It is interesting how persistence, and in this case rather obliquely a complaint, can pay off.
Since Into the Mourning Light was published in 2014, I have tried more than once to get it listed for borrowing from the shelves at our local library.
The process for getting books listed is straightforward but selection is dependent entirely on the company that selects and looks after library stock. (For our area this is Askews and Holts). The process is a simple enough online form.
Whether you are an author or a reader, you are at liberty to suggest a title on the libraries website. Once you have entered the title, author and ISBN Number you are advised that you will hear no more. In view of the number of submissions the library service receives, there is no direct feedback.
You are advised to periodically check back by entering the details into the library catalogue and submitting a search to see if your book appears.
Into the Mourning Light failed to be listed in any of the Surrey Libraries. I submitted the details a couple of times over eighteen months or so and then decided it was not going to happen … so I left it.
Last week I went to the library to borrow some books.
I often look in the ‘True’ section so that I can select books which may be enjoyable to read and indeed useful for my own writing research.
I picked up a book and was immediately startled when leafing through it to see that it was a profane, rambling form of autobiography about personal difficulties. (I will not further publicise it by sharing its title or author here). In my quick glance at this book, I failed to see what merit it could have for its readers. There was no warning as to the language which was at a level I feel sure many people would find offensive. The whole remit of the book seemed to be to a rant, with words capitalised for emphasis. It struck me as being very negative and not at all helpful.
I became quite incensed about what I felt was the injustice of the library stocking this irreverent drivel in preference to my positive prose! And when I arrived home I sent a carefully worded email of complaint to the library service; which included:
“This book may have a place to help those who have problems in this regard, but in a brief glance at several sections, all I read was a rant of profanity and negativity, such that I did not wish to read any further.
I have tried on more than one occasion to get my bereavement support book, ‘Into the Mourning Light’ stocked on the shelves of Surrey libraries, not because I am an egotistical author, but because I know that my book is viewed as a very valuable resource by grieving families and those supporting them. It is very disheartening to see that Askews & Holts have not accepted my book but are prepared to endorse and supply a book with such unpleasant tone and content.
Iould welcome your response with regard to the criteria for the selection process”.
I have to tell you that my email quickly bore surprising fruit. The (paraphrased) response I received was,
“Picador, a long established and well regarded imprint of Pan Macmillan, has published (the book) and it has gained positive reviews from the Bookseller. For each of these reasons we have chosen to select this book for stock, but recognise that the author is known for her great candour, and that this will not be to everyone’s taste.
I have checked with our current supplier of adult nonfiction stock (Askews and Holts) and ‘Into the Mourning Light’ (9781905399895) is currently listed. I am pleased to say that we will therefore be placing an order for copies of your book for our three largest libraries at Woking, Guildford and Epsom”
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us regarding this matter”.
It is difficult to market your own book, and particularly when you have written about sensitive topics. It is hard to promote something in which you have such a personal interest, too. Thus I am gratified and pleased that Surrey Libraries have taken notice of my input and the end result is what I had hoped for. Perseverance really can pay off!