Andra Watkins is the author of Hard to Die (Word Hermit Press, November 1, 2016) and has written her first article for BookTrib discussing the importance of an author/library relationship.
Today’s libraries are more than book repositories. They have morphed into 21st century community centers. From business classes to art exhibits and movie nights to weddings, modern librarians juggle a staggering variety of programs. Many library users never even check out a book. Any library’s calendar of events reveals one tough fact: author programs are a small fraction of what’s offered.
So why should authors bother with library programs?
A library still serves captive groups of readers. In a world overrun with choices, library patrons rely on librarians to turn them on to new books and emerging authors. Even though author programs are no longer a library’s primary focus, authors can still offer engaging, educational, and entertaining fare to library users. A compelling program gives authors another tool to help librarians find and recommend their work.
Use these tips to build a library programming platform:
Remember the Three E’s. Librarians are looking for programs that fulfill at least two of the Three E’s: Engage, Educate, and Entertain. Where old-style author events focused on educating attendees about specific books, today’s patrons are drawn to interactive events. They want to be engaged and/or entertained.
Forget the author reading. Library users want to meet authors who can look them in the eye and light up a stage. Instead of reading behind a lectern, authors can offer inspiring programs that complement a book or find engaging ways to frame a story. By giving attendees a unique experience, a compelling program can convert passive attendees into passionate fans.
Submit a written program proposal. Librarians are bombarded with information. They don’t have time to coax program descriptions from authors. They want to work with authors who can sell them on an event. A written program proposal makes an author stand out. To be effective, a program proposal should include the following: a catchy title, a brief program description, links to program video if available, a target audience, and a stated library complement. References from fellow librarians don’t hurt, either.
Be professional. Librarians sometimes hesitate to work with authors because of a few bad experiences. Authors can’t be flakes. Librarians value a quick response to requests for additional information. They expect to have marketing materials by the due date, and they appreciate confirmation of author attendance the day before an event. Too often, librarians are stuck with a room full of patrons and an author who breezes in late. The library community is small and tight-knit. Librarians share both good and bad experiences. Cultivating a professional reputation will continue to open doors.
Make the audience feel welcome. At most library events, authors can still greet every person who comes through the door. Targeted questions quickly reveal what attracted them to an event. Audiences also like to be asked what they want an author to cover. At the beginning and end of a program, it is critical to thank everyone for coming. More than anything, attendees need to be glad they gave an author their valuable time.
Libraries still give patrons a chance to meet authors. While book signings or literary festivals give readers a chance to say a few words to an author, killer library programs offer readers a more intimate author interaction. By showing readers how much fun it is to craft a story, an author stands to convert both program attendees and librarians into passionate fans.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times bestselling author Andra Watkins wanted to major in musical theater, but her mother was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. She’s the author of four books, including Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, a 2015 National Book Award nominee and New York Times bestseller. Hard to Die is Andra’s latest novel, an afterlife story of Theodosia Burr Alston, tragic daughter of Aaron Burr and subject of the song “Dear Theodosia” from the Tony-award-winning smash Hamilton: An American Musical. Her energetic library programs have been featured at multiple libraries in SC, NC, TN, LA, IL, WI, and OR. San Diego Public Library’s acclaimed central branch featured her Make a Memory program in 2015. Programming director Erwin Magbanua called it the best adult library program he’d hosted in his career.