You guessed it—THE LIBRARY!
But . . . library patrons check out books for free, right? How does that help an author’s book sales?
The number one answer is . . . building your readership!
And let’s face it. We want and need those readers. Faithful readers. Readers who tell their friends what great writers we are so their family and friends will look for our books, whether in their local library or favorite bookstore.
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. 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 to connect with Dora Hiers, a writer who has developed a real knack for working with area libraries to schedule author events. (Be sure to check out Dora’s guest post from November 2012.)
Although I’ve done several library programs with Dora, 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.
The first couple of programs I shared with Dora were author panels where each author gave a short 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.
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 joint programs for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library System Summer Reading Series, I immediately said yes. Our first was a talk on “Writing Inspirational Fiction,” and the following year we developed a program on “Creating Characters that Come Alive.” Both were repeated at numerous area libraries.
We ended our programs 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. Naturally, we provided bookmarks, business cards, and plenty of chocolate, all of which helped make those valuable reader/writer connections.
Now for a summary of some of the things I’ve learned about working with libraries:
People who attend library events are avid readers.
BUT—Library patrons like to check out books, not necessarily buy them.
HOWEVER—Librarians are your friends. Get to know them and they will recommend your books to readers and suggest upcoming releases as possible library additions.
It’s fun and energizing to chat with people who are really interested in books and writing.
BUT—Turnout is unpredictable. At some events we had 10-15 or more in attendance. At one of the summer programs we had only two.
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 your program will target readers, writers, or both, and adjusting your content accordingly.
What doesn’t work: Not clearly advertising your program as Christian or “inspirational” (if that’s the case). 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 ask 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 your smartphone map app to send you to the right location, then arriving so close to start time that you’re flustered and out of breath. (Yes, this happened to me! App announced “You are here!” at a dead end next to an empty lot.)
What works: Giveaways (bookmarks, postcards, chocolate, etc.), newsletter signup lists, and handouts containing supplemental information related to your program.
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.
Preparing talks and doing programs definitely takes its toll on your writing time.
BUT—in the end, it’s usually worth the sacrifice!
Have you braved the library program circuit yet? What do you like most about speaking events? What do you find most challenging?
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 The Oregon Trail Romance Collection, which includes my novella Settled Hearts. Be sure to mention in your comment if you would like to be entered in the drawing.
Nine romantic adventures take readers along for a ride on the Oregon Trail where daily challenges force travelers to evaluate the things that are most precious to them—including love. Enjoy the trip through a fascinating part of history through the eyes of remarkably strong characters who stop at famous landmarks along the way. Watch as their faith is strengthened and as love is born despite unique circumstances. Discover where the journey ends for each of nine couples.
Settled Hearts: 1852—Desperate to find her father in Oregon for her ill mother, Emma Clarke teams up with John Patrick, a loyal uncle who is determined to hide his niece and nephew from abusive adoptive parents. Will Emma and John find the hope they seek for their futures along the trail?
Though Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, she now enjoys living amidst the scenic beauty of the Carolinas, but she does miss real Texas beef barbecue! Empty-nesters, Myra and her husband share their home with two pampered rescue dogs. Myra's awards include the 2005 RWA Golden Heart and two ACFW Carol Award finals. When the Clouds Roll By, book 1 of the historical romance series “Till We Meet Again” (Abingdon Press), won the historical fiction category of the 2014 Christian Retailer’s Best Award. Book 2, Whisper Goodbye, and book 3, Every Tear a Memory, both received 4½-star reviews from Romantic Times. Follow Myra on Twitter at @MyraJohnson and @TheGrammarQueen, and on her Facebook author page.