Interview by Lori Russell
After writing and publishing a book, an author’s attention turns to promotion. One key to creating a successful author event is matching a particular book to the right community, says Deborah Schneider, public programming coordinator for the King County Library System in Washington State. With 43 libraries and a circulation of over 19 million items per year, King County is the second busiest library system in the country. It hosts about 100 events annually for local and touring authors. Here, Schneider explains how authors can benefit by including library events in their list of promotional activities and shares her tips for creating a memorable program.
How is a reading at a library or other venue similar to or different from reading and signing books in a bookstore?
There is actually very little difference in my opinion. We work with booksellers and have an author’s book for sale at all of our events. Part of the attraction to an author program is the opportunity to have a book inscribed to you. We have great meeting rooms and can provide audio-visual equipment, such as LCD projectors for presentations.
What is the most engaging author performance you have seen and why?
Charlie Williams, aka The Noiseguy, had a book release party for his children’s book, Flush: An Ode to Toilets in one of our meeting rooms a few years ago. He and his wife decorated the room with toilet plungers, toilet paper, and even toilets with plants. They had refreshments, including a punch “bowl” ice sculpture that was a toilet. He performed two shows, and we had over 100 people. A television reporter for a local show came. They even TP’d a librarian! It was all hilarious fun. He was interviewed on the radio and that segment from Evening Magazine has been shown at least three times. It was great publicity for the book.
What are the most effective promotional strategies for inviting people to an author event?
While having a big name author with lots of holds on their books is a sure-fire way to have a successful event, not every author is on The New York Times best seller list. It takes more energy to promote an unknown author. One of the mistakes authors make is to look around a room and only count “noses” to measure the success of the event. Even the big name authors who travel the country know it’s about the publicity, not the number of books sold. Book tours are created to generate “buzz” – publicity and talk about the book and author.
There are several factors that can benefit an author in creating a successful event. Put the event on your website. Have a great publicity packet with good photos, a JPEG image of your book cover and basic publicity materials like the blurb. You can’t rely upon your publisher to do this. They can give you the cover art, and you need to make it available for promoting your program.
What should authors keep in mind if they want to engage their audience at an event?
Start by not calling it a “reading.” Most people get an image of an author standing and reading to an audience for an hour. How exciting does that sound? Instead you need to find a topic you’d like to talk about (that relates to your book), and create a program around it. If your novel is set in a specific time, you can use that as a topic of interest and draw readers because they love those kinds of books. If you take the time to develop a program, you have more to offer. You can read from your book, but find a way to set the scene and leave the audience craving more from you.
How can authors find out about events at libraries in their region and whom should they contact if they want to participate?
Libraries love having author events, but the publishers don’t often consider sending an author to a library when they are on tour. Many don’t understand that books can be sold at the event, and quite honestly, they don’t know how many millions of dollars libraries spend purchasing books every year. You can easily discover what kinds of author events your local library is offering by visiting its website. You will find our author events listed on the front page at www.kcls.org. A great resource for those who want to plan successful author events is The Author Event Primer: How to Plan, Execute and Enjoy Author Events by Chapple Langemack.
Deborah Schneider can be contacted at dschneid (at) kcls (dot) org
Lori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.