Can’t Even Donate Your Book to a Library? – 5 Reasons Why

Rejection hurts! But don’t take it personally. Here are five reasons your book got turned down.

1. Donations of books aren’t “free” for the library

It costs money to shelve books. Costs of shelving books include processing books for shelving, the price of the bookshelf itself, the labor involved in shelving books, utilities like heat and light, and the cost of the space a book takes up in the library building. The cost of shelving one book can run hundreds of dollars! After all, if processing and shelving books cost nothing, even bookstores would be happy to get book donations.

In particular, to process a book, it costs a lot of money to catalog a book that has not yet been cataloged. Once a book has been cataloged, any library can and will use another library’s catalog record for that book. A library uses a catalog record for shelving a book, circulating a book, and letting patrons know the book is in the library. Thanks to catalog records, patrons can search the library’s online book catalog and find books of interest. Only trained librarians and their staff can crate these catalog records for libraries

2. Your book has no pedigree

A publisher’s imprint or trade name, however tiny it may appear on the spine of a book, is an important pedigree for a book. Publish with publishers that librarians trust, and your book will be practically guaranteed to sell itself to librarians once they know it exists.

Library book publishers guarantee at least a minimal quality of appearance and content of a book. A publisher’s name can suggest certain durability of a book. Larger publishers also have the privilege of being able to get from libraries what no one else can get – an official library catalog record created before the book is published.

This kind of library catalog record is a gold stamp of approval by a librarian who works in the elite CIP unit of the Library of Congress. CIP (cataloging-in-print) pretty much guarantees that your book will be bought by some libraries somewhere in the US.

3. Your book has no track record

Let me guess. You took in a brand new book and offered it to the library didn’t you? Think about that. In order to accept a book, a librarian has to know that your book will be useful to the people who use their library, their patrons.

If your book has no pedigree (see 2 above), it must at least have a track record of making sales or even the proven possibility of getting sales. Getting positive book reviews from review sources that librarians consider “authoritative” will show that your book has the potential for making sales.

Not any book review will do, but there are hundreds of “authoritative” review sources that will work. All you need to have a good chance to succeed in selling or donating your book to a library is a few favorable reviews of your book from these sources.

4. Librarians have to follow their own rules

Libraries create policies, written or unwritten, called “gift policies”. These policies determine what kinds of books librarians can accept for donation. Gift policies may include the type of books the library will take; subject and/or genre of books; condition of books; and/or quantity of books. All of this is necessary so the library stays within its budget. You might even find that your library simply has no space to take anything but a book that is in very high demand with that library’s readers.

5. There are one million books published each year in the US

Ever tried to sell books at a used bookstore? They don’t take all the books you bring in, do they? The fact is, we have a surplus of books in this country. We are blessed with books.

For this reason, libraries have policies, written or unwritten, that are called “acquisitions policies”. These policies determine what books each library will buy. Libraries look for books that are of interest and use to their particular patrons. Every library is different in the books it takes. Each library serves a slightly different community, with unique needs. Acquisitions of books requires a judgment call by the library. Don’t take it personally if your book doesn’t make the cut!

All of the things I’ve mentioned here are discussed in detail in my new book, Marketing Your Books to Libraries: An Insider’s Guide for Authors. In my book, you’ll find much more information about how to:

  • Design your book to “fit in” well at the library
  • Find a publisher who can get CIP for your book
  • Know which book review sources are considered “authoritative”
  • Get your book reviewed in authoritative review sources
  • Identify the librarians most likely to want your book.

Learn even more about donating your book to libraries? Read my 5 tips aboutHow and Why to Donate Your Book to a Library

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  1. Great article … I hadn’t thought of some of it!! Some years ago my husband, author J. Robert Whittle, had a couple of huge fans take some of our popular books to their home (Canadian) libraries as gifts. Those books never ever showed in those libraries despite their glowing testimonials. When contacted they gave various excuses (none of the above) but we chose to believe someone had noticed them and walked off with them!! Sad to realize that if these patrons had requested the books at those libraries they would have probably purchased them and they missed getting them for free! One the other hand, we have been told by many fans that they have successfully donated our books to their school and public libraries. I look forward to reading your book which I just purchased. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

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