Mailing Free Books To Bookstores And Libraries Can Backfire by Angela Hoy

Mailing Free Books To Bookstores And Libraries Can Backfire by Angela Hoy

One of our authors recently ordered several single copies of his books to be sent, unsolicited, to bookstores and libraries. Due to the nature of the way he placed his orders, the books were shipped directly to each entity from our printer, with, of course, no bookstore or library purchase order numbers, and no letter explaining why the books had been mailed.

We subsequently received an email from a librarian who was confused because she couldn’t find an accompanying purchase order. She asked us to email her a copy of the purchase order, which didn’t exist. The author had to then contact that librarian to explain what he’d done.

One of the author’s orders asked the printer to insert a note telling the bookstore where to place the book in their store (the fiction shelf). The printer does not offer that option as part of their services.

It’s considered very bad form to send free copies to a bookstore or library with only a note instructing them where to place the book in their store/library.

New authors try this all the time and, unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Bookstores and libraries have seen this before – time and again. It creates confusion for stores, and even angers some of their employees. Worse, it’s a definite sign to the bookstore or library that the book was self-published…and that the author is desperate. The store or library may retaliate by just tossing the book. Causing problems with their ordering and inventory systems isn’t fair to them so you can understand their frustration.

If an author wants to donate a copy to a bookstore or a library, they need to mail a copy of the book themselves, and include a personal note of explanation on the author’s own letterhead. That will be much better received.

Books that are sent with such a letter, or books that are brought in by local authors with a donation offer, are much better received.

We have a good friend who is a librarian. He has worked at a large city library since he graduated from college many, many years ago. He is also married to another librarian. Here is advice he shared about self-published authors donating books to libraries.

I can’t speak for all libraries but I know when we get books unsolicited they sit around for awhile before we decide if they should go in the collection. I’m not sure what this author thinks but we don’t just put anything into our collection.

Unfortunately, many authors insist that we add their books which, frankly, won’t get you very far.

Now, that being said, I do put a lot of thought into whether to add a book because I know how much effort these authors put into their work and I do appreciate that they are willing to donate a copy to the library. It doesn’t make me angry at all. It’s just not the highest priority.

My advice is to contact the libraries you want to send your book to, and talk to somebody in collection management to see if they would be interested in your book. You can usually find contact information on the library’s website. I would start locally and go from there.

I recently met with an author who is self-published and I ended up purchasing four copies of her books.

Just never presume that your book will automatically go in the library’s collection.

Finally, did you know that some libraries typically require donors of such materials to sign a gift contract? And, did you know failing to read such a contract can lead to you losing your copyright?

Read more about that here: Library “Gifts” And Copyright Harvesting – AUTHOR BEWARE!

Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of, the President and CEO of and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.




Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!


Angela is not only the publisher of She is President & CEO of,
a self-publishing services company that has been in business since 1998. Ask her anything.