Frequently Asked Questions

I'm looking for a particular book that I don't see on your website.
Our website only lists a sliver of what we offer in the bookstore. For questions about a particular book, please contact us directly, as we'll be here to take your phone orders (for store pickup or mail order) every Monday - Saturday from 12-6pm Pacific Standard Time at 415-362-8193. You may also email us

There's a category in your bookstore that I don't see online. Where is it?
Because our website offers only a small segment of the books we have in store, we've combined many of our bookstore sections.

Are City Lights Publications sold at 30% off in the bookstore too or only when I order them online?
It's an online-only discount! If you visit our store, City Lights publications are sold at the full retail price.

I'd like City Lights to carry my book, magazine or zine. How does that work?
If your book has a national distributor . . . please send information about your title to us at Attn: Book Buyer, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.

If you would like your work to be considered for inclusion in our 'Zine Section . . . We selectively accept self-published 'zines and pamphlets for sale in our 'Zine Section on a consignment basis. Please be advised that we do not accept self-published books. 'Zines and pamphlets only! submissions can be made in one of two ways:

1) Mail a sample copy to: City Lights Bookstore, Attention: 'ZINES BUYER, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133. Include your name, phone number and email address with your submission, and indicate the price you would like us to charge.

2) Drop off a sample copy at the bookstore on Sunday between 5-7:30pm. Your item should be safely packaged and clearly labeled: "Attention: ‘ZINES BUYER." Include your name, phone number, and email address with your submission, and indicate the price you would like us to charge. NOTE: Drop off's can only be made on Sunday, from 5-7:30pm. We cannot guarantee receipt if you bring something by at any other time.

You MUST provide an email address or a phone number with your submission. We will not consider any item submitted without that information, and we will not contact you through the mail.

Please do not send or drop off multiple copies. And NEVER send us your only copy!! City Lights will not store or return sample copies.

If your work is accepted for the section:
Our consignment policy is a 55/45 split, with the artist receiving 55% of the selling price on all copies sold. Once your work has been placed in stock, we ask that you check in with us at least once every three months, to see if a restock is in order. Payment for copies sold will be made by check, mailed out monthly. If you MUST be paid in cash for any reason, payment must be arranged in advance with the ‘Zines Buyer, who will coordinate a date and time. Cash payments cannot exceed $50.00. City Lights will not pay via PayPal, or any other online payment system.

If the agreement is terminated:
Arrangements must be made in advance with the ‘Zines Buyer to reclaim unsold copies at the bookstore. City Lights will not return unsold copies by mail.

Additional questions? Email

When do I need to place my order to receive it by Christmas?
If you are ordering within the continental United States, orders placed by December 13th will arrive by Christmas using Standard shipping (USPSGround). If you wish to use expedited shipping, you can order by December 19th. Need it faster? Call us at (415) 362-8193 ext. 22 or e-mail us at to make special arrangements.

For international orders, please be advised that international expedited shipping varies depending on the country and size and weight of item. We can expedite international orders, but the cost will be higher than our normal expedited estimates. Please contact us with all shipping related questions at

I placed an order a while ago and still haven't received it.
All orders are processed within 48-72 hours of receipt. We ship most orders via USPS. Standard orders in the continental United States should arrive within 5-12 business days. Expedited orders should arrive within 2-6 business days. (Check the Shipping Information section to determine how long your order will take to get to you.) The order confirmation e-mailed to you upon purchase will contain USPS tracking information for all orders shipping within the continental United States and all orders sent via expedited service. Please use this information to track your order with USPS, and retain your order confirmation for any queries you may need to make.  (Please note: we cannot provide tracking information for international orders sent via standard service.) If USPS is not able to provide adequate tracking information, please email us (include order date and number) and we will respond as soon as we possibly can.

I have a general question about ordering a book through City Lights.
Please see our Ordering Information page for information on shipping costs and general ordering information. If you're unable to find the answer to your question there, you can contact us at 415-362-8193 (extension 22).

