In the wide wide world of self-promotion, what role do libraries play?
A significant one, I believe.
I do perhaps two dozen library events a year. Sometimes the crowd is large. Sometimes only a few people show up. Sometimes they pay me a lot of money. Sometimes I just receive a warm thank you. Sometimes I bring my own books and sell a bunch. Sometimes a bookseller attends the event and only sells a single Whiskey Sour paperback. But I never feel my time has been wasted.
Every library I've visited has publicized the event somehow, whether it's just a mention on their website and newsletter, or a flyer campaign, or even cable TV and radio spots.
Some of my biggest, most enthusiastic fans are librarians.
About 1/5 of all of the email I receive from fans are from people who have discovered me in a library.
There are over 10,000 libraries in the United States. Some of them have ordered as many as fifty copies of my hardcovers.
I've never been treated poorly at a library; they're always happy to have me.
Library events, unlike bookstore events, aren't dependent on sales to be successful. As a result, they're always more fun.
Last weekend I conducted a writing workshop at the main library branch in Rockford, IL. The turnout was decent---about 20 people. Some of them bought books. Some of them showed up just to meet me, because they were fans. All of them were nice people, and a pleasure to meet.
Yesterday I did a half hour conference call with a book group that meets at a library in Akron, OH. It was too much fun, and I didn't even have to shower beforehand.
I have author friends who don't bother with libraries, because they don't feel it's worth their time and effort. That's crazy.
Libraries are the hubs of many communities. When promoting, writers must be ambassadors, spreading good will, recruiting a fan base. It isn't always about selling a lot of books. Sometimes it's about getting your face and name out there. Libraries are a perfect venue for this.
For one of Lawrence Block's book tours he visited libraries exclusively. He considered the tour very successful.
These reasons, and more, are why I devote a lot of time and energy to library events. And starting next month, I'm also devoting a lot of money to libraries as well.
In October, another author and I will be sending out several thousand personal letters to libraries. Most libraries order books through distributor catalogs, patron requests, and by reading industry mags like PW, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal. By targeting these libraries directly, we're hoping to stand out amoung the 250,000 other books published every year, and improve our sales to this larget market.
Is it worth investing a few grand? Time will tell. I'll keep you posted, and supply more details as this crystalizes.