The VERY Best way to Go Out of Print!!!

This is a story about something that started out sad, but then ended up happy!

The sad thing was a letter I got in the mail, informing me that my first novel, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, was going out of print in hardcover.  This was awful to read. My little book, which took me 10 years to write, was dying (at least in hardcover) after a short two year run. My poor book!

But the letter went on to explain that before the boxes of books sold to “remainder” at auction (so that they might go to live at Big Lots or somewhere equally magical, if not to a chipper. Eek!), I would be able to buy some copies. As many as I wanted. VERY CHEAPLY!


This got me thinking about all the emails I’ve been getting all fall, about how RIF is having its funding cut, and about how libraries are being closed, and about how some kids have little-to-no books in the home.  So I asked how many books they had in the warehouse.  They told me about 800 copies were left. 800 copies.  Only 800?

So I did something INSANE! I pulled out my credit card and bought every last book. EVERY SINGLE COPY!

Ever wonder what 800 books looks like, in the back of a Honda Oddyssey?  It looks like this!

Indeed, you CAN fit 800 books, 2 small kids, and all your groceries (up front) in a mini-van. But you’ll ride REAL LOW!

So then, once I had the books, I took them to some friends of mine.

First, and most importantly, I took a lot of books to Joe Davich, at the INCREDIBLE Georgia Center for the Book, at the Decatur Library. He offered to help the books find homes in libraries across the state, so that I wouldn’t have to pay shipping costs to get my books into the hands of readers.

YAY, JOE!  Not only did he accept the books, and help them find a home, he put up with my adorable kids taking his picture and “helping” him. Which went something like this:

Don’t worry, I helped too!!!

After we finished “helping” Joe, we headed over to the best bookstore in the universe, Little Shop of Stories, where Diane Capriola (because devoted indie bookstore owners don’t have enough to do) had generously offered to store and deliver another few hundred copies for me, to a wonderful 4th grade class, so that the kids could all have a book to take home for the holidays.  Yay, Glenwood Academy!!! (and yay, Diane!)

(Seriously, I can’t imagine this town without Diane and Dave and Krista and everyone else at LSOS)

Finally, I was down to a few boxes, so I ran by the elementary schools in my own neighborhood, and dropped off copies with some awesome media specialists. They were all about as friendly and nice as they could possibly be. I promised to go back and visit soon, at Toomer Elementary and Parkside Elementary and Burgess Elementary and the Neighborhood Charter school too!

And so now I’m done.  The car is empty, and the money is spent, but the books… the books… the books are where I wanted them to be all along. From the moment I began writing.  The books are with kids.

Because some bookshelves look like this.

And they really don’t need to.

This spring I’m going to sit down and try to think of a way to help other authors do what I’ve done. I have in mind a matching program, to pair donors and authors up, to buy books at hugely reduced rates, and then coordinate the gift through a library system or school that would handle distribution.

This cost me a lot of money, but when I think of 800 books getting into the hands of kids who don’t have enough access to books, it feels like it cost me almost nothing.

And if I can only find a clever accountant to help me write some of this off, I’ll do it all again the NEXT time I go out of print.

I can hardly wait!!!!

62 Responses to “The VERY Best way to Go Out of Print!!!”

  1. Robert Says:

    Are you going to be going into print in softcover? Because I have never heard of your book, but now I want to read it, because anyone who wants to help get kids books is OK in my book!

  2. Amy Says:

    I’m sorry to hear your book is out of print… but WOW! That was an incredible thing you did. So impressed. You rock!

  3. Julianna Baggott Says:

    So great! I love this!

  4. Sherrie Petersen Says:

    Very cool! I love this story AND your idea of helping other authors do the same thing with their books.

  5. Kaethe Says:

    Now I’m torn between wishing that every book stays in print for ever, and that every book goes out of print soon.

    You’re the most amazing person, because pulling this off must have been a bit of a logistical nightmare. But, oh, what a case of the warm fuzzies you have given me.

  6. Cynthia Leitich Smith Says:

    First, hugs. Second, very classy. Brava!

