Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Libraries are community service powerhouses. A peek at any library’s calendar of events reveals one tough fact: author programs are a small fraction of a library’s lineup. Patrons often shun author programs in favor of knitting classes, business improvement courses, and movie nights.
Many modern library users see libraries as one-stop community centers. Instead of checking out books, patrons use library meeting space for neighborhood groups, conduct online research on public computers connected to the Internet, or learn a new skill. They seek programs that provide the most personal value, rendering the typical author program stale.
An engaging library program still turns heads. Librarians want to feature authors who understand the importance of programming that yields value. And because librarians act as gatekeepers for their patrons, programming is another way to help readers find and enjoy new books.
Use these six tips to create engaging library programs:
Ditch 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.
Use the Three Es. Librarians are looking for programs that fulfill at least two of the Three Es: Engage, Educate, 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.
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.
Professionalism matters. 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.
Offer two programs for one. Libraries host multiple reading groups each month. When booking a program, it makes sense to ask about upcoming book club selections. In many cases, authors can propose their own titles. Reading groups enjoy meeting authors because they get an insider perspective. Offering two programs in one day casts a wider net.
By creating an engaging program portfolio, authors stand a greater chance of getting existing their work into libraries. But it doesn’t stop there. A few enthusiastic patrons can have an impact for years to come, because they request many titles ordered for the ongoing collection. It’s still one of the best ways to connect with readers and convert them into lifelong fans.
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