Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Library Programs for Authors

Tip of the Day: don't forget about your library's Summer Reading Programs. You might get some fun prizes just for reading!

Summertime is always a busy programming time at my library, and since I book a lot of authors and other performers for my library, I thought it might be helpful to go over some program suggestions if you are looking to make extra money as an author.

Not every program as an author has to be about selling books. Sometimes you can just earn extra money doing school visits or library programs. Most libraries have Friends groups that help provide thousands of dollars worth of programming for their local communities.

I think many authors have this assumption that they can't make money doing library programs and from my experience that couldn't be further from the truth.

Here are some of my tips if you are interested in pursuing this further:

1.) Make all your marketing materials professional looking and don't be afraid to send libraries a sheet of the programs you offer or even an email. We get them ALL the time and are used to it. The more professional they look, the better. You are competing for programming funds against magicians, singers, jugglers, etc. that travel around to libraries for a living. Some of them do up to 200 shows a year and are used to marketing heavily to libraries. It's a much bigger business than I think a lot of people are aware of.

2.) Just because you are an author, doesn't mean you only have to offer programs about writing. If you are comfortable branching out, you might be able to get more of an audience. Do you have something interesting about your book? Maybe it's a book on cupcakes, could you offer a tea and cupcake party with an author program? Or if your book has a singing component, you could actually perform if you are able. The added bonus that you are an author will help sell it, but the more interesting the program the more likely you are to have libraries want to bring you in. Which brings me to...

3.) Give all of your programs a clever name (having more than one-type of program is nice too) and make sure you give prices. If I have a clever name to sell it to my patrons then I'm more interested. And I don't want to waste my time emailing someone or calling them to get their price information, only to find out they are way out of my budget. If you want to work with people, you can always put in your materials that you are willing to work with schools or libraries that might be more financially strapped. But be realistic about how much you charge too and you are likely to book more libraries.

4.) Even if you write books for teenagers, it doesn't mean you might not have a cool program  you can give for kids. Kids are by far the largest audience in libraries. Even though this would be awesome to change, it still remains a fact that most librarians will spend more money on children's programs because they bring in many more people than other programs. So if you can gear anything to kids, even a hands-on kid friendly writing program or something like that, it will help. Just think big, broad, and creative.

5.) Try not to charge mileage if you can. Work it into your price, so we can just pay you a lump sum. If you have to limit that to a certain radius of where you live, then that's fine. But if you can work it out to do several library visits at once, then try that, so that way everyone benefits. Libraries are used to working with authors or performers on getting discounts by setting up programs on the same day or a day apart.

If you are curious how much authors charge, you should be able to find sheets like this online. But I will say on average, in my area (the Midwest) most authors charge between $200-$400 for an hour program. For some authors I would pay that, but for others I won't. Now for New York Times best selling authors, it's more like the top end of that and higher just for a Skype visit. There are also many local authors that will do library programs for free. And to be honest, I usually feel more secure when I'm paying even a small amount to an author. On top of that, our Friends group usually sells books for the authors too or some of them do take care of that, depending on what type of books they are.

School visits are usually far more money than that, but then you do three to four times the programs in one day.

For some people this is enough for them to plan programs. For others they would much rather be writing. But if you want to be a full-time author, just don't forget there are other options out there to supplement book sales. And libraries are always open to the possibilities of authors doing programs. But if I don't know you offer library programs, the chances are pretty good that I'm not going to go to your website or look you up to double check. So if you want to do this, you need to market directly to libraries. I would say on average, I get between 50-75 mailers, phone calls, or emails a year related to those that offer library programs (that is not including all the talk on list-serves from other librarians on programs they have liked...it's just cold calls or mailings). So I'm used to people trying to sell their stuff and don't mind at all.

So do any of you do library visits? Or school visits?

--Emily, Miss Querylicious


Kate Fall said...

This is fantastic information, Emily. Definitely something I hope to use in the future!

Megg Jensen said...

I facilitate a teen writers group at my library once a month. They offered to pay me ... but I turned the money down.

I'm a member of Friends, and I know how hard it is for us to raise money. I couldn't stomach taking any money away from Friends or my library.

I haven't branched out to other libraries, but if I did I'm sure I would charge something. It was just really important for me to give back to a community that has given so much to me. :D

Carmella Van Vleet said...

Thanks so much for the great insight! I learned a lot.

Lisa Schroeder said...

I haven't tried to market to libraries and you suddenly make me want to! Thanks for the great information!!
I'm going to think around this and hopefully get something ready to go for next year.

Kristina Springer said...

Great great post Emily! I know tons of authors have a hard time figuring out what to charge for visits and a lot of times people who are asking for visits are hoping to get them for free or very cheap and it's just not feasible for most authors. I'll do free ones if it's local but it's not worth it to travel, get babysitting, and spend hours of planning to go do a free event.

Emily Marshall said...

Megg, I think it's great you want to give back to the community. We do get some of that as well, and always appreciate it!

But I will say that I've worked at five different libraries now, and we all spend a good chunk of money on programming a year. I've been very lucky that the Friends groups that I've worked with pull in a great deal of money from book sales and the community in general has been extremely generous with donating books to sell at these sales. So I've always had a healthy programming budget, merely because that has been important in the communities. But I am choosy about who I bring in, and try to make sure it's someone the community would like. So the more professional the person the better, and we always love authors. But authors that have a "hook" of some kind or easier to get attendance then just advertising a "book talk" or "author visit."

Emily Marshall said...

Lisa, you should totally try to market to libraries. They would love you! Since you've been on Quick Pick lists too, you'd be at an advantage already.

Emily Marshall said...

Tina, I think that's the trick. If you contact them, strangely they are usually more willing to pay you. Sometimes it's feasible to do it, but other times it's not. You can to do what works for you!

And Kate and Carmella, hopefully you'll get to do library programs eventually too! I know I'm looking forward to it and already have several unique ideas related to my books specifically. But I think planning programs for so long, I couldn't help but think of something.