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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Library Evangelism

A Marketing Idea

by Linore Rose Burkard

 In the quest to market books, we authors sometimes miss the obvious. Maybe if it's simple we don't think it can be worthwhile. Or, if we are a whiz at online footwork, perhaps we forget that real world steps can also add up to books sold. One such offline activity that I recommend is library evangelism.

Let me tell you, first, what it isn't.

Library evangelism is not standing outside your local library with a sign that says, "THE END IS NEAR!"
It is not handing out fire-and-brimstone tracts to patrons. (Even if your book is apocalyptic fiction, both of these things may offend the librarian and are probably illegal to boot.)

It is nothing like that. It is beneath the radar, perfectly acceptable, but purposeful; and its benefits, for those of you who like numbers, is not measurable. But wait til you hear the benefits.

What It Is 

My library (and yours) will usually buy any book you request, as long as it is not already on the shelves. Some may try to find it for you in a nearby library, in which case you inform them that you really want THIS library to own a copy. When my kids were young (and I had an avid reader or two) the cost of feeding their fiction habit was prohibitive. Our local library on Long Island was a good library, but Christian fiction was not bursting from the shelves. We began putting in requests for them to purchase more of it--and lo and behold--they did!

How to Do It

First, determine if the libraries nearest your home have stocked your book. If not, there is no need to beg, whine, or otherwise cajole the acquisitions librarian to order it. You simply go to the reference desk and submit a request (it can be a sticky note with the title, author and ISBN, but even the title alone will suffice.) Say to the reference librarian: "Could the library buy this book for me? It isn't on the shelves." They may scrutinize the title you want, and check the on-line catalog, and they may frown throughout the process, but don't worry: I haven't had a title turned down, yet. 

If you're the shy type, have a friend make the request(s). But the idea is that libraries are often quite happy to stock books they KNOW their patrons want, and will try to accommodate your request if they can. Sure, it's only one copy, but you don't know how many readers you may gain by this exposure, who may then go on to either purchase the book for themselves (if they really loved it); or purchase other of your titles. Some authors fear that library copies may diminish book sales, but I don't share that view.
As a reader myself, I have discovered many wonderful authors at the library, and almost always have gone on to purchase books by them.

Why Call It Evangelism?

If every Christian, not just authors, and not just home-schoolers, would routinely request the purchase of Christian reading material for their libraries, evangelism happens! We all know there are boatloads of dark, (dare I say, even demonic) books out there, particularly for the YA group, and increasingly, for everyone.  So even if you aren't the "evangelizing" type, you can ask your library to buy a solid Christian book and get some godly reading that anyone can stumble upon, onto the shelves.

Personally, I find this thought exciting. There are kids who scour the shelves looking for something good who may find your children's book and discover God. (If you write a series, you REALLY need to ensure that the library is on to it, because they will probably end up buying each book in it--even if you don't request it.)
There are women who devour romances and can't get enough. Are they not really seeking to fulfill a deeper longing? What they need is God--if your Christian romance is on the shelf, they may give it a try and get more than they anticipated. Imagine the Holy Spirit moving; a heart that was cold coming alight, because your book was there to show the way! 

Alternatively, if you meet someone who seems unlikely to purchase your book but has expressed interest, tell them to check their local library, and to request the book if it isn't already in the catalog or on the shelf. Business cards with your book's information are perfect for this use. They can simply hand it to their reference librarian when making the request. This can get your title into libraries that you don't personally access.

There is nothing under-handed about this. It is being wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove. (Mt. 10:16)
It is library evangelism. And it just may snag you a bunch of new readers.

Have you requested a purchase by your library? Ever been turned down?  Please share your experience with us!

Linore Rose Burkard is best known for historical regency romance with Harvest House Publishers, including Before the Season Ends, the award-winning The House in Grosvenor Square, and, The Country House Courtship. As a writer noted for meticulous research as well as bringing people to life on the page, Linore’s books delight fans of historical romance with humor in the vein of Georgette Heyer, and with Austen-like manners.  Linore teaches workshops for writers with Greater Harvest Workshops in Ohio, is a homeschooling mother of five, and has recently finished a YA novel. Keep up with Linore by subscribing to her free newsletter at



  1. Glad to help, thanks, Megan! I forgot to mention that we shouldn't request books too often, but we can certainly encourage others to do so. Altogether, Christians can make an impact about what reading material their libraries offer!

  2. Yes, I request books regularly. They usually buy them but once or twice they've just borrowed them from another library. Their policy on their website states that every member can request 50 books a year (I'm betting they can be so liberal because few take them up on it) so I figure might as well!!

  3. Wow, 50 books! I imagine that means you're correct in thinking that few actually do request purchases. All the more reason why we should do so. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. Yes - when I read "50 books per patron per year" I did a double-take and then cheered! ;)

  5. I hope that's true for most libraries! Thanks again.


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