Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Promotion and Libraries

Promoting to Libraries: Part 2

by Jacqueline Seewald

The first part of this discussion appeared on Jeffrey Marks’ blog site Murder Must Advertise, September 23, 2011. At that time, I suggested that authors consider promoting their books, whether fiction or nonfiction, at libraries. Some libraries will pay writers to come and speak, others will at least provide writers with exposure to the reading public. Not all libraries welcome authors but there are many that do. As a former librarian and teacher, I can testify to the fact that authors are welcome to provide an event at many libraries. Books are an important component of what the library has to offer. Authors are respected by most librarians.

If you are a relatively unknown writer, try to get a local newspaper to do a story on you before your library appearance. Also, if you’re not Nora Roberts or Mary Higgins Clark, don’t expect people to come in droves just because you announce a book signing. Think in terms of what kind of event you can provide that library patrons will enjoy and appreciate.

On October 6th I presented an event at the Fort Lee, NJ Library entitled “We Can All Be Writers.” It was not just be a talk but a happening—an interactive experience for both attendees and myself. I provided writing exercises that we could do together and discuss.
I’ll also discussed sources of inspiration for aspiring writers as well as library resources for writers. In short, I was offering information of value to patrons.

I believe that not only can everyone be a writer but should be a writer. By this I do not necessarily mean that they should strive for publication. There is such a thing as writing simply for our own self-expression and self-satisfaction. There is also writing to leave a written and historical record for our families.

My program lasted two hours. Fifteen people showed up who were eager to participate. When I previously did this program in Central New Jersey, twenty-five people were present and actively participated. However, fifteen was a comfortable group to work with and they were very enthusiastic. I also had help earlier in the week from the library coordinator who turned my overhead transparencies into a Power Point presentation.

What’s in it for you, the author? Well, the library may or may not be able to pay you to speak but at least you won’t be paying a fee. Doing an event will provide you with publicity. You can ask the local newspaper to cover it and/or get it placed on their events calendar in advance. Hopefully, library patrons may want to either borrow some of your novels from the library or purchase them from you. At the very least, the library will buy your book. In my case, I offered some of my novels at a heavily discounted price and had the librarian take the money because I donated any money earned from the sale of my books the Friends of the Library so they can continue to sponsor more events. It was my way of giving back to the community.

What is your opinion of authors doing events, talks or panel discussions at libraries? Have you participated in any library events? If so, how has it worked out? Will you consider doing it in the future?


Morgan Mandel said...

I've attended some great library events. It makes sense to offer something to draw people in. Unless I know the author and am very interested in that author, I don't go to book signings. anymore. I have too many books and not enough time to read them, since I write as well.

Morgan Mandel

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

I love library events too, especially those through Friends groups.

Great advice.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Jacqueline: We have a very supportive library system in out county. Our Florida chapter of Historical Novel Society meets in the community room, and they always have authors running the NaNo kickoff, during which we can sell our books. Like you, I have been paid well (in a neighboring county) for participating at one of their annual events, and have given workshops gratis, but at those, because they allow me here to sell books, I give them 10% of gross. This is a great topic you bring up and one that I'll enjoy following next month.

Kathleen Delaney said...

I have done one called, The Tortous Path from Idea to Story. I've done it at libraries from Texas to South Carolina and hope to do it more. Will do it at Clemson in the spring. I have an outline, which we go over, that talks about the basic elements of story, main characters, how to build a plot, move the story forward, and so forth. Then we take an idea from the audience (I give them 3x5 cards and a few minutes to write down something,) and we start to build. I love having a dry erase board but its not necessary. Amazing the ideas that come out of a group and the story we build. It's not complete, of course, but we get down the main idea and everyone has fun. They remember me, hopefully, so do the librarians, and I've even sold books. I think these kinds of events are very valuable. Besides, I like doing them. Kathleen Delaney
Murder Half-Baked and And Murder for Dessert

Maryannwrites said...

I love to give workshops and talks at libraries and have done one similar to what you described Jacqueline. I have also done what Kathleen described, brainstorming ideas for stories, then having the writers play with plotting, etc. I did that this summer for a writers' organization mini-workshop, and just a month ago met one of the attendees, and she told me she was working on the story she had started at the workshop. That was so nice to hear and I was thrilled for her. She was so excited about what she was doing.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thanks for stopping by. I agree that unless an author is well-known or has a lot of friends and relatives that will come out, a book signing by itself is unlikely to draw many readers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Pam,

Friends of the Library are worthy of our support since they help libraries in many ways.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joyce,

It's great that your county library in Florida is so supportive. A good example for others to follow!

