A few Sundays ago I was one of ten authors participating in a Local Author Showcase put on by our library district.
The library gal who was in charge of it also works for the Tattered Cover bookstore here in the Denver area. In her job with them she helps with author signings and she made the leap that local authors can’t/won’t pay the fees associated with bookstore events and she wanted to help us find an audience. As with all good events, everyone wins. Authors sell books and the library helps patrons find new authors while fostering goodwill with the community.
If you’re a reader or a writer, you might want to do something like this with YOUR library. As a reader, you’ll find new authors who might — just maybe — give you free books to thank you for organizing such a fabulous event. As a writer, it’s always better to do a group event with other authors. Always.
The premise is simple. She emails a basic application to interested authors – contact info, book info, synopsis and bio. She has four dates available at different library branches on Sundays in March, May, August and November. Authors are in charge of their own sales. The library district (ours covers quite a large territory, hence the four locations) advertises the event in local papers and via the library newsletters and signage, but also requires the participating authors to invite at least 25 of our nearest and dearest.
The large meeting rooms are set up to have draped tables for the authors around the perimeter, a podium in front, chairs in the center for the audience, and a table with cookies and drinks in the back. On each audience chair was a well-designed two-sided bookmark with all the book covers, a blurb for each book and our website addresses. We could set up our tables as grandly or spartanly as we wanted. Mine had books and business cards on it. The lady next to me had a display that would rival your local mall kiosk. Her props put us all to shame. Before the audience got there, we authors strolled around meeting each other, networking and trading books.
Each author was given 5 minutes to talk about their book. There were a couple of mystery writers, but the rest were all different genres – nonfiction, poetry, middle-grade, memoirs.
I was flogging my Lazy Low Cal Lifestyle Cookbook so I told the story about how a couple of friends noticed I had lost weight at the same time my daughter (in her first apartment) made a simple request for some recipes she remembered from her youth. I deadpanned, “That’s when I realized I’d been trying to kill my family with cheese.” When the audience laughed and nodded, I knew I’d sell some cookbooks. I told them all the reasons people like my cookbooks (funny, simple instructions, lazy shortcuts, exact calorie counts and serving sizes, etc). Just informal chatting about what I do, how I do it, and why they might like it.
After the authors all spoke, the book sale/signing began. Even if they didn’t buy my book, they stopped to chat. We shared stupid kitchen tricks, epic fails, talk of our children. No need to hard sell. They left clutching a bookmark with my info, my business card, and they can preview the book from the library. If they want me, they can find me.
All of our books were available for library checkout, but I sold waaay more books to this audience of about 50 than I expected. I think because it was intimate, short and not sales-y. Plus, I managed to be charming and not piss anyone off for five entire minutes. I will say, you could feel some of the air whoosh out of the room from those authors who failed to prepare and the one guy who went over his time, even though the organizer stood up and moved toward him – the classic sign to “wind it up, Bubs.” (I mean, c’mon … how hard is it to prepare a five-minute talk about you and/or your book? Sheesh.)
The event was well done and wasn’t overly complicated to organize. If you’re a reader, chat with your library and see if they’ll do something like this. And if you’re an author, do the same. If the library doesn’t want to set up an event like this, ask if you can.
The reason I think it worked so well is because of the diversity of books. A mystery lover who attends still has to cook dinner, reads memoirs, has a kid in their life who would be tickled to have an autographed book, perhaps a father who loves poetry, and a mother who devours thrillers.
At any rate, it was a fun and profitable way to spend two hours on a Sunday afternoon.
Here are some of my fellow authors and their books. They’re all on my TBR pile now! If you want YOUR library to carry these books, print or forward the information to them and ask them nicely. I bet they will. Librarians are nice like that. And just think how lovely my cookbook would look on the shelf at your library.