Thursday, September 22, 2005


In the wide wide world of self-promotion, what role do libraries play?

A significant one, I believe.

I do perhaps two dozen library events a year. Sometimes the crowd is large. Sometimes only a few people show up. Sometimes they pay me a lot of money. Sometimes I just receive a warm thank you. Sometimes I bring my own books and sell a bunch. Sometimes a bookseller attends the event and only sells a single Whiskey Sour paperback. But I never feel my time has been wasted.

Every library I've visited has publicized the event somehow, whether it's just a mention on their website and newsletter, or a flyer campaign, or even cable TV and radio spots.

Some of my biggest, most enthusiastic fans are librarians.

About 1/5 of all of the email I receive from fans are from people who have discovered me in a library.

There are over 10,000 libraries in the United States. Some of them have ordered as many as fifty copies of my hardcovers.

I've never been treated poorly at a library; they're always happy to have me.

Library events, unlike bookstore events, aren't dependent on sales to be successful. As a result, they're always more fun.

Last weekend I conducted a writing workshop at the main library branch in Rockford, IL. The turnout was decent---about 20 people. Some of them bought books. Some of them showed up just to meet me, because they were fans. All of them were nice people, and a pleasure to meet.

Yesterday I did a half hour conference call with a book group that meets at a library in Akron, OH. It was too much fun, and I didn't even have to shower beforehand.

I have author friends who don't bother with libraries, because they don't feel it's worth their time and effort. That's crazy.

Libraries are the hubs of many communities. When promoting, writers must be ambassadors, spreading good will, recruiting a fan base. It isn't always about selling a lot of books. Sometimes it's about getting your face and name out there. Libraries are a perfect venue for this.

For one of Lawrence Block's book tours he visited libraries exclusively. He considered the tour very successful.

These reasons, and more, are why I devote a lot of time and energy to library events. And starting next month, I'm also devoting a lot of money to libraries as well.

In October, another author and I will be sending out several thousand personal letters to libraries. Most libraries order books through distributor catalogs, patron requests, and by reading industry mags like PW, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal. By targeting these libraries directly, we're hoping to stand out amoung the 250,000 other books published every year, and improve our sales to this larget market.

Is it worth investing a few grand? Time will tell. I'll keep you posted, and supply more details as this crystalizes.


Mary Louisa said...

Joe, a question about your library campaign: what exactly is the purpose of your letter? Are you explicitly asking the libraries to buy your books?

Anonymous said...

I tend to enjoy the library talks, even if they're not huge sellers. A huge chunk of my childhood was happily spent in libraries and even though I tend to spend more time in bookstores than libraries these days, I still love the thought of all those books--and they're free. Supporting your libraries is a donation to your Good Karma Bank, whether you sell books or not.

Mark Terry

Paul Pennyfeather said...

Mr. Konrath,

Thank you for your kind comments on libraries and librarians. We've come a long way since Raymond Chandler spoke of the "rental library swindle." But he was always a little touchy about his sales, thinking (rightly) that he should be more popular. I'm going to link to your wonderful post on my library blog:


Other librarians should read your thoughtful comments.

BTW -- I'm two-thirds through WHISKEY SOUR; it's the best crime novel I've read in a long time. Keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...

Sorry I missed your visit to the library. I was unable to get away from work. While working with a few "street teams" for some of my favorite musicians, I brought up the library angle and everybody thought it was great. If I read a book from the library and I want to read it again, I will buy it. If I love it and can't wait to read the next book by that author, I will buy it and anxiously stalk Borders until it is on the shelf. I've found some of my favorite authors by happening across them at a library. Good luck, Joe.

By the way, I'm half way through Bloody Mary and contemplated staying up all night to finish. You rock!


Anonymous said...

I can back up your claim to the library as a hub. I'm a publisher's sales rep and I work with libraries of all kinds, schools, colleges and public libraries as well. I find that anytime an author is willing to come to them they will go out of their way to make you feel welcome. I've personally seen the positive effects of authors at libraries and besides the sales aspect, it shows people that the authors are real people like themselves. Keep up the great work, started Wiskey Sour and enjoy it quite a lot.

JD Rhoades said...

I think libraries are a huge boon to first-time writers, especially those in hardcover. Not many people are willing to plunk down 20+ bucks for somebody they've never heard of, but they'll check the book out from the library. If they like it, they may very well plunk down the cash for book #2.