But let’s face it. Writing isn’t just about writing. We want readers. Faithful readers. Readers who tell their friends what great writers we are so their family and friends will buy our books!
And that leads us to the dreaded word promotion, which in turns brings us to one of the primary methods writers use to promote their books.
[Cue scary music here.]
When I first dreamed of becoming a published novelist, it never occurred to me that I’d eventually be called upon to speak in front of various sized groups whose interest varied from “You are beyond fascinating!” to “Where’s the nearest exit?”
My first few post-publication speaking gigs were for church gatherings or my local writers group, where I knew I’d be among friends. But when you have no idea whom you’ll be addressing--much less how friendly and open-minded they’ll be--it’s a lot different.
It also makes a difference whether getting up in front of an audience comes naturally to you. For some authors--the extroverts among us--public speaking is a breeze. Others, like introverted moi, need some encouragement.
That’s why I was very grateful after moving to the Carolinas and joining Carolina Christian Writers, the local ACFW chapter, to connect with Dora Hiers, a writer who has developed a real knack for working with area libraries to schedule author events. (You’ll have a chance to hear more from Dora in November when she joins us for a guest blog.)
Although I’ve done several library programs with Dora this year, I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on the subject. But these experiences have brought a few things to light that I believe are worth passing along to other authors interested in braving the library circuit.
|Jennifer Hudson Taylor, Dora Hiers, and Myra Johnson|
The first program I shared with Dora was actually a three-author panel that also included Jennifer Hudson Taylor, another Carolinian. The audience, comprising readers who enjoy inspirational fiction, proved very welcoming. Each author gave a 10-15-minute talk describing our journey to publication, providing background about our novels, and sharing a few thoughts about writing Christian fiction. Afterward, we took questions and then visited with attendees and autographed books.
A couple of weeks later, and feeling more comfortable now that we’d gotten to know one another better, the three of us repeated our program at a public library in another city with even more success.
|Here I am speaking again. Not a library event, but a speaking engagement that came about as a direct result of one of our library programs.|
Sharing the program with one or more author colleagues definitely takes the pressure off! That’s why, when Dora asked if I’d be interested in working up a joint program for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library System Summer Reading Series, I immediately said yes, and soon we were hammering out a talk on “Writing Inspirational Fiction” that would be presented at two different libraries.
We organized our talk in a “she said/she said” format, beginning with each of us sharing our personal background and highlights of our writing journey. We went on to discuss our individual writing styles, where we get ideas, advice about finding an agent, and an overview of several Christian publishing houses. Each participant received a handout with a list of our favorite craft books and writing websites.
We ended the program with Q&A, which was a great opportunity to zero in on participants’ individual needs and interests. Afterward, we stayed around for book browsing and more casual conversation. Overall, the program seemed to go over quite well.
Now for the good, the bad, etc., etc.
Good: People who attend library events are avid readers.
Bad: Library patrons like to check out books, not necessarily buy them.
Good: It’s fun and inspiring to chat with people who are really interested in books and writing.
Bad: Turnout is unpredictable. At some events we had 10-15 or more in attendance. At one of the summer programs we had only two.
Good: Librarians are your friends. Get to know them and they will recommend your books to readers and suggest upcoming releases as possible library additions.
|Dora and I display our books.|
What works: Contacting libraries well in advance of your desired program dates.
What doesn’t work: Expecting the library to get you on the program calendar within a month or two. It can take several weeks to several months to get library approval.
What works: Planning ahead of time whether you will address primarily readers or writers and adjusting your content accordingly.
What doesn’t work: Not clearly advertising your program as Christian or “inspirational.” People have been known to walk out at the first mention of faith.
What works: Promoting the event on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc.; also finding out what forms of promotion the library will be using.
What doesn’t work: Scheduling your program either too early or too late on a weeknight evening.
What works: Arriving early enough to get your table and book display set up, visit the ladies’ room, get some water, and mingle with attendees as they arrive.
What doesn’t work: Trusting Google Maps to send you to the right location, then arriving so close to start time that you’re flustered and out of breath.
|Dora and I take questions following our "Writing Inspirational Novels" presentation.|
What works: Giveaways (bookmarks, postcards, chocolate, etc.) and handouts containing supplemental information.
What doesn’t work: Sitting shyly behind your book table and waiting for people to talk to you.
What works: Interacting with attendees, asking them about their reading interests, and suggesting other authors (yes, your competition!) you think they might enjoy.
What doesn’t work: Not verifying whether the library has copies of your books in circulation.
What works: Donating a copy of your book to the library prior to or, at the latest, the day of your program.
What works: Remembering to send a thank-you note to the program organizer and mentioning your interest in working with him or her in the future.
Bad: Preparing talks and doing programs definitely takes its toll on your writing time.
Good: But in the end, it’s usually worth the sacrifice!
|Carolina authors at the Mooresville Library Local Author Showcase, including Carol Stratton, Jennifer Fromke, me, Mary Urban, and Dora Hiers. At this event, all we had to do was mingle--no speaking involved!|
If you’re a librarian, what advice would you offer authors interested in presenting a program to your patrons?
Join the conversation today to be entered in a drawing for my latest release, A Horseman’s Gift.
Filipa Beltran is tired . . . sick and tired of living out her parents’ dreams. After years of guitar lessons and the seemingly endless string of part-time jobs to pay for them, Filipa makes a drastic decision to leave New York and the hope of becoming a professional musician behind and return to her hometown, to move forward with her life--on her terms.
The past year has been nothing short of crazy for Nathan Cross. Once set on becoming a big business mogul, Nathan’s plans derail following his father’s untimely death and his mother’s whirlwind remarriage. Now he’s headed back home to carry on his father’s legacy running an equine therapy program . . . and trusting God to sort out his future.
When Nathan discovers childhood friend Filipa is also back in town--to stay--he finds it hard to swallow. Maybe she wasn’t the girl he thought, or else she wouldn’t sacrifice everything her parents dreamed of for her.
Can Nathan and Filipa find contentment in their God-given gifts?