Friday, November 13, 2015

Five Tips for a Successful Library Event

Mystery author Catherine Dilts is our guest blogger today. To Catherine, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Publishers Weekly calls her novel Stone Cold Dead: A Rock Shop Mystery, an “enjoyable debut,” and that “readers will look forward to seeing more of this endearing and strong protagonist.” Catherine works as an environmental tech, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. Her short fiction is published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at and on Goodreads.

                                                    Five Tips for a Successful Library Event

                                                                     By Catherine Dilts

I grew up in a family of intense library users. My siblings competed to discover the most delightful next book by browsing the shelves. As an adult, I still use my local library. One of my “made it” moments, when I felt I was an honest-to-goodness author, was seeing my book on a library shelf.

Naturally, I was thrilled to be invited to participate in a library author event. I’m still a relative newbie. I only have three events under my belt, with a fourth coming November 14. Still, I have accumulated five tips for authors to enjoy a successful library event.

1)      Use a wheeled cart. College students use them for textbooks, grannies for groceries. I dug one out of our garage. There was plenty of room to strap down a box of books, my promo materials, purse, sweater, and snack. No multiple trips to the parking lot. No sore arms and back. This low technology tool is a lifesaver.

2)      Do your homework. What type of event are you attending? Will you be speaking, or sitting at a table waiting for readers to pass by? May you set up a poster or decorate a table? Are you the focus of attention, or will dozens of authors share the spotlight? Every event I attend, someone has a clever table covering or eye-catching display. I’ll be ready next time! Read the emails and instructions for your event. Be prepared.

3)      Sales. Will you be allowed to sell your books? Who will handle sales – the library, a bookseller, or you? Do you need to bring books for consignment? How many books should you bring?
a.       Quantity. I suggest bringing plenty of books, but leave the majority in your vehicle. Oh happy day if you need to run to your vehicle for more. My experience, as a new author in small town libraries, is that a dozen books is optimistic. I hope your experience is wildly different!
b.      Transactions. If sales are your responsibility, be aware that few people write checks or carry cash. I intend to look into the Square, a device to charge credit and debit cards using your smart phone or tablet.

4)      Network.
a.       Talk to librarians and volunteers. Let them know you appreciate being invited to participate in their event. Verify that the library carries your book.
b.      Talk to the patrons. For some, this might be their first experience speaking with a real live author. If they are hesitant to purchase your book, encourage them to check it out from the library.
c.       Talk to other authors. You might pick up helpful promotional ideas, learn about another library event, or make a new friend.

5)      Be realistic.
a.       About sales. You are in a library, where patrons are accustomed to reading for free. You may not sell a lot of books, but you might gain fans.
b.      About attendance. Library events, I am told, typically do not generate crowds. The ones I have participated in have been well attended. I think the difference is in how well the event is promoted. You can help. Invite friends and family. Use social media to get the word out. Give your co-workers fliers. Libraries are more open to future events when attendance justifies their expense and use of resources.

I have participated in two meet and greet events with dozens of authors. Another event was a mini-writers conference. The next event on my calendar is a three author workshop. Every venue and every event is different. Participation in some is by invitation only. Others seek applications from authors. Each exposes me to potential new fans, but perhaps more importantly, they offer me a chance to give back to libraries and librarians.

Now that I’ve made the case for library events, how do you get in on one?
1)      Check your local library’s website, call, or talk to someone in person. Depending on the size of the library, they may have a staff member dedicated to special events. At the very least, there will be a staff member in charge of the event.
2)      Talk to other writers. Writing groups often have Yahoo loops where people share information about events. That’s how I learned about the first library event I participated in.

Have you attended a library author event? Participated in one? Are you a librarian who has hosted an event? I would love to hear your experiences and suggestions.


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great advice Catherine!
Thanks for sharing.
Good luck and God's blessings.

Maris said...

Good points. If I'm the speaker (rather than a group), I've held a drawing and given away an ARC or an early copy in a series. It's also good to have a sheet where patrons can sign up to receive a newsletter or announcement of a new book. I love library events.

Susan Oleksiw said...

This is a very clear description of how to prepare for and handle these events. I hope you have many successful events to come.

Catherine Dilts said...

Maris, thank you for mentioning a sign-up sheet. Be clear about what people can expect if they give you their contact info. If they know they'll get a newsletter once a quarter, or an announcement for your next book, they are more likely to sign up than if they fear being deluged with buy-me emails.
Thank you, Pam and Susan. And thank you to Jacqueline and Author Expressions for inviting me to your blog.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Our pleasure hosting a fellow Five Star/Cengage author!

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

Good help for beginning authors, Catherine. Libraries are my best friends.

Catherine Dilts said...

Mary, I agree!

Bonnie Tharp said...

Your book looks like fun. I love rocks. Especially geodes. Thanks for the library tips. Good stuff.