Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Four Types of Author Events for Promoting Your Books at Libraries (Alissa Grosso)

I worked in libraries for years, and as an author I've done a number of library events to promote my books. Library events can vary greatly in terms of format and audience size. They can be a great way to promote your books as an author, but they can also be a lot of work. As far as what to expect, well, I would say expect the unexpected, but that's not too helpful.

It really depends on the type of event. Generally, I would break author-themed library events down into four main types of events. They are:

1. Solo Author Presentations
These might be billed as a "meet the author" event or a "local author" event. For one of these events
My 2011 solo talk at Eastern Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, PA
you will be the only author there and will (hopefully) be speaking to a group of people who have come for the event. You might be talking about your experiences as an author, your journey to publication or simply sharing a sort of behind the scenes look at writing your book. You could intersperse talking about your book with doing a short reading from your book. Think about including some visuals to help engage your audience, and be prepared to answer questions from aspiring authors about how they too can get their book published.

I've done solo author talks for a good-sized audience of twenty or more people and other talks where it was me, the library director and a couple of patrons. Even though I write books for teens, at least half the events I've done at libraries, the audience was all adults.

Some events I've been standing behind a podium at the front of a large meeting room, sitting in a chair facing the assembled crowd or, especially for the smaller events, seated in a circle along with people attending the event.

2. Author Panels
If you're not a big fan of public speaking or prefer not to do a solo author event, you can partner with other authors and do a panel style discussion at a library. Sometimes libraries put together their own panel and will invite you to join in, but most of the panels I've been part of at libraries have been organized by the authors themselves.

A YA author panel at the Cranford, NJ Public Library
If you're interested in being part of a panel, you'll want to get involved with different local author promotional groups. Some groups are organized simply by region, while others are by genre. At different points in my career I've been members of both sorts of groups and met some author friends as a result.

The nice thing about doing a panel discussion, is even if you don't get an audience for your event, you won't be alone because you'll have some other authors to talk to. The other nice thing about panels is with multiple authors, there won't be any lull in the conversation, and it keeps things interesting for the audience.

3. Writing Workshops
Leading a writing workshop is a fun way to inspire aspiring authors. These participatory style events mean you won't have to do as much in the way of public speaking, but they can take a fair amount of planning.

You may have to plan different workshops depending on the age of the attendees, the length of time
Working with young writers at the Little Flower Teen Writers Festival
allotted for the program and whether or not this is a one-day event or an ongoing workshop series.

They can be a lot of fun, and if you come from a teaching background or really enjoy teaching others a writing workshop is a great way to combine your love of writing and your love of teaching.

Basing your lessons or exercises around passages from your own books is a way to squeeze in a little bit of book promotion into your event.

4. Book Fairs
Sometimes called book fairs or author fairs or perhaps book festivals or expos these events usually involve multiple authors and little to no public speaking. In most cases, you'll be sitting behind a table with your books on display in front of you.

At the Bucks County Library Author Expo in 2018
Other than perhaps making sure you have enough hard copies of your books as well as some sort of takeaway promotional item or flyer that has your name and author website on it such as sticker or bookmark, you won't have to do much in the way of planning.

Usually these book fair style events run for a few hours or more, so they may require a greater time commitment, and while you'll hopefully sell some books at the event, you probably won't be earning anything near minimum wage for your time commitment.

From my experience, those with books for children, can usually do a little bit better than those writing for adults or even teens.

Library author festivals can be a great chance to engage with readers in person, and it's so much more thrilling to sell a book directly to a customer and autograph it for them then it is to sell books to unknown internet strangers.

Closing Thoughts
While selling books at library events can be hit or miss (remember, most regular library users tend to borrow books for free from their library) they are a great way to meet and engage with your fans and potential readers. It can be a lot of fun to share your books and your passion for writing with like-minded people. Plus it will give you the chance to explore some different libraries, which is always pretty cool.

If you're looking to do a presentation or other library event, start by reaching out to your local library. Then contact other libraries around your area either by phone or by sending an email.

Besides spending a lot of time hanging out in libraries, Alissa Grosso is the author of 7 books for adults and teens, and chronicles her author life in her weekly Awkward Author vlog and podcast. Find out more about her and her books at alissagrosso.com.