Today libraries view themselves as information centers for their communities. Their mission is meet people’s recreational and informational needs by providing a broad range of books and other materials. Whether you are a writer researching your current WIP, or a novelist seeking a new market for your books, the public library is the place for you.
Electronic Resources for Writers
(The information on electronic resources is adapted from the article, “Public Libraries: Gold Mines of Resources for Writers,” Northwest Christian Author, vol. 21, no.3 (May/June, 2009): 1. ©2009 by Judy Gann)
The time to familiarize yourself with your local library is during the research phase of your novel. From online research tools to books on the craft of writing, libraries offer a wealth of resources for writers.
Today computers reign where the card catalog once held court. Online reference databases and other reference materials called Electronic Sources have replaced many encyclopedias and other heavyweight reference books. Electronic Sources (E-Sources) are searchable electronic resources beyond the capabilities and authenticity of popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Libraries pay subscription fees to provide access to these premium magazines, newspapers, and other reference books. The products of major reference firms, E-Sources are updated far more frequently than their print counterparts.
These resources are available to library patrons on their local library’s Web site. You will need to use your library card to log on to your library’s E-Sources from a computer at home or in the library. Instructions are available on the library’s Web site.
Some of my favorite E-Sources for novelists include:
· American Decades: A virtual reference book series, American Decades documents and analyses periods of contemporary American social history, with an emphasis on pop culture. Its companion series, American Decades: Primary Sources, provides full or excerpted primary documents, including photos, advertisements, and newspaper articles. Are you searching for information about 1950’s music? This is the resource for you.
· Associations Unlimited: This is a terrific tool if you are looking for experts on a topic or groups who may be interested in your book. This database is searchable by association, topic, location, and experts.
· Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion: An e-book on the history of clothing through the ages. Great resource for historical fiction writers.
· Greenwood Daily Life Online: Includes reference books, articles, and primary sources. This is a great resource if you are looking for information about life in pre-colonial days to the present. Be sure to check out the section “Tours through Time.”
· Information Plus: A series of books covering a range of social issues. Each volume includes statistical information relevant to its topic.
· Newspapers Direct: Provides instant access to daily editions and back copies for 800 newspapers, in 81 countries, in 38 languages. Has a newspaper article ever triggered an idea for a book? A newspaper article was the impetus behind the “what if” for my WIP.
· Novelist (Novelist Plus): This is a great tool for the “Competing Titles” section of a fiction book proposal. Use the “Read Alikes” option to locate authors and titles of books like yours.
These are just a few of the dozens of E-Sources available to you through the public library. The availability of specific E-Sources varies from library to library. Check your library’s Web site or talk to library staff to learn which databases and virtual reference books are offered by your library.
Reference Librarians Love Questions
Reference librarians thrive on finding the answers to questions—especially challenging ones. Librarians don’t know all the answers, but we usually know where and how to find the answers. Believe me, if I can find the cure for a chicken with a cold (actual telephone reference question), your research questions won’t seem silly or obscure.
A word of caution: Not all library staff are trained reference librarians. If you use a large library, ask for the reference or information desk. The hardworking staff at the desk where you check out books usually aren’t reference librarians, unless you are visiting a small library.
Marketing to Public Libraries
Months (or years) go by. At long last you have a published novel. You’re doing all you can to get your book into the hands of readers. I encourage you to include the public library in your marketing plan. Contrary to popular belief, libraries aren’t in competition with books. The library serves a segment of the population that doesn’t purchase books—especially during tough economic times, providing you with new readers for your books. Other library users are great word-of-mouth promoters, checking out or books from the library and then telling others about them.
Independent bookstores are closing at an alarming rate and the big chains primarily stock bestsellers. We need to find creative new venues for our books. I encourage you to include public library in your marketing plans. Christian fiction is “hot” in public libraries at the moment. Just last week I noticed the covers of several Christian fiction books on a banner across the home page of a public library system in Missouri’s web site.
Remember the relationships you established with library staff during the research phase of your novel? Now is the time to build on these relationships to promote your book to the library. For details on how to market to public libraries (including the word you never want to use), please see my October 28 guest blog post on Novel Matters at http://novelmatters.blogspot.com/
I have a homework assignment for you. Stop groaning. J Schedule an appointment for yourself at your local library this week. Meet the staff and ask about both book and online resources for writers. Or, tell them about your recently published book. Offer to teach a workshop on writing. I promise, libraries are writer-friendly places.