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Let’s Talk Library Sales

I was asked a really good question last night. Why would I want my book in a library where it can be read for free? It’s a great question and it leads me to believe that a discussion about Library Sales is necessary if you really want to scale your book sales.

There seems to be a belief floating around that libraries are pointless places for our books to be because then people can read them for free. It’s a myth. Well, the being pointless part is anyway. I want to dispel the myth by showing you several reasons that having your book on a library shelf is not at all pointless, but is very valuable to you. Then I’m going to tell you the quickest way that I know of to get your books on library shelves too!

Libraries Buy Books

The vast majority of books on library shelves were purchased by the library. They don’t buy them from Amazon, they don’t accept book donations from authors or otherwise unless they are running a book drive (and those are extremely rare for most public libraries) and in most cases, they don’t buy them directly from an author.

Email sales are possible, if you know the right person to contact at a library and have a sales sheet that shows them exactly where to purchase the book and it doesn’t lead them to Amazon. The book has to have a proven popularity record and the sales sheet has to be professional looking. I can walk you through this process, but you have to be published through Ingram Spark, have several reviews already, and build a list of library contacts yourself. I have a sales sheet template for you if you want to try this route. Email me a request and I will send it right to you.

Libraries Pay More Per Copy

The bonus is that they always pay more per copy than the average retailer and they are not allowed to return books. This means your royalty per copy bought by libraries is higher. You make almost 1.5% more per copy when a library buys your book than you do when a copy sells anywhere else.

My print book that costs a bookstore $5.99 per copy and pays me $1.04 per copy in royalty will cost a library $7.99 per copy and I get paid $1.45 per copy. It’s not much of a difference all by itself, but with the sheer number of libraries around the world that your book could end up in, 2-4 copies per branch ads up over time.

Repeat Sales

Books that are checked out and read repeatedly wear out or are lost very quickly. Librarians are great at keeping track of damage and loss of their books and will order a new round of copies without any marketing or promotional prompting from an author for the lifetime of the book. Especially if it is popular.

Repeat business without any prompting on an author’s part means residual sales that you don’t have to do any work to achieve. Book marketing and promotion is expensive. With libraries, you can take advantage of repeat sales without extra work wherever you can get it.


This is the biggie right here. We get very caught up and focused on selling books and we overlook the fact that most books sold through retailers end up sitting on a shelf in the buyer’s home for years before they get around to reading it. It’s a sale in your pocket, which is great, but if they aren’t reading it, they aren’t generating more sales for you.

While you can’t count on everyone that buys your book to read it. You can generally count on every person that checks a book out from a library to actually read it. Readers lead to reviews and/or word of mouth advertising on your behalf. If you aren’t growing your readership, you are leaving money on the table with every sale.

Hard to Get on the Shelf

This last one leads me into the quickest way to get on a library shelf. Going it alone and trying to get your book on a library shelf is extremely difficult. Libraries don’t generally accept book donations from authors and they don’t buy directly from them either. So, what can you do?

Ask your followers. If you have built your following properly, you have a group of people that have read your book and want to support you any way they can. They are also readers and many readers have library cards. So, ask them to request your book from their local library. If your following is global, your books could end up in libraries all over the place.

A simple request like this is free for them to do and can make a huge difference for you. Most libraries make it possible for card holders to request titles through their online portals, and will purchase books requested by patrons regularly. It keeps their shelves fresh with new titles that patrons want to read.

Sure, lots of people are going to get to read your book for free. Readers produce more sales, though. So, you want your book to be in as many places that have readers as possible, right?

My books are available in several libraries and I encourage people to request them from their local library all the time. They are there because people I know have requested them. The image shown is my son, holding one of my books at his local library. I know the method I mention works. Give it a try and see how it helps you scale your book sales!

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