Have you visited your library lately? There is no time like the present: it’s National Library Week!
When I teach a publicity class, I often advise students to go visit their local libraries, to become familiar with how they operate, to get to know the librarians. Who is in charge of events or distributing flyers or hanging posters? How far ahead do they book events? Do they have a newsletter or blog?
But many authors I talk to see libraries as a loss leader. They think that people who take books out of the library are taking money away from them. They should buy the book instead, right?
Well, that would be lovely, in a perfect world. But how many people can afford to buy every book they read? And especially how many voracious readers can simply store all the books they read? I for one cannot.
It’s true. Someone who takes a book out of the library may be doing that in lieu of buying it. But have you considered that they also may be doing that rather than not reading it at all? I can’t tell you how many books I have checked out at the library, only to hunt them down and purchase them later. In fact, it has gotten to the point where in my book-choked house I only buy those books that I know I will like – and often this means that I have checked them out of the library first, or checked out previous books by that author and will buy the later titles.
So think of the library as a way of introducing your books to a new audience. And consider all the riches that your library has to offer. Many libraries have book clubs, run extensive programming, and will buy multiple copies of a popular title – especially of local authors. Where else besides a bookstore can you go where you are sure to find readers of all ages, simply browsing? People go to libraries for all kinds of reasons: job hunting, homework, events, story hour, or simply to read a magazine or newspaper. And they tend to spend time there.
So introduce yourself, if you haven’t already. Want to really get to know your library? Volunteer a couple of hours a week, or even just a few hours a month. I got to know my library staff by volunteering for two hours every other Friday morning. I pulled requests and shelved outgoing requests. Completely menial and requiring no training at all, but it got me into the stacks and the back room, and I know everyone who works the circulation desk now. Some of my favorite people are librarians.
And when planning events, certainly consider your library. In our fair state, there is a legislative action that provides for money for library programming, called the Legacy Amendment. We are so lucky to have it. This provides money that must be used for programming, so libraries are looking for ways to spend it. An author approaching a library with a well-thought out program will likely be able to be paid anywhere from $100 to $250 for an appearance. Many other library systems have money for programming, and it can’t hurt to ask.
When considering programming, think about your audience and what the library wants to offer its patrons. Look at what other types of programs they offer. If it’s for children, have an activity for them to do. If it is adult fiction, provide some visual aids – a slideshow at the very least, but you would sure be a hit if you could wear a costume, have music, or a little show and tell. For nonfiction, depending on what type, you might do something fun or run it more like a workshop or class.
When planning out your events, don’t forget your library!