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An Author’s 10 Commandments of Library Presentations

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It’s fun and profitable to talk about your books at libraries. Librarians and library patrons are book lovers, so they make a fantastic audience. These programs can have a multiplier effect, but they require a lot of behind-the-scenes work to assure success.I was recently invited to make a presentation about mystery writing and my new paperback mystery, Duped by Derivatives, at the Tuckahoe Library in New York. Thanks to a lot of work on my part as well as on the part of a wonderful group of librarians, the program was well attended and well received. In the process of thinking about what made it so successful, I’ve come up with “The 10 Commandments of Library Presentations.” OK, they’re not set in stone, but listen up anyway. Thou shalt:Commandment #1. Arrange the date of the presentation at least two months in advance to provide enough time for planning, advertising, and promoting the event. The idea is to get your name and the titles of your books out there for as many people as possible to see.Commandment #2. Meet with the librarian beforehand to provide lots of information about your work and to discuss the various ways in which the clientele of the library will be best served at the event.Commandment #3. Plan for some local publicity in the weeks before the library presentation. I appeared on two local cable TV shows in the week preceding the library program and was able to talk about my planned appearance at the library. In addition, thanks to an astute librarian who sent out the press releases, an announcement of the program appeared in a number of outlets in the local media and was even chosen as a “Best Bet” by The Journal News, a local Gannett paper in Westchester.Commandment #4. Find out if the program can be videotaped. My program was and then the taped presentation appeared a number of times on local cable. There are lots of benefits: free publicity, new fans, and the opportunity to see yourself and critique your performance. For me, that meant Yikes! Did I really say “um” that many times?Commandment #5. Visit some local bookstores and make sure they have plenty of your books in stock. If you get the opportunity and it seems appropriate, you may want to give a plug to the stores that carry your books.Commandment #6. Arrive early on the day of the program to check out the lectern, meet the videographer, get comfortable with the microphone, and mingle with the audience. This will boost your confidence and enhance your ability to do a good job.Commandment #7. Provide a program that will entertain as well as inform. Formats vary, but I usually plan on a fairly short talk. Be sure to include something very current, even if you’re recycling some materials from previous talks! Also, allow plenty of time for questions from the audience. Sometimes an activity (you can make it an “elastic” ending) is fun too.In my program, I spoke about how to come up with a plot for a mystery novel, and I suggested that it’s good to begin with newspaper articles. The audience gave it a try. I distributed copies of a short article from the newspaper about a transplant patient who died, supposedly because of a clerical mix-up in organ delivery. But could it have been murder? We took a short break, and then audience members offered different scenarios about how this death could be worked into a mystery plot. Maybe the butler did it! Probably not, but we enjoyed discussing the possibility of a variety of suspects.Commandment #8. Stay around and chat with members of the audience after the program. The Tuckahoe Library very kindly provided punch and cookies for a little post-program social. It was very collegial.Commandment #9. Check with the librarians about how they might help you publicize your book to a larger library community. In my case, since I was a local author, the Tuckahoe librarian was willing to fax information about my book and me to a central source available to all librarians in the entire Westchester Library System. A huge market!Commandment #10. While all is fresh in your mind, take the time to create a file for each program that you do. Fill it with everything associated with the program-flyers produced by the library, steps you took to get publicity, announcements in the press, an outline of your talk and any related materials, a copy of the videotape, the names of any contacts you made in the audience, etc. After all, you have to be prepared when you are invited back for an encore performance!

Gail Farrelly is an Associate Professor of Accounting at Rutgers University and the author of two paperback mystery books: “Beaned in Boston” (named to the 1997 Washington Irving Book Selection List) and “Duped by Derivatives.”


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