I'm seeing a security notification on my browser when I access the City Lights website. Is it safe to order online?
Yes, it's safe. Our site is old and newer browsers flag it as "insecure." Please disregard any security notifications as they are delivered in error. We look forward to assisting you with your purchases. Contact our orders department if you have specific concerns.

How do I submit a manuscript to City Lights Publishers?
Due to challenges presented by COVID-19, we are unable to process unsolicited manuscript submissions at this time. Please check back our Manuscript Submissions Guidelines for updated submission guidelines in the coming months.

I sent a book proposal a while ago. When can I expect to hear from you?
As long as you have followed our submission guidelines, including a SASE, you should hear from us within four to six months. We appreciate your patience given our small staff size.

I'd like a copy of a City Lights book for possible review. How do I request a sample?
Please note that not all of the books on our website are published by City Lights. For information on obtaining a copy of a City Lights book for possible review, see our Review Copy Guidelines. For information on obtaining a copy of a City Lights book for possible use in a class, see our Desk & Exam Copy Guidelines.

I'd like to receive permission to reprint, excerpt, or copy material from a City Lights title. What do I do?
Please see our Rights and Permissions page.

I'm looking for a job at City Lights. What do I do?
We have a very small staff and turnover is rare, but you're always welcome to send a cover-letter and resume in to us at Attn: Human Resources, City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133.

I'm interested in an internship at City Lights Publishers. What do I do?

Remote Internships Available at City Lights Publishers:

City Lights Publishers in San Francisco seeks interns on a regular basis to help support our publicity and marketing efforts.  

Interns will work on a variety of publicity and marketing tasks including: contacting the media and seeking out appropriate web, print, radio, and tv outlets for our authors and their books; optimizing our publications' presence at the major online retailers and websites; writing and editing content for our website; producing our podcasts; creating email notices and press releases; helping us to strategize social media outreach; managing our book prize database; promoting our virtual events series City Lights LIVE!  and other related tasks.  

Our internships require 4-6 hours/week, with a 3 month commitment, and are unpaid.  (Summer internships are available, as well, so please inquire about time commitment.) 

Students have used the internship for course credit when available, and a number of past interns have gone on to work in the publishing industry.    Collectively, we have many years of experience in the bookselling and publishing industry, and are happy to offer advice, guidance, and referrals in your job pursuits.

City Lights Publishers is located in the City Lights Bookstore at 261 Columbus Avenue in San Francisco. Our bookstore is open, while our publishing staff continues to work from home.

If you are interested in our internship, please send cover letter and resume to Stacey Lewis at letting us know the dates you would be available.  No phone calls, please.

I'd like to set up an event at City Lights. How does that work?
COVID-19 update: While nothing replaces the experience of gathering in the bookstore to hear a lively discussion or celebrate a new book, City Lights is still committed to uniting our community virtually. This means, for now, that all of our events have moved online, and we encourage you to continue to join us for informative book talks, exclusive roundtables, and all the rest! 

How early should I plan on coming to a City Lights event?
To get a seat, you'll want to get to the store at least half an hour in advance. For well-known authors, please come to the store at least an hour beforehand.

I bought a paper gift certificate at City Lights that I'd like to redeem online. How do I do that?
The paper gift certificates that we've been selling for decades can only be redeemed at City Lights bookstore, or by snail mail. We've recently switched to selling plastic Gift Cards that can be redeemed in store or online. If you'd like to trade in your gift certificate for a gift card, please contact us here. Unfortunately, for tax purposes, we cannot accept trades of partially-redeemed gift certificates or credit slips for gift cards.

How do I add funds to my City Lights gift card?
You can add to your balance by giving us a call at 415-362-8193.

How can I check my City Lights gift card balance?
You can check your balance right here. Simply enter your gift card number from the back of the card.

I just bought a gift card online, but can't redeem it. Why not?
It may take up to 48 hours for us to activate and send out your card once its been purchased. If you'd like to redeem it earlier, please contact us.

I lost my gift certificate or gift card. How do I redeem it?

Gift certificates and cards cannot be redeemed for cash, and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.



Didn't see your question here? Email us or call us at 415-362-8193.