Monday, March 19, 2018

Authors Working With Libraries

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey everybody!  A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure to appear with Nadia Bulkin, Morgan Sylvia, and the legendary Mary SanGiovanni at Stokercon 2018's Librarians Day.

Our audience consisted of librarians and we had been invited by Readers Advisory spokesperson Becky Spratford. The panel was interesting (I hope) and the question and answer session afterwards was even more interesting, at least to me as an author.

As authors we often worry about getting into bookstores and getting in touch with our readers directly through social media and events like conventions and book signings.  In fact, the only time I ever reached out to a library was to my local library to see if they'd be interested in having me for an event like a Halloween signing.  My local library promptly advised me that they don't do events with local authors and I pretty much let the pursuit stop there.

But having fifty or a hundred librarians from across New England in one room taught me an important lesson: different libraries and library systems have different rules.  So some libraries, like my local one, may not be interested in local authors, but others are dying to have us.

The librarians in attendance advised us that they are constantly on the hunt for programming.  Now, they also stated that having an author show up and try to sell his book is not really very enticing.  However, if I were to call one of their programming directors with an idea, say a "How to Write Horror" workshop or a panel on getting published with all five panelists lined up, they'd be very interested in that.

So, first of all, if you as an author are not reaching out to your local library system, you're missing out on a great opportunity.  And if you are reaching out, but just to do signings or maybe give a reading, you may be taking the wrong tack.  Have you considered planning an actual demonstration or workshop?  That way, when you reach out to the librarian in charge, you're not so much begging them for a favor as you are helping them out by handing them a program opportunity on a silver platter.

Now, the librarians also stated that programming is planned very far out, sometimes six months or longer.  So now might be the time for all you horror authors to start looking at Halloween programming (hint hint.)  But in general, don't expect to contact your library and then show up next week.  My new plan is to reach out to a number of libraries, perhaps plan a tour through New England later this year or next.

Libraries are also always looking for new acquisitions for their collections, which is one of the reasons why Becky Spratford's Readers Advisory exists.  So again, when you've been reaching out to have your book shelved at bookstores or in different online venues, have you considered reaching out to your local libraries?

I'm not very familiar with this process at all, so I'm going to have to come back with more on that after I've reached out to a few acquisitions librarians.  But the benefits seem clear to me.  First of all, you're getting a sale, which is always nice.  But second of all, having your books in libraries means that you're potentially acquiring new readers.  If you pick up a reader who just happened to grab your book off the shelf (hey, I've read plenty of books that way myself) they might go out and buy your whole back catalogue.  Or they might go back to the acquisitions librarian and ask him/her to pick up more books from your back catalogue, which is also sales.  And if you have a good relationship with the library staff, they may recommend your books from their collection when patrons come asking.

So, while I'm brand new to this and can't really speak on it with very much experience or authority, if you haven't been reaching out to libraries, you may be doing yourself a disservice.  I had this conversation with a small publisher shortly after the StokerCon Library Day, and she said that she has been collecting and collating lists of small bookstores to reach out to for years, but had never considered libraries.  Imagine all of the untapped potential there!

Oh, and by the way, our very own Kimberly Giarratano is a former libarian - maybe you'll luck out and she'll tell us more in the comments.  But what about you?  What have been your experiences working with libraries?  Librarians, what about the other side of the aisle?  What's it been like working with authors?  Sound off in the comments below!


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Hi *waves* Yes. There is lots I can suggest. Which might be a great post. But, as an author, I always pitch a program idea to librarians. I did a program on publishing for my old library where I used to work. I've also done creative writing workshops for teens. As for selling books, certain libraries have rules about that. I've donated my books to my local library because they are sorely under-funded. Trad reviews help. If your book is reviewed by Kirkus, you can point to that and say, "See? You have a reason to add it to your collection." But, authors and libraries can go hand-in-hand. I'll work on a post about this.

Carrie Beckort said...

Great post, Steve! I've donated my books to the local library here, and have reached out to others in the area but they didn't respond. I've had family/friends purchase and donate copies of my books to their local libraries, which is great. Also, I know I've sold some ebooks through Overdrive from readers recommending my titles to their libraries. I would like to do more, I just haven't made it a priority yet. I borrow so much from my library's Overdrive, so I know how much value it can bring to the author (in terms of exposure).

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Excellent post Steve and what a great opportunity to participate in a Library Day. I have also donated books to a severely underfunded local library but I never considered all the possibilities for our own publications!

Unknown said...

Great post Stephen, this is definitely something I've thought about and have started developing a syllabus on writing and publishing. I plan on reaching out church youth groups as well. If anyone is interested in sharing ideas or resources, check out the Facebook group "Central Pa Local Authors Network".

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