Friday, May 29, 2009

Library Program Tips from RWA's 2009 Librarian of the Year

Welcome Deborah!

Deborah Scchnieder creates publicity for programs for 44 libraries in the King County (WA) Library System, the 2nd busiest in the U.S.) and promotes about 100 author events every year.
  • AND her second novel Promise Me, an historical romance, is due out from The Wild Rose Press.
  • AND she's been named RWA's 2009 Librarian of the Year!
  • AND she'll be accempting her award and present a two-hour workship at the annual RWA Conference in DC in July.
So, here'a a preview:
Besides taking your librarian to lunch, what’s the best way to approach your local library to pitch a program, get some publicity, and hopefully sell books?

Most librarians don't have time to lunch with authors, (we're not agents or editors and library staff is spread very thin these days). Many authors call me to pitch a program, but to be honest they do it all wrong. They usually call it a "reading" and that makes me think they'll come to the library, read out loud from their book and let the audience ask questions.
That's a pretty boring program. I encourage authors to think about presenting a program, that is -- something specific around the research for the book, the setting, the premise or even a writing workshop. I want a program that is different and unique. I have to convince patrons to come in to the library after they get home from work, so they want more than the bookstore version of an author event.

What do you want to see in a print and/or online media packet?

I honestly wish more authors would create an on-line media packet. That should have several descriptions of their book, (long and short), the blurb for publicity, several versions of a jpeg cover, (at least 300 dpi) and a great headshot. There should also be an excerpt on their webpage. And speaking of webpages, I'm not impressed by Flash graphics, music or all the interesting stuff folks try. If you're a video game developer, then your website should be flashy, but as an author -- get to the important information. My biggest pet peeve is an opening that makes me wait and click to get to the homepage. I'm a VERY busy person, and I want information not entertainment. Music also makes me crazy, as I work in an open design office. I have to keep my earphones plugged in all the time to avoid shocking my co-workers with a blast of music.

Can an author sell books at a library event? How does that work?

We always try to have books for sale at author events, because our patrons want to buy books and have them signed. We allow an author to bring their own for sale, or we try to arrange for a bookseller to bring a supply. This is usually for bigger, better known authors, as bookstores don't have a lot of extra staff to send out in the evening for events. Our only rule is that library staff cannot be involved in book sales. In a few cases our Friends of the Library members have arranged to have a supply of books and they sell them. Usually they keep 10% of the sales. We do not ask for any portion of the sales when a bookstore or author is handling the sales.

What the best way for the library and the author to work together to promote an event?

In my case, give me all the information I need right away. I'm trying to promote a debut author right now, but he sent his bookcover image inside a Word document, (not as a jpeg as I requested). I've waited a week now to put his information on our Meet the Author page on the library website, (we get over 2 million hits per month). He's hurting himself by not responding. Overall, that's the biggest problem when I work with authors, they don't respond to my requests. I can't submit a request to our graphics department to create flyers either, so again -- the clock is ticking and he's losing promotional opportunities.

I'm also shocked when I visit an author's website and they haven't updated it with the library program information. Use all the free access, (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter if you must) to tell other folks where you'll be and what you'll be talking about. Also, create a program that is interesting.

Give us an example of a great romance author program held at one of your libraries?

Recently we had an event called, "Romance Extravaganza" and we had an entire day devoted to romance. We partnered with the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America chapter, and they had their monthly meeting at our Covington Library. Then we had a major author as our keynote speaker, Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz. This was followed by a booksigning with 6 authors, and then panel discussions. We had over 145 people attend that day. You can see photos of the event on my blog at

Any other advice you’d like to offer?

Too many authors only consider the attendance at a program as a sign of success, instead of reviewing all the publicity efforts that happen around an author event. We always see "holds" go up when we feature an author event, and that can signal a "buy" for the collection. I'm truly surprised when authors don't ask for copies of flyers, bookmarks, posters, etc. after a program, because they can send these to their editor or publicist.

For more tips visit Deborah’s blog, attend her RWA program, or look for the CD after the conference.

Thanks Deborah for visiting and best of luck with Promise Me.


  1. Amber: Thank you for posting this interview. Deborah Schneider provided some valuable information and insight for us authors. I would also like to mention what a fantastic building the downtown Seattle library is. I took a 2 hour tour of it last year and it was definitely a highlight of my visit to that wonderful city.

  2. Every library and every library system is different.
    All authors need to get to know their local libraries and
    librarians, hopefully before your book is in print.
    Do your research. Visit the library and check out some of
    their programs. Notice what promos are in the newspaper for
    Then go to the right person and present your ideas and what
    you will do to promo the event.
    In some ways it's just like a bookstore. A library wants
    good publicity and some new customers.

  3. Interesting and eye opening post and I have to say, love the beautiful cover to your book.

  4. Amber,

    Thanks for this interview.


    I learned a lot interesting info from you, and I'll definitely keep it in mind. The author you were trying to help was rude for not getting back to you. Of course, there could be a reason, and hopefully he'll explain.

  5. Thanks Suzy, I agree it's a beautiful building, but not part of our library system. Seattle Public Library is inside the city of Seattle and we are in the county outside. But that's why King County is considered such a literate place, we have wonderful libraries and lots of them!

    Thanks Tory for the comment about my cover. I confess, I think it's beautiful too. The cover artist really captured the idea of the story, with my poor, sad Widow Wainwright and the gorgeous scenery of Montana.

    Amber is right, every library is different and you need to pay attention to events and attend some. I'm shocked at how many authors don't think to attend programs given by other authors, and most important - different genres than what they write. You can learn a lot from attending a program.

    Sandy, I don't think that author had a very good reason for holding things up, (he was waiting for his contract, but had also neglected to give me a mailing address), but we talked things over and I am hiring him to do some programs this fall. I do give people a second chance.

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