Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Marketing with Fran: Are All Libraries Created Equal?

Marketing with Fran is a new column for this web blog written by Francine Silverman, editor of the Book Promotion Newsletter.

Cindy Vallar was living near Kansas City when her debut novel was published and a branch of the county library co-sponsored a nationally recognized Meet the Authors event with a retirement community.

Gloria Teague Shirley is an Oklahoma novelist and non-fiction author who mails press kits and inquiries about having a book signing to libraries in Oklahoma and surrounding states. If they agree, the library buys a copy and the personnel or Friends of the Library promotes the event by sending an advance notice to the local paper and arranging for the newspaper to send a photographer.

Marianne Berkes is a children’s book author and Florida resident whose promotional agenda involves visiting libraries in various states. When the library already has her books in its collection, it will often allow her to autograph them after a library presentation.

Hope Marston held a party/book signing at her local library on a Saturday morning to celebrate publication of her 25th book. She brought in a made-to-order cake and more than 100 people attended. The author lives in Black River, New York, population 1230.

Okay, but would these library promotions fly in The Big Apple with a population 8 million? As a born and bred New Yorker, I am naturally skeptical. In the Bronx, where I live, there are 34 branches out of a total of 87 under the umbrella of the New York Public Library (encompassing the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island).

Here’s what I learned talking with head librarians at the two libraries here in the Riverdale section:

* Book signings are far less common than programs and workshops since libraries are not in the business of selling books.

* Small towns without a bookstore play a different role than their big city counterparts.

* My branch libraries occasionally have talks/readings, especially by poets, young adult and children’s authors, and are not averse to having them sign their books after a presentation.

* Libraries in Manhattan are more apt to stage readings and talks by authors as indicated by the event calendar at http://www.nypl.org.

* The branch libraries do promote their events in the local press and in their monthly calendar.

* Authors are welcome to donate their books to the branch library. If approved, the book is placed on the shelves.

* Authors do not have to live in the neighborhood of the branch.

The libraries’ main focus has been on young adult and children’s books, although the emphasis is shifting away from specialization among library personnel. This year, The New York Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age” published its 76th edition. The catalogue features about 1,000 titles and not all are library books. The list is displayed year-round at the Donnell Library Center, 20 West 53rd Street in Manhattan.

In this instance, book marketing has no effect. Two of my subscribers have been on the list more than once: Jane Kurtz and Lara Zeises. Both said they had nothing to do with the selections and have no idea how the honor has impacted on sales.

During the summer, there are author chats with celebrated young adult authors at http://teenlink.nypl.org (scroll down to “Live Author Chats”).

The final word for any adult program rests with Cecil Hixon, public program librarian, Adult and Community Outreach Services. An author’s book must be in the library collection to be considered for a program. While Mr. Hixon does not rule out authors of print-on-demand books, in order for the book to be in the library it must be reviewed (pre-publication) in Publisher’s Weekly (which reviews self-published books under certain circumstances), Library Journal (yes), or Kirkus Reviews (no).

Authors wishing to present a program may reach Cecil Hixon at 212-340-0913 or email him at CHixon@nypl.org. Include the title of your program, brief description of the proposed discussion, and why you are qualified to give the talk. Although an author may propose a particular branch library for the program, there is no guarantee.

If you live elsewhere, your chances of conquering your local library are much greater and it's an avenue worth pursuing. Subscriber Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning author, college instructor, columnist and book reviewer. In her book, The Frugal Book Promoter (Star Publish 2004), Carolyn touts libraries as a major promotional market. “For the purpose of marketing, getting your book into libraries helps generate the buzz an author seeks,” she writes. “Find out what your publisher does to alert library acquisitions departments and supplement those efforts. You can do a better job than your publisher at promoting your book at libraries located near your home.”

-- Francine Silverman is editor/publisher of Book Promotion Newsletter, a bi-weekly ezine for authors of all genres, and author of Book Marketing from A-Z (Infinity Publishing 2005), a compilation of the best marketing strategies of 325 authors from all over the English-speaking world. Web: http://www.bookpromotionnewsletter.com.
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