I asked one of my Facebook writer groups if they had suggestions for topics on our writing advice blog. One of them asked “How does one approach a library for a book signing?” I thought it was a perfect topic! So first thing’s first, I went to my boss, Joan Brinkley, the director of Goshen County Library and we put our heads together to bring you this article.
That’s the first thing you as an author want to do. Figure out the name of the director of the library you’re going to query. The director of a library is the head librarian. You’ll sound a lot savvier if you use their name and job title rather than calling the library and asking “May I speak to the head librarian?”
Joan prefers phone calls (I prefer emails but no one cares because I’m not the director). When you call a library, after you know the name and job title of the person you want to talk to, the next thing you need to be ready with is your elevator pitch. All bosses are busy. You need to be able to make someone want to read your book in the time it takes to ride in an elevator with them. If they want more information, great! Just keep it concise. Joan admitted one of the most annoying things an author can do is keep her on the phone for too long. We’re all very excited you got your book published! Truly! But keeping the director on the line for an hour and a half will not buy you brownie points.
Just after I tell you to simmer down here’s another thing Joan stressed: BE CONFIDENT. To quote Joan herself “You’ve already spent years putting it together. Since it’s published it’s already gone through a lot of editing and criticism. Be excited about your book so we can be excited too.”
If you’re like me and you hate phone calls with all that is within your soul emails are also acceptable. Just make sure that your email has a hyperlink to your website, your contact information, a summary about your book, and any other information you want us to know about you or your book. One of the most annoying ways to contact a library is just messaging their social media with a link to your book on Amazon and nothing else. Don’t do that but with an email! But do an email. You don’t want to just message the Facebook page (or whatever platform you’re on) because you never know who’s actually going to get it. It’s probably not going to be the director. (In our establishment it comes to me, the web manager.) But again: Make sure your email has a hyperlink to your website, your contact information, a summary about your book, and any other information you want us to know about you or your book.
Joan and I agree it’s best to do book tours. You schedule two or three book signings in a row in towns near each other. For instance, you have one in Scottsbluff, then you come here, then Niobrara County Library. Sometimes, no matter what you do people just won’t come out. It’s okay. That’s why it’s nice to have the next one ready to go so you can just have better luck in the next town.
Once you’ve got the book signing the next thing is to prepare a presentation. At the very least a spiel! I’ve had— I’m not saying it to sound cool, I’ve literally lost track— over 10 book signings. Every library and every event is different. Some want you to do an entire presentation, some want you to sit in the corner and look pretty, and some want to involve you in some bigger project. (In Rapid City the local teens and I got to play with typewriters for NaNoWriMo!) I carried around a folding poster board for a year. There were a lot of places where bringing it out just wasn’t useful or helpful. So from that I learned, always have a backup plan! You can always be cooler than me too and have a power point presentation. Just be prepared to carry a laptop and a projector, and know how to use it. The only thing with tech is that it glitches. So, again. Have that backup plan.
All in all, if you never ask the answer is always “no”. Be polite, and personable, make us love your book as much as you love it, and have a plan.