Monday, April 23, 2018


What would we do without libraries?

I admit that I shunned them for decades, after being shooed out of the adult history section when I had escaped the children’s books in my quest for something interesting to read. But even I do not hold a grudge until death do us part. Not only have I returned to the fold, I’ve fallen in love with the institution.

Why?  Libraries are full of readers!

I have been troubled for a bit, not just by the closing of bookstores, but by the reduced number of events and the trend toward charging fees to hear the writer talk. This might be fine for the known and big publisher authors, or those dealing with popular subjects, but it hurts the new or adventurous writer, the increasing number published by the smaller presses, the indie published, and those who go to e-reader format alone. As much as I sympathize with the plight of brick and mortars, I fear this approach only adds to the ominously increasing, homogeneous nature of the literature we are offered to read.  

So what is the “unconventional writer” supposed to do, besides leap into the Internet world? There are still readers out there who are eager for new ideas, want stunning craft and unusual subjects, or long for eras outside the popular ones. I know because I’m one of them.

The library is an excellent place to meet just those people. As writers, we need to take advantage of this free advertising, and, lest we forget, libraries also buy books.

Many libraries have book clubs and would love to have the author join them for discussion. Arrange some form of event at the local branch. Sometimes you can sell your books after a talk. If nothing else, you can donate a copy. If there is enough reader interest in your first, the library will often buy the next. The more reader enthusiasm, the more copies of the book the library will buy. That first “freebie” gift or talk can pay off. If a single author event doesn’t interest your local branch, go with a group. If the library doesn’t have a “mystery week/month”, ask how to organize one and offer speakers. Many organizations, like Sisters In Crime or Romance Writers of America, have speaker bureaus. Join and tell them you are eager to visit libraries. On rare occasions, you may get a small check for your efforts but just remember that this is advertising and you get face time with readers.

In this brave new world of cyber-space and shrinking access to traditional methods of catching the reader’s eye, it’s wonderful that one of our oldest democratic institutions, the public library, remains a harbor for exciting ideas and new fans. 

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