Publicity Tip #24
Knowing Your Rights~
Rumor has it that self-published books cannot be sold on the shelves of big name book stores or bought by libraries.
This is a lie.
Whether you self-publish with a print-on-demand distributor or a small printing press it is within your power to make it possible for brick and mortar book stores and libraries to order your book and have it available on their shelves.
In the United States, you would contact the Library of Congress.
In Canada, you would contact Library and Archives Canada.
Each institution works in a similar manner but with subtle differences. However, the fact remains the same – by contacting these institutions and connecting with a representative in Acquisitions to arrange to deposit a certain number of your books, you will become ‘official’ in the eyes of the country.
When these institutions have the requested number of copies for your book and you’ve fill out and submitted the accompanying paperwork, you are legitimized. Book stores and Libraries will have access to your work without question. They can order copies from you or your distributor and legally carry your books on their shelves. No more worries about finding space on the consignment shelves or begging local libraries to take your book for free to keep in their local authors section.
Knowledge is power.
As a published author you have the right and the ability to make this happen. Don’t let another uninformed person tell you, “It can’t be done.” Broaden your distribution channels and give yourself the opportunity to be seen and heard.
I’m so glad I have the opportunity to use this resource. you empower others with your knowledge. thank you
It’s my pleasure!
Information like this shouldn’t be kept a secret. So many people have miss-heard or have a prejudice against self-published works that they’re not willing to divulge what should be common knowledge… at least for authors.
In order to get on the shelf. why is it considered not plausible, i didn’t know one way or the other. until i read this article. and what exactly would i be asking the library of congress to do for me. i’m confused, i thought, if i can sell my books to a bookstore. they can shelve it and sell it. am i mistaken?
Book stores take a limited number of books in each year “on consignment” – meaning, you buy your books and leave them with the store. If the store sells the books you give them, they will take their cut and then give you a check for the remainder. If you want to convince a book store or library to buy your books from your printing source they need to be registered with one of the Archive Libraries I mention above. This is how traditional publishers work with the system. If a self-publisher is not aware of this, they will find it difficult to do business with these corporations. Most assisted self-publishers will tell their clients about this option and good ones will contact the Archives on your behalf. I have heard numerous time self-published authors told by librarians and store managers that they cannot carry their books. They often don’t say why. I’m letting you know in order to prepare yourself. Like you said, “Knowledge is power.” When you make an inquiry at one of the Archives there is a form you fill in and send back to them along with a certain number of each version of your book (paperback, hardcover, e-book, audio book, etc.) – it all depends on your initial print run as to how many of each you send (usually it’s no more than 2 of each). Once they are cataloged with the Archives, you’re open for business!
thank you for explaining. i will tell others about you and your services.
No problem! Thanks for asking – I’m sure other readers had the same question 🙂
M.J., this one of the best and informative posts I have read online yet. I don’t think I have seen this information posted anywhere else. I will be sure to spread the link because writers need this information!
I know, Mikael.
This is important information that just doesn’t get out there. A traditional publisher will do this for you and an assisted publishing house might do it for you or might tell you to do it for yourself… there’s no one out there to tell the DIY self-publisher that this is intrinsic to being taken seriously and for opening up integral markets.
We authors need to start looking out for each other – the times they are a changin’ 🙂
I have been in contact with the Library of Congress to find out more about how to register books. The registration process begins with the Copyright Center (you can link to it from the main page I’ve noted in the post above). After waiting for several months to get your official certificate, your book will then be assessed by the actual Library.
Note – not all books are accepted into the Library’s collection. They must meet certain standard requirements.
Also note – “Works of American popular literature are collected, but vanity press and self-published works are not collected, although self-published works of quality may be collected in areas where self-publishing is an important part of the publishing spectrum (e.g., poetry, African American literature). This holds for materials in any language published or distributed in the U.S.”
So what does this mean? Most of the vanity press and self-published books available will never be considered for addition into the Library of Congress archives. But some will.
If you are an author who self-publishes through your own Imprint and effectively act as a “micro-publisher” in the industry, you will be put through the same rigorous standard processing and assessment as any traditionally published book.
I have made contact with the Library of Congress and I’m awaiting a list for which topics/kinds of writing beyond poetry and African American literature would be considered “self-published works of quality.”
To my knowledge, this is not an issue in Canada. However, I will investigate further.
Final note – You do not have to be an American citizen to register your book with the Library of Congress as long as your country has a trade treaty in place with the United States. However, the above amendment applies to everyone.
In the link below, this article covers how you can get brick-and-mortar book stores to carry your books without a Library of Congress number. Check it out:
I spoke directly with a representative in the Acquisitions department at the Library of Congress and this is what she has said about accepting vanity/indie published books:
“No one institution can collect everything. Processing, preservation, and storage all cost a substantial amount of money, so decisions have to be made about what we collect.
Collection Policy Statements generally guide which materials we acquire, but self-published materials coming in through Copyright are examined. Decisions are made on a book by book basis by our Selection Officers with consideration given to our collection policies, specific subject, etc.
I realize this is a somewhat general answer, but I can assure you that each item is examined.”
She gave the following link for the list of alternative ways that materials come into the library:
I hope this clarifies the situation 🙂