions on this topic I might not have covered.

Like the business blog post? Want to support me writing more of them? Want to read ahead (2 weeks) of others? Become a Patron and choose the $2-tier to be able to read the business posts only and ask questions about the business side of writing.

Become a Patron!