Libraries are a bastion of civilised society – the place where so many of us learned to love books and reading. When I was a child, there’s no way my family’s budget could have fed my four-books-a-day habit. Our house was rammed with books, but we only received brand new ones as gifts at Christmas and on birthdays. At other times we bought them at jumble sales for a few pence and made regular visits to the library.
It grieves me that libraries are endangered with branches closing in many areas and experienced librarians losing their jobs. Wonderful volunteers are stepping up, but the loss of expertise can’t be replaced. I could rant on but I’m being side-tracked. What I had in mind for this blog was to talk about how we, as authors, can get our books into libraries; why this is worth doing and give a few tips on how writers can help and support libraries in times of austerity.
Public Lending Right (PLR) – this information applies to the UK scheme
If you've been a published author for a long time you probably already know about the UK public lending right (PLR) scheme which pays out a few pence to an author each time one of their books is borrowed from the library. If you are self-published, or with an indie or small press, you may not realise you have to register before you can receive payments. This is the first thing to do, if your book or eBook is out there with an ISBN number. You can find out more information and how to register at this link: https://www.bl.uk/plr
But my book's not in libraries, I hear you say. Well - it should be. Libraries are strapped for cash and branches are closing at a terrifying rate, but they still have to replenish some stock. Start by approaching your local library - they will often accept a local author’s book especially if you’ve had publicity or a recent launch event. If they are strapped for cash, or reluctant to place an order, you can donate one or two free copies. If the library has a shelf where they promote local authors, you may get some visibility. I’ve found that the buzz around a local author’s book often leads to it being chosen by book groups in the area. But not everyone in a book group can afford to buy a new copy or download it to their eReader. Having a few copies in the library makes it more likely your book will be selected.
A strategy that worked well for me was contacting the events co-ordinator at my country library and offering to do a talk or author panel. I made it clear I didn’t expect a fee but wanted to be able to sell and sign some copies on the night. The co-ordinator was receptive. She asked if I knew any other local authors who might like to do a panel event with me (I know several and two were happy to come on board). She then went away and sounded out various branches and came back with an offer of three gigs in different parts of the county - two author panels and one writing workshop. The libraries charged a nominal fee of £5 but this didn’t put people off and the panels were very well attended with engaged audiences who asked great questions and bought some books on the night. I’d like to think the library made some money out of these events. The writing workshop lasted for half a day. I ran this with another author and we developed all the course content and were paid a fee for the session. Workshop participants also bought signed copies of our books on the day.
To support the three events, my county libraries ordered in a stock of 14 copies of my book. I can’t resist keeping an eye on the libraries’ central reservation system and, over the past three months, my books have been out on loan or on reserve almost continuously. In fact, I sent my husband in to our local branch to borrow a copy and he was most put out to find all copies were out on loan and he was charged a 70p reservation fee (considering I have a boxful in the spare bedroom!)
Recently, I've approached libraries in two neighbouring counties and, even though I have local connections, this has proved tougher. One won't respond; one has promised to order in the future but asked if I would like to donate a copy in the meantime! Of course, I did. I’m also in discussion with another library about possibly doing a talk and book signing at a coffee morning. In other parts of the country, notably Wales and the South West, my friends have raised reader request forms for my book at their local branches and the title is now in stock in Rhiwbina library - the very same branch in Cardiff where I learned to love reading.
Book Group Sets
My sister lives in Herefordshire, where the library service has had its budget slashed. The book group she belongs to normally chooses what to read based on what’s available on their library’s list of book group sets. Several of her friends already own a copy of my novel so they generously plan to donate their copies to the library to make up a new book club set after they’ve had their meeting. I’ve promised to give a couple of extra copies to boost the total.
So, even in these tough economic times, there are strategies we can follow to get our books into the hands of more readers. And of course, we can support fellow writers if we notice their books aren’t in stock by requesting them through our local library.
If you’re curious to read my novel After Leaving the Village but can’t justify the cost of a paperback or Amazon download, then why not pop into your local library or log into their online system and make a request? ISBN is in the link below.
And here's a shout-out and links to books by writers Abi Oliver https://amzn.to/2uVTmUm and Melanie Whipman https://amzn.to/2GKuy30 who joined me for the library author panels.
The Modern Slavery Helpline run by the charity Unseen UK is at risk of closing if new funding can't be raised. I'm re-sharing a blog I wrote recently for Unseen that explains why I support their work. If you want to help the appeal, the link to their website is below.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me an advance copy of The Rule Breaker's Guide to Step Up and Stand Out by saxophonist, poet, speaker and performer, Georgia Varjas. Here is my review.
This article first appeared as a guest post as part of my blog tour for Lies Behind the Ruin. I'm grateful to Books, Life and Everything for hosting me and have included the link to the website.