How to be the Author that Librarians Love
Many authors (especially children’s authors), do school and public library visits for a fee. A successful visit can increase your sales and visibility. Even if you have only six little kids sitting in front of you and you think you are wasting your time, if you impress the Librarian it will be worth your while. That Librarian will tell all the other libraries in the area about how great your program was, which will encourage the other libraries to pick up your book.
If your book is in most libraries, it is getting in front of more people, people who are potential buyers. Librarians from one area will share great reads with librarians and readers from other areas via blogs, Goodreads, websites and reviews.
If you do not impress the Librarian…well. Not so much. So, how do you get in the good graces of your host?
- Don’t overcharge. The price that seems perfectly reasonable when you are visiting a school could be half of a public library’s program budget. Remember that the Librarian is choosing an author when she could have a magician or juggler.
- Plan ahead. When it comes to winter programs, I book a month an a half in advance. For summer, I book most of my events by mid-April.
- Be prepared. Know what your requirements are and find out if the library has the equipment or you need to bring it in, like computers, projectors, easels.
- Keep in contact. Shoot off an email the day before the event, saying you’re all set.
- Don’t be a diva. The Librarian is not your servant, nor is she required to buy supplies for an event she is paying you for. Do not make disparaging remarks about her library or the turn-out of the event. Adapt to strange lay-outs and locations.
- Have copies of your work. Most libraries will let you hand-sell books to sign, but are not able to buy copies on the spot themselves.
- Self-published authors are a hard sell. I know, it isn’t fair, but there has been way too much dreck out there. We will buy local history, but it’s much easier to have a blanket policy of not buying self-published works than to evaluate quality on a case by case basis. You will have to convince the Librarian your work is high quality.
- Give the library something. It does not necessarily have to be your book, it could be bookmarks or a signed cover. Something that can be displayed for long after you leave would be excellent.
- Plan for multiple ages. School visits are very straightforward because you have an age-sorted, predefined captive audience. Public libraries rely on the general public, which is unpredictable even with a sign-up sheet. You might get an audience ranging from age 2 to age 80.
- Entertain. Try to capture what is fun about your book or the creative process. Interact with the audience, show pictures, answer questions and try to bring across why your book is special.
I’m sure I could poll my fellow librarians and give you some horror stories about authors who didn’t follow these guidelines. Authors who forgot to show up. Authors who expected libraries to provide something they didn’t own. Authors who were rude to the audience or the librarian. Don’t be one of those authors, because the positive feedback of librarians is valuable.