    Finally, are you familiar with the Authors Guild Back in Print program:

  7. Randy Susan Meyers Says:

    Very impressive!! Wow, not only did you use your credit card, but tons of sweat equity. Happy Happy Holidays!

  8. Anjali Says:

    Best holiday story EVER!

  9. Cleo Laughlin Says:

    Awesome way to give back. I always looking for new authors to read… I hope you go back into print because I would love to support you!!!!

  10. Susan Smelser Says:

    Wow! Words can not express just how wonderful you are. This is a Pay it Forward moment that will come back to you ten fold! Way to go!

  11. Marie Says:

    What a wonderful thing you did! I love this story about sharing and generosity.

  12. Ellen Booraem Says:

    Laurel…what a FANTASTIC idea! I’m sure my time is coming (paperback’s coming out in March, no idea what that does to hardcover sales but I bet it’s not good) so I’ll check in with you when it does. At the very least, maybe your Georgia guy could connect me with someone in Maine, where I know there are empty bookshelves all over the place.

    You rock, Laurel.

  13. Adele Griffin Says:

    Ah! Been wondering about the nuts and bolts of this adventure since you bought up the books. How inspiring and cool that you did this (and so smoothly!); it’s going to be impossible whenever i get my next remainder letter (tick-tick-tick) not to think carefully and proactively about next steps. Thanks so much for this story– and like many others, I’m very curious to read Up and Down the Scratchy Mountain myself.

  14. Stephanie Says:

    Wow, this is so amazing! I love finding positives in bad situations. I think it just takes a little creativity to turn any disappointment into a wonderful thing–and you REALLY proved my point! Fantastic job! I’m an aspiring writer and sometimes I get really down when I think about the many ways to “fail” as a writer, even as a published writer. This makes me feel SO much better. Thank you!

  15. laurel Says:

    Dear everyone,

    Thanks for your support. Yay!

    But also, seriously, authors, EMAIL ME IF YOU GO OOP! I think I’m going to make this a “project.” I might be able to match you to funding, so that you can do this without going out of pocket! Between the Centers for the Book nationwide, and the network of philanthropies in this country, we should be able to do a classroom library for like 100 bucks, if authors get on board!

  16. Erin Bowman Says:

    Such a lovely story (and gracious donation, on your part). Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.

  17. Dara Says:

    You are awesome.

  18. Polli Says:

    This is why you ave been for years continue to be one of my most very favorite people. This seems like an idea that needs some spreading. Let me know if there is anything I can do as a librarian (albeit not a library employee). I’ve got contacts, though!

  19. Deva Fagan Says:

    What a fantastic and generous thing to do! And an inspiring example! I would love to be able to do the same if (when?) that happens to me. And I will definitely spread the word to anyone else I know with a book going OOP.

  20. Kristin Gray Says:

    I love this so much!

  21. Anna Marie Says:

    This is a wonderful thing you have done. I wish you luck on your matching program.

  22. Mom Says:

    Needless to say, I’m more than a little proud and impressed…..particularly by the photos of my grandsons learning at an early age to do things like this. What a great post, Laurel. You do indeed rock.

  23. Anne Mazer Says:

    This is totally awesome, Laurel! If you get that program going, I’d love to be part of it. And it really *sucks* (eloquent author language) to have your wonderful book go out of print.

  24. Lesley Simpson Says:

    What a great story Laurel. I LOVE IT.

    I like your idea of a matching program for books. Tell me more!! (It reminds me of what American philanthropist Harold Grinspoon created for Jewish summer camps)A Matching program. Matchmaker matchmaker find me a book, Give me a nook, By hook or by crook. Let me read all night and read into morn, and perhaps I shall be reborn! Oh pages give me some stories Oh artists give me paint and some glue, Oh writers it woudn’t matter if you were to send me to Kalamazoo….Match maker match maker find me a book….(you know the tune)

  25. Kristina Says:

    I’d never heard of you or your lovely book (am going searching right after I post this) but a) you made me cry, b) you made me a fan, and c) you just made me make a self-promise that I do solemnly swear to do this as well if I am ever in the same place. You are made of awesome!

