When preparing to release a book, many authors turn to blogs, social media, and their online platform to get the word out. Others turn to more traditional media or to their established speaking platform. All of these play an important role in a book launch.
Another sometimes overlooked resource for getting the word out about a new book, however, is your local library.
When T. S. Poetry Press published On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts in October 2014, my coauthor, Ann Kroeker, and I tapped into our longstanding history of supporting local libraries as part of a book marketing strategy. And even now, 18 months after the release of our book, we are still riding the library circuit, which means more books sales, a growing contact list, and the opportunity to give back to libraries that have meant so much to us over the years.
Here are 9 ways to help you connect with more readers through local libraries.
1. Start with the library in your own town
Libraries thrive on local connections for programming, and most librarians will be glad to get to know a local author.
2. Review the library calendar
There may be events already planned that you could participate in. Ann and I were featured in my local library’s monthly “Lunch and Learn” program. Because it is an ongoing event, the program director is always looking for new speakers. Also, three libraries in central Indiana hosted local author book fairs that Ann and I participated in. During one of those book fairs, the library was featuring a mini-workshop track for writers. I offered myself as a speaker and was paid for my 30-minute presentation. Especially for larger libraries, participating in a preplanned event provides a good introduction to who you are and what you can offer.
3. Always ask to set up a book table at your event
While some libraries have paid us an honorarium to speak, at other times we agreed to come for “free” as long as we were allowed to sell books. This created a win-win-win situation for the library, patrons, and us. It also gave the library more flexibility for bringing us in since they didn’t need to find room in their budget.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask to be paid for your speaking services
Especially for a program that offers information beyond a simple book launch event, most libraries we’ve worked with have a programming budget and are looking for qualified speakers to hire.
5. Offer a program, not just yourself
While your goal may be to sell books, the library is interested in providing programs that will appeal to their patrons. Using the topic of your book as a starting point, come up with an idea that fits the culture of your library and pitch an entire program. For a children’s book, you might offer a story hour with a craft; for a novel or memoir, you could develop a program based on the setting or key theme from your book. For nonfiction, you could present a how-to session based on your book’s topic. According to Ann, some libraries in her area even offer a catalog of courses that patrons can pay to attend over a few weeks. The topic of your book may position you as an expert presenter to teach such a course.
6. Use your experience at the library in your town to help you connect with other libraries in the area
That’s the experience Ann and I had in central Indiana. Once we booked our first event, other librarians were more open to having us at their facilities because we had been “vetted.” Also, encourage friends to recommend you as a speaker in their libraries. At least one of our events resulted from a friend of Ann’s putting in a good word for us with her librarian.
7. Let people know about your events through your various platform channels
When Ann and I offer a library event, one of us usually sends a press release to the local newspaper. Several times, those events have been picked up by editors, especially in smaller communities where we have a personal connection. Also, create a Facebook event or share the library’s own Facebook event and invite friends within driving distance to join you. The more interest your event garners, the more likely you will be invited back. That’s been our experience.
8. Consider the potential of getting your book placed in libraries throughout the country
Ann discovered that most libraries have a simple procedure for patrons to request a book be added to their collection. Some even have an online form, though recommendations usually must come from registered patrons. Recruit local friends and those from other cities and states to request your book at their libraries. This allows you to sell a few more books but also makes your book available to a wider audience. Some libraries may have policies about which publishers they purchase books from, and unfortunately self-published books may not always make the cut. But don’t be afraid to ask.
9. Consider donating a copy of your book to your local library
Of course donating a book is the opposite of a sale, but it may help you find a new reader. And who knows, maybe that reader will eventually buy a copy of the book for her own collection or as a gift for a friend. It will also be a good way for you to support your local library. And what’s good for your local library, is good for reading, for authors, and ultimately for you.
Photo by Anna Rum, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Originally published at Tweetspeak Poetry on March 31, 2016.