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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Your New Friends

Hello everyone and welcome to Self-Publishing Central.

Today's topic concerns seeking out and taking advantage of a particular in-person marketing opportunity for your books - "Friends of the ___________ Library."

Here's what prompted me to post on this issue:

Speaking Engagement.

This past Saturday I spoke at the monthly meeting of The Friends of the Red Wing Library. Most of you have never heard of this organization - or even heard of the city of Red Wing, Minnesota. The Friends aren't exactly a stop on the Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang tour. Nevertheless, it was a chance to connect to readers - and the venue was a mere six blocks from my home.

The group meets in the basement at the Red Wing Public Library. About fifty Friends members were in attendance. The atmosphere was casual . . . though I needed to speak through a microphone so some of the "less spry of hearing" would be able to follow my presentation.

The President of the Friends introduced me as a local author and offered me the floor "for as long as I wanted to speak." She didn't know how imprudent it is to give a lawyer carte blanche to address an audience indefinitely. LOL.

Actually, I spoke for only about fifteen minutes, then opened the meeting to questions from the floor. Those questions extended my time at the podium to nearly an hour and a half. At that time I decided that we needed to wrap up . . . otherwise, I believe questions would have continued quite a while longer.

After the presentation, The Friends invited me to sell my books to the group. One of their members even volunteered to act as my cashier. I sold about a dozen books. Not a lot . . . but then again, a number of the audience members already owned my books.

I also received a generous "stipend" for my appearance - $150. Wow! Twenty bucks is a stipend. One-fifty is a payday. That's $75 per hour from set-up to departure - plus book sales revenue.

Can you get this sort of speaking engagement?

Absolutely. And it doesn't even have to be your local library. This is how I did it.

A few months ago I sent a copy of one of my books to the President of the Friends asking if she might be willing to give it a read. If she enjoyed the book, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak to the Friends some time. (No discussion of compensation or book sales.)

About a month later, I had already moved on to other marketing efforts (BTW . . . Bud Light DOES NOT want to be the official beer of the Beck suspense/thriller series) when I received an email from the Friends Pres. She had enjoyed my book and wondered if I could speak April 30th. (That was about four months away at the time.) I immediately accepted the invitation.

After I had accepted, she emailed again saying the Friends couldn't afford to pay me what my time was worth, but there would be a "small stipend." I thanked her again and assured her that the stipend was not necessary. I would be happy to speak.

Most libraries have an organization of volunteers who support the library and its mission. Quite often, these groups are named "Friends of the _______ Library." If you are interested in doing what I did . . . speaking to such a group . . . I encourage you to use the library's website to contact their Friends group and follow my method - offer a free book.

NOTE: These groups usually schedule their authors at least four months, and sometimes as long as a year, in advance. So ask early and be prepared to wait patiently for a response. Don't send follow-up emails or reminders until you have already gotten an invitation to speak.

Don't limit yourself to local libraries.

Most of the authors who speak to these groups are NOT local authors. They are simply authors who have had the gumption to ask for the opportunity. And you know what? James Patterson and Janet Evanovich don't frequent this particular circuit. So it IS available to indie- or self-published authors if you take the initiative.

I do recommend that you include a free book along with your first contact to the Friends group. It allows them to readily judge your work and shows your inclination to be generous to their library.

Although it may be most convenient for you to start with libraries near home, remember to also contact libraries in parts of the country where you may be vacationing, or to which you are willing to travel. This is a terrific way to spread the geographic distribution of your book. But plan far ahead . . . or they'll be booked.


There are probably thousands of Friends groups nationwide (and even more internationally). Don't leave this potential marketing channel untapped.

O yeah . . . if you don't like public speaking, it's time to get over that!

That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by.




  1. I'm doing a version of this for my children's picture book--day care centers, Head Start centers, and children's libraries. It doesn't always lead directly to book sales (although some of the day cares have bought a book for each of the children in the program--20 to 25 at a clip), but it does lead to another and another reading. I'm at the point now where I'm getting more invitations than I am cold-calling. Part of Marketing 101 for self-publishers!

  2. Michele,

    I absolutely agree. It's good to have your books available for loan in public libraries for the same reason. More reads.

    You are also smart to niche market your children's books. I could market my volleyball book at AVCA events and even to local clubs if it was my focus right now.

    Thanks much for your input and for stopping in.



  3. Thanks for stopping in, Christa.



  4. I don't mind public speaking at all - hope this gives me more gumption to get myself out there so others will find that out.

  5. Elizabeth,

    Absolutely. Use that gumption. I'd love to hear you speak. Share your knowledge with groups of willing listeners.

    Thanks for stopping in.