Library Events: Beyond Book Signings

By Amy Alessio

Speaking in libraries is a fun way to interact with readers and build a fan base. It can also be a revenue stream.
Going to libraries in person and asking who you can see about setting up a book signing is not the best approach. Patrons of libraries are used to getting books for free and may avoid attending events where they think they will have to buy something. Library staff members are interested in booking interactive events that are low cost and high energy. Be sure to familiarize yourself with what your local library offers already.

What are some ways to set up successful programs in libraries?

Teaching Writing

This seems like an obvious one, and it can work with a hook about writing that you want to share. Many library patrons want to write and independently publish. Or they want to know how you can find time to write with a full time job. What is a concrete angle of writing and publishing that you can speak to in 45 minutes to an hour? Hint: topics with show and tell work best. Have audience members write for fifteen minutes then count words to show how much they can do. Or have everyone design a character, or outline a scene.

Writing Series with Others

Series across locations: Libraries can work cooperatively to offer writing workshops at several locations. If your library doesn’t do this already, get author friends together to offer workshops in a group. For example, each of you would write a description of a program you (or a couple of you) could offer on writing. Mail them out in a group to program coordinators at several libraries as a writing series.

Series in one day: Writing chapters in romance and mystery often work with local libraries to have writer days. Again, develop content for several panels with author friends, and propose it to one library as an all-day writer fest or conference, where each author or small group would give a brief talk or workshop.

Themes of Books

Is there a hobby or interest related to your books that would interest library audiences? Anything from self-defense, to solving crime scenes, or origami or cake decorating will work. If your books are in a particular time period or in a certain location, how about a history program? Food history? Fashions? This is a lot of work, and a sidejob, but people will flock to history or food related programs, or anything with a craft or activity. After you’ve given your educational event, people will leave with information about you and/or your books.

Holiday- or Charity-Themed Event with Authors

This is similar to the series idea. Suggest to program coordinators at libraries that you would like to do a Valentine’s or other holiday event with other authors where you each give a brief talk or demonstration and raffle books or gift baskets. Donations could be collected for the library or for a charity. Local RWA chapters may have ideas and contacts to get this started with libraries as it is a bit more involved than other ideas.


  1. Make fliers with brief descriptions of at least three different types of programs you or you and other author friends could do. Write a letter to library adult or teen programming staff to accompany the fliers that includes pertinent facts in your bios that would be of interest to libraries. Include public speaking experience.
  2. Plan to be contacted within a few weeks, about setting up dates six to nine months from now. Libraries work well in advance. Libraries can pay anywhere from small honorariums to $150 or higher for speaking fees. If you have supply fees for your event, add that on. While library budgets are shrinking, you should get paid for your time. Exceptions can be made for charity library events, occasions that will be widely publicized like community celebrations, or to get experience for a new speaker.
  3. Consider offering free signed titles to the first five people who register for the program. When you are getting started, this kind of initiative lets libraries know that you are working hard to help them with audience statistics.
  4. Go over what will happen in case of severe weather or if registrations are low. If this is a workshop with participation, consider setting an audience limit, and working with libraries on what to do if more people want to attend (such as offering another workshop, raising the price, etc.)
  5. Double check arrangements including equipment when booking the program.  Check all that again a week before the program.
  6. Publicize the event as if you are the only one doing so. Libraries tend to have public relations channels in place, but many patrons travel around local libraries for favorite authors or speakers if that is allowed at the hosting library.

Enjoy! Speaking and connecting directly with readers can be a rush as they laugh at your jokes or tell you something fun related to your favorite topics.