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Your program sounds excellent!
Good example of effective library promotion for authors.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


It's so great when someone you've done a program with is positively influenced. What wonderful feedback!

Cindy Sample said...

The library systems in both El Dorado and Sacramento County have been wonderfully supportive to local authors. I've done presentations on "the pothole-filled path to publication" as well as joint events with the local Sisters in Crime. We normally have at least 50 people in attendance. While library patrons don't buy huge numbers of books the word does get out. And the libraries are thrilled to have us available to give advice and encourage new writers.

Great post as always, Jacqueline.

jenny milchman said...

I was really sad to miss your event in Fort Lee, Jacquie--it was one of those unshiftable events. I love library events--I just drove almost two hours to see Laura Lippman and the mother/son writing team of Charles Todd at the Brooklyn Public Library. I hope libraries and authors are married forever.

Betty Gordon said...

Jacqueline, a great post that should have all of us watching for library events. I love Jenny Milchman's hope that "libraries and authors are married forever." I do too, Jenny.

Nancy Means Wright said...

Again, a provocative and thoughtful blog, Jacqueline.I love the title, which pulls the attendees right into the dicussion.We can all be writers," yes! With many bookstores closing (three in Vermont alone, sadly, we'll depend more and more on libraries.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Cindy,

You really got a large turn-out!
That's great. But big or small, it's great to reach readers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Jenny,

I would have loved to meet you in person. But as my event was scheduled for a Thursday evening, I know that made it difficult for many people to come. Weekends are always a better venue if you can get them.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Betty,

Thanks so much for your continued support!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Nancy,

Sorry to hear about the bookstore closings in Vermont. It does make libraries more important for writers to contact.

Marilyn Levinson said...

When I taught writing for children, I advised my students to 1) form critique groups and 2) make their children librarian their friend. Now that I'm writing mysteries for adults, I find my ties to my library have grown stronger. Tomorrow our Long Island Sisters in Crime chapter is meeting in my library. I'll be back again on Monday night to give a workshop on writing mysteries. I've recently been asked to lead monthly discussions of mysteries of my choosing. Though the role of the library has expanded, libraries are still a haven for readers--something we authors should always keep in mind.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Marilyn,

It sounds like you're doing a great job promoting to libraries!
Wishing you continued success. Sisters in Crime is an excellent organization.

D'Ann said...

Great ideas!

I was part of a tiny (5 person) group who brought a writing conference to my town and we used the library. It was a great partnership. Libraries are usually eager to partner with writers.

Maryann McFadden said...

I love libraries! I've done some wonderful events which are usually focused on my unusual journey to getting published, "Winning the Literary Lottery." I discovered long ago that the average reader has absolutely no idea how a book goes through that magical process--beginning in a writer's head and finally making its way into their hands. They are usually amazed.

Rox said...

Such an informative post. It certainly drew some interesting comments. On a sadder note, there's talk of closing some of the libraries in my neck of the woods. Soon we won't have bookstores or libraries to host our events. Anyone else having that problem?

T.W. Fendley said...

I really appreciate your posts on promoting to libraries. I love our St. Louis-area libraries and the events sponsored by the Friends. I hope to offer a workshop soon to help market my just-released historical fantasy, ZERO TIME!

Earl Staggs said...

Very interesting, Jacqueline. I haven't given serious consideration to contacting libraries but you convinced me I should.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thank you all for commenting and making this a much more valuable blog for fellow authors and readers.

The matter of both library and bookstore closings is problematic for readers as well as writers. It's a sign of our bad economic problems in general. But we writers know how to hang in there!

Mary F. Schoenecker said...

How timely your blog is! I just mailed many invitations to a celebration at our library in Venice, Fl, for the launch of my third book in a trilogy. The county library system has been very helpful to me over the years. I, too have given workshops & talks at the library branches. This time, I celebrate the last book of the trilogy with a signing, cake and tea and a percentage of my book sales goes to Friends of the Library.A celebration basket of books and goodies will be given away.To me it is a "pay it forward" to all the staffers who help over the years. It was good to view all the comments from writers who appreciate libraries as much as you do, Jacqueline.

Kaye George said...

I couldn't agree more. I did my first 2 library events last week and I'll be eager to do more! The audiences are great and they all love books. I wish my local library had book clubs!

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Yours is an example of a wonderful library program that a writer can provide for readers. It creates good will and I hope will provide you with lots of publicity for your new novel.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Kaye,

I think book clubs would be great too. Some libraries do sponsor them. It would be very helpful to writers. Thanks for stopping by.

Louise Crawford said...

I've had a great time speaking and signing at libraries, with a panel of mystery authors. It's amazing how many different types of mysteries are out there!

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