Thursday, December 8, 2011

Speaking at Libraries

Back in 2007, I wrote an article for the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA) for publication in their April, 2008 Signature newsletter about "Authors, Speak at Colorado Libraries!" During my November book tour, one of the stops was at the Highlands Ranch Public Library, where my tour partner, Ann Parker, and I gave a presentation. That presentation reminded me of my article, and I thought I'd pull it out, update it for 2011 and share it with you Inkspot readers. Hopefully it will be useful for authors and aspiring authors planning to speak at libraries and helpful for librarians and readers hoping to arrange for author speakers at your local libraries. Here goes!

Authors Speaking at Libraries

In the early rush before a book release when authors busy themselves setting up signing events at bookstores, conferences and other retail venues, many forget about the resources of local libraries for arranging author appearances.

Libraries bring in authors to speak to their children’s storytimes and adult/teen book clubs and writing groups, they often set up author panels or talks as part of special programs, and some library systems organize annual author showcases to expose their patrons to local authors. At many of these events, authors may be paid a small stipend (to cover travel expenses, for instance), and at most they’ll be allowed to sell their books, either directly or through a Friends of the Library organization or via an arrangement with a local bookstore. For authors, this equates to good promotion opportunities in front of the book-reading public and the likelihood of getting your books on more library shelves. For librarians, it means providing interesting programs for library patrons to attend and encouraging them to visit libraries more often.

So, how does an author go about arranging library appearances? To obtain a list of all the public library systems in your state, go to the Public Libraries website, then click on the link for your state. Those libraries with websites will have their websites listed, and you can click on the links to explore the library programs. Start with your local library, and if the setting of your book is not in your home town, check out the website for the library there. Focus on library events in those two locations first before spreading out to the rest of the state.

Storytimes, Senior Socials, Book Clubs, and Writing Groups

Search for cyclical events on the library website suited to your book, find the contact librarian’s name and phone number in the event listings, and call. Introduce yourself as a local author or someone who has a book relevant to their area. Then briefly describe your book and why you think it’s suitable for the Thursday morning children’s storytime, the monthly adult mystery book club, the biweekly senior discussion group, or whatever. Give the librarian your website address so she can research you and your title.

Do not press for a commitment at that time. Instead, give the librarian your phone number and email address, and ask him or her to contact you after he or she has had a chance to decide whether or not to accept your proposal. Then call back in a couple of weeks if you don’t hear from the librarian. Be aware that adult book clubs, in particular, will often schedule a whole year of selected readings at once. If they pick their titles for the next year in November and you call in January, you may have to wait 13-15 months for an opportunity to discuss your book with the group.

Special Events

Many of the larger urban library systems have author showcase events or conferences where local authors are invited to speak on panels, present workshops, and/or participate in a group signing event. I’ve listed some example events in my home state of Colorado below. To find out about such events, contact the library system’s Special Events Coordinator, Public Relations Manager, or someone with a similar title to ask if they have an annual author event. Obtain contact information for the committee chair, call or email that chair, and get your name on a list of interested authors. Since these events are planned months in advance, you usually need to contact the appropriate committee chair well ahead of time to have a chance to participate.

Englewood Public Library: Meet the Faces Behind the Books
Pikes Peak Library District: Mountain of Authors
Manitou Springs Library: Author Fest of the Rockies
Parker Library: Bookapalooza

Also, if your local library system is planning a Literacy Month, an All-City-Read program, or some other month-long or multi-week program to bring patrons into the libraries, you have the opportunity to design and propose a weekend or evening presentation as part of that overall event. For instance, I was one of five mystery authors who presented a panel at the Louisville, Colorado, library as part of their “Get a Clue” adult summer mystery reading program and at the Aurora, Colorado, library as part of their “Power of One Book” adult mystery reading program. A multiple author presentation is often more attractive to libraries than a single-author talk, so you may want to band together with other authors who have complimentary titles.

Helping Librarians Find You

To help a librarian looking for authors find you, you need to network in the local literary community to gain name recognition. I recommend attending a conference of your state's Association of Libraries to learn what libraries are doing in program development and to forge contacts with librarians in your state. A list of state library associations is HERE, and the Colorado association is HERE.

If your state has an author's speaker bureau (the Colorado one is HERE), make sure you create a detailed entry, listing what topics you can speak about. Lastly, network with other authors in your area to find out from them about library speaking opportunities. In Colorado, I have obtained librarian contacts from fellow members of Pikes Peak Writers and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Many of these organizations maintain their own speaker bureaus, or you can gain experience and obtain a reference to give librarians by speaking to these writing groups.

I’ve had many rewarding experiences when speaking at libraries, and I hope other authors will reach out to libraries and gain just as much from this mutually beneficial activity.


Unknown said...

Excellent information, Beth - very helpful! I have done a few library events with my nonfiction and they always bring an engaging and engaged audience. Thank you for sharing these tips.

Robin Allen said...

Great post, Beth! I've done a few library events, but you've inspired me to do more.

Darrell James said...

Beth- Libraries have a been at the heart of my public speaking agenda for a long time now. There are some great libraries out there, and excellent program directors. I love library events!

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks, Sheila, Robin, and Darrell, for your comments. I hope this post will inspire some of our author blog readers, like Robin, to do more library events.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I do a lot of library visits. It's a great way to meet readers and connect with librarians. Good post!

Deborah Sharp said...

Great tips, Beth ... I love libraries, and think that a lot of us wouldn't be writers without the time we spent in our local libraries as kids.