The publication of your book definitely deserves some celebration. There’s no better way to do that than a book event where you can sign books, meet your readers face-to-face, and take a bunch of photos for your social media.
Maybe it’s not your first thought, but a local library can be a perfect event venue for an author to host a book event. Public libraries love supporting their local authors. If you haven’t spent any time at your local library, that is your first step. Head on over, and just check it out. I’m very lucky because my library, the Summerlin Library in Las Vegas, Nevada, has an enormous events venue, plenty of breakout rooms, and an amazing group of librarians who are eager to help patrons and authors alike. But not every local library has the space, staff, or inclination to host events, so check out your local location first to see what they have on the go already and what space they have available for events.
Once you’ve confirmed there’s space and that the location hosts author events, you have a little work to do, but it’s not as daunting as it might feel at first. There are really six main steps you need to take to make the event happen:
Step One: Research
You need to know your library, what they like to have for programs, their past themes, and figure out if you and your book have a tie-in. Most libraries have an event and activity calendar right on their website, so check it out to see if there’s anything listed that can relate to your book, genre, or expertise. You may not know this, but many libraries actually host weekly or monthly book clubs. Now, they often revolve around a certain topic, and that topic might be a perfect fit for your book. Libraries also hold events to coincide with holidays, awareness months, or other celebrations. Some libraries even have things like creative-writing workshops in November for NaNoWriMo, or they might have a panel discussion in January for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or some other thing to celebrate an awareness or special month. So, check it out.
Step Two: Plan
What kind of event will you host? Authors often default to hosting typical readings and book signings, but it doesn’t have to be just that. Sometimes you can teach a workshop, host a full-on book-launch party, have your book included in a book club, create a panel with fellow authors to make it a meet and greet and Q&A session. Just keep in mind your goals and resources, as well as the capacity and interest of the local library.
Once you’ve decided on your event, it’s time to put together a plan. You don’t have to map out every little detail, but it helps to have a general outline, a summary of the event, the costs, a list of any supplies that you need, the expected length and agenda, the number of people you’d expect to attend, and of course, your marketing plans.
Step Three: Pitch
Take a look at the library’s website and find which librarian you need to contact. For nonfiction books, your best bet is probably the adult services or programming librarian. There’s often a youth services librarian who specifically handles children’s and young adult books as well. When in doubt, just reach out to the library. Even better, go in. I’ve always found the librarians to be so helpful when you’re there in person. You can always reach out to the reference librarian in particular. If you’re not going in physically to chat with your librarian, I’d send an email introducing yourself, sharing a bit about your book, and then putting one or two sentences together on what you’re planning. Then if the librarian decides it’s a good fit, you can sort out the details after that, probably by phone or even walking in and introducing yourself.
Step Four: Prepare and Promote
You got the green light? Okay! That means it’s time to get ready, get prepped, and promote. Spreading the word is vital to this event’s success. Libraries, mostly, will put up a poster. They might have a newsletter, so they might put something in the email as well. But, really, you need to hop onto your social media and start promoting it. You need to tell your friends and family. If you’re part of any associations, get their help to spread the word. Don’t do it once either. Post regular reminders until the event. And if you have an email newsletter list, use it. Reach out and let everyone know about upcoming festivities. You can even potentially get posters printed and put them up at your local coffee shop, your gym, or any place that you frequent. Those things could be great because this is a local event celebrating a local author.
It’s also worth noting that you should check to see if the library allows food or drinks. Many of them will allow you to have some refreshments in an event room, so you can plan for that if it’s an option. When I held an event at my local library, I partnered with a new pretzel shop in town. I had them bake some fresh pretzels, and the shop representatives came to the event and handed out a promo card with every pretzel. They charged me next to nothing for the pretzels because of the promotional opportunity, my readers got a treat hot out of the oven, and everyone enjoys hearing what an author has to say when their stomachs are happy! If you do this, make sure your promotional partner is sharing invitations too! And definitely send out reminders the day before to everyone (including the librarian you’re working with) so that everything is ready to go!
Step Five: Execute
Now, it seems obvious, but remember to bring copies of your book to sell and sign. This means you need to make sure you’ve placed the book order with IngramSpark at least two to three weeks in advance so that you’ve got the books in hand for the event.
If you’re going to have any banners or other branded material for your book, order them at least two weeks in advance. We use BoothPop, but there are almost always great local print shops that can do short notice tablecloths, table banners, signs, or other pop-up stands that will help you brand yourself and your book. When the day arrives, get there early to set up as needed. Make sure you’ve got Sharpies for signing your books, a way to take payments for your book (cash box with receipts, or stripe or square payment options), and a sign-up sheet so people can join your author email newsletter.
Greet everyone as they arrive. And don’t forget to introduce yourself before the event kicks into gear. Some attendees might know you, but others might not. Remember, you’re not just there to promote your book, this is a perfect opportunity to create connections that have the potential to do more than sell some books. Ideally, have a friend at the book table for you helping to sell books and hand out materials that you might have for this event. After the event wraps up, let them know that you’re signing books, and give attendees the chance to approach you directly with questions or comments.
Step Six: Recognize
There’s a good chance that the library probably won’t charge you for their event space. And they almost always buy a copy of your book to add to their bookshelves. Your library deserves all the love, so make sure they get it. Thank and recognize the librarian in person right after your event, and let them know that you’d be interested in events in the future. And, of course, post pictures and a happy note on their social media with your gratitude for their hospitality. Local libraries can be a great promotional partner for authors to sell books, build connections, and build their impact in their local market. Be sure to check out your local library, support their events, and use it to sell your book!