  26. Robin Kemp Says:

    Did you see that the KIPP school which burned down needs books? Might slide them a copy or two:

  27. Kate Messner Says:

    Reading this just made my whole week. You are awesome – and if there’s anything I can do at all to help this get off the ground in an ever bigger way, say the word. I have a lot of teachery friends, so I might be of use if you want to expand this awesome idea you had.

    Well done. Truly.

  28. Laura Pauling Says:

    That is so awesome! I’m sure the kids will appreciate them! :)

  29. Lizzie Vance Says:

    Oh man. Jennifer Laughran retweeted this post and I had to click on the link. And I have to tell you… there is something so magical and wonderful about what you’ve done. I literally had to wipe the tears away. Thank you for taking initiative and truly, for writing for all the right reasons– for the kids.

  30. Patti Larsen Says:

    You’re amazing. This is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of. What a gift you gave, not just as a writer in creating the book but by sharing it the best way you know how. Bravo!

  31. Katherine Sokolowski Says:

    Just finished your book Penny Dreadful and came on Twitter to see your blog. What a absolutely amazing idea. I teach fifth grade and have taught for 14 years. I can tell you there is a huge advantage to children who have books or access to books. I love that you took a situation that could have brought you down and turned it into something positive. If you ever need help in Illinois I’d be happy to assist.

    Great job!

  32. Alyson Says:

    Laurel – What a wonderful present you just gave to so many!!!! Thank you. If you ever need help passing on books, I know a lot of kids in California that are short on books!

  33. Darsa Says:

    Brilliant. : )

  34. Andrea Alban Says:

    Hi Laurel!
    I giggled as I read this piece and send congrats for your altruism. I, too, rescued one of my books, TEN LITTLE WISHES, from remainder heaven. I bought all the copies, sent many into the hands of children without home libraries, and the rest are resisting mildew atop a credenza in my garage. I would love to help with an initiative to save books from shredders.
    Happy holidays.

  35. John Kuttenberg Says:


    Did you ever get into (or talk the publisher into) putting it up at Amazon as an E-book for Kindle or one of the other e-vendors? There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. (Both for you and your publisher)


  36. Madigan Says:

    Wow! How inspiring! “The car is empty, and the money is spent, but the books… the books… the books are where I wanted them to be all along. From the moment I began writing. The books are with kids.”

    What a great idea, and what a great attitude you have.
    I’m sorry to hear Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains is going out of print (in hardcover), I love that book.

  37. Frume Sarah Says:

    What a mitzvah!!! I continue to be impressed by your inner beauty and the myriad of ways it shines.

  38. Harmony Says:

    This is such a fantastic thing to do! I know that all of those kids will enjoy it! I hope other authors follow your lead. For any PA authors – I run PAYA: Bring YA to PA and we can ALWAYS use books like this. We distribute them to schools, libraries, and organizations all over Pennsylvania.

    But anyway, kudos to you! This just goes to prove that there really are some amazing, caring people left!

  39. Jame Says:

    Great story! I’m definitely going to remember this!

  40. Julie Hedlund Says:

    So inspiring! Magical really. If I ever have a book published that then goes out of print, I know what to do!

  41. ChaplainRandee Says:

    Beautiful story. So glad you shared your story with us.
    This is truly a story of healing – out of the darkness and into the light. You are helping me recast my own life at this very moment, from feeling mostly fear to birthing the opportunities will be present.

    Wonderful reminder!
    Thank you

  42. Mallory Says:

    Laurel, you are amazing!

    And your lovely editor would like remind everyone that the delightful UP AND DOWN THE SCRATCHY MOUNTAINS is available in paperback and as an eBook–so do not despair!

  43. Charlie Boswell Says:

    Wonderful story. I’m an ex-commission rep and faced a similar problem when I retired—what to do with about 2,500 children’s books. There is a wonderful organization in the Cincinnati, OH area called Crayons to Computers whose mission is to collect donations of every kind of school supply including books to distribute free of charge to teachers at any of the neediest school in a three state area. Since 1997 C2C has ditributed approximately $77 million worth of books, pencils, paper, globes, etc. to area schools with limited budgets. So, C2C received my books plus several cash donations as well, a truly wonderful organization. This is an award-winning charity which serves as a model for the rest of the country. Their address is Crayons to Computers, 1350 Tennessee Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45229, and phone 513-482-3290, Shannon Carter, Director.

  44. Riley Carney Says:

    Hi Laurel,
    What you did was wonderful – I would love to help with your idea! My brother and I have a nonprofit for children’s literacy called Breaking the Chain ( which I founded 3 and 1/2 years ago and for the past year we have been focusing on our Bookin’It program which puts new books in high-need elementary schools around the country. A couple of people on twitter who we’ve given books to are @alybee930 and @ms_norris. We would buy the discontinued books from the authors and distribute them at the schools. One hundred percent of the money we raise goes toward buying the books and getting them to the kids.
    You’re the best!

  45. Elizabeth Sheppard Says:

    This is a great posting. I liked it so much. I am glad you found good homes for your books. Now you can offer your book on Amazon perhaps as an e-book OR offer them to buy one at a time with instant publishing.

    I am putting this posting on Twitter today because I think lots of people need to hear this story. Oh – and your book is SO cute!

  46. Scott Kenemore Says:

    That is dedication, L-Diddy.

  47. Sylvia Says:

    You’re amazing! Thank you so much for doing this. We grew up really poor, but in a house full of books, and I credit that for a large part of me getting to be the first one in my family to go to college (my younger siblings now have too!), and the job that followed. Most of the kids I went to school with didn’t have books at home, and they weren’t so lucky. Our school had one day a year when a wealthy school would bring the results of their book drive over, and give us one book each, and I remember how even the tough kids – who were too cool to get excited normally – would totally wig out over getting a book of their own. We all used to write our name inside the cover right away! The sort of thing you’re doing could make all the difference – or begin to – in some kid’s life. Be so, so very proud of that.

  48. librarymama Says:

    I LOVE YOU!! What an awesome awesome thing to do! talk about making lemonade!

  49. Carrie at In the Hammock Blog Says:

    What a fantastic story!! I love your bottom line that the books are being read by kids which is what you wanted in the first place :) Did I mention that now I simply must read this book!??

  50. Kelli R. Agodon Says:


    You are incredible! I love this blog post! And the photos too!

    Great story, thank you!

  51. Bill Ectric Says:

    I love it! Good on you.

  52. Inspirational Mondays: “The VERY Best Way to Go Out of Print” « FictionForge Says:

    [...] Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, was going out of print after two years, or as she says: “This is a story about something that started out sad, but then ended up happy!” Laurel writes: This got me [...]

  53. Author Turns Going-Out-of-Print into Act of Charity | Publishing Perspectives Says:

    [...] Random House, explaining that my first children’s novel, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, was going out of print in hardcover. The warehouse was writing to see if I was interested in purchasing copies of my book, at a deep [...]

  54. Calandra Says:

    Hi! Read this fantastic story in Publishing Perspectives this morning. Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for the inspiration.

  55. Kris Pearson Says:

    I LOVE YOU!! What an awesome awesome thing to do! talk about making lemonade!

  56. CLM Says:

    What a great story! And I love that the boys are helping and got a 3D lesson in the importance of books (not that they wouldn’t get this at home anyway).

  57. Maryl Says:

    This is a wonderful story. Now you should write a book about that! I only now got Inside the Slidy Diner for my children for Christmas. It is a beautiful story. And now I wish I could have Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains! Thank you,


  58. Blanca Huff Says:

    This is a wonderful story. Now you should write a book about that! I only now got Inside the Slidy Diner for my children for Christmas. It is a beautiful story. And now I wish I could have Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains! Thank you, Maryl

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  60. karenleehallam Says:

    So much wonderful. I would love to help any author get books to kids. those empty shelves are so sad. Very inspiring!

  61. Laura Purdie Salas Says:

    You. Rock. And you don’t need a clever accountant. This should definitely be deductible! My first trade book just went out of print, but there were only about 110 copies left, which they split between the illustrator and me. Love your story of book love and generosity!

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