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Library Tours: How to Set Them Up and What They Can Do for You

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Conducting a regional library tour is one of the least appreciated ways to sell books and gain crucial exposure at the same time. If you live in a small state, the tour might include most of its libraries. If your state is too large for that, confine your visits to a manageable geographical area. The idea is to arrive at each library, make your presentation, have the book signing, and be back home within two or three hours.

The Library Tour Nitty-Gritty


Obtain a list of all the libraries in your state or region. Any major one of them can help you with this. Make sure it contains the vital information about each library, such as address, phone numbers, names of staff, and operating budget, if available. It’s also helpful to know whether a library has meeting rooms. It’s most important of all to know whether it has a Friends of the Library organization or its equivalent. Library Friends groups are proud of their work and usually put more time into rounding up attendees than the library staffers, who have other responsibilities.

Take all these factors into consideration when choosing which libraries to contact. Be selective.

Make your own phone calls. Ask for the director, program director, or reference librarian. Explain what you have to offer and that you charge no fee as long as you may bring books along for signing and purchase. Some libraries provide an honorarium; either accept it or offer to donate it back. Others might indicate they don’t allow the transfer of money in the library, but that you’re welcome to put on your program. Do honor the invitation and do show up (it’s good PR, and word gets around).

Stress that you’ll bring your own supply of books and mention that you’ll arrange for a press kit to be mailed to them along with a complimentary copy of the book. My kit is a colored folder containing a press release, a bio, a glossy of me, and several reviews and newspaper articles.

I’ve found that the ideal times for library programs are weeknights or, occasionally, Sundays, but you also have to be guided by the preferences of the library.

Call the library a few days before your scheduled appearance to confirm. Ask for a podium if you need one. Inquire about any interest in the program to date so you can get an idea of the attendance. Some libraries have sign-up sheets, others don’t.

Arrive about a half-hour early to set up. My only props were an aluminum collapsible easel and a poster blowup of the book cover. I also brought along a bottle of water, an extra pen for purchasers, and business cards, which I spread on a table. These help in obtaining other talk invitations and media interviews and also assist attendees with the spelling of your name.

Arrange for a proper introduction. Check to be sure the introducer will not wing it and will read either from the bio you previously sent or from the one in your book or dust jacket.

Then leave the room and perhaps browse through the library or read a newspaper.

Return just before start time and sit unobtrusively in the back of the room. After the introduction, walk to the front from that location (a theatrical touch!).

If it’s convenient for you, stand, don’t sit, during your talk. I always requested a podium, even though I never spoke from notes. It provided something to drape my arm over from time to time. If the library anticipates a large turnout or the room is large, check on whether a microphone will be needed and available.

Even if the room is small, stand–unless the turnout is also small (like four or five people). In that case, don’t run home. Often, the individuals in the audience are more embarrassed then you are, so you must put them at ease. Here’s how I handled it. Pulling up a chair, I would say something like: "Last week, I was in Hartford and 200 people showed up. The next night, Stratford, and only a handful was there. Last night, New Haven, and 80 or 90 came. And tonight? A handful. So one can never tell. But do you know what? It makes no difference to me. I give it the same energy either way. So if you’re comfortable, I am too. Let’s proceed, then, and who knows? Maybe others will eventually join us."

Several recommendations for the book signing: Write a brief inscription over your signature. Keep all receipts unless an agreement has been made to donate a portion to the library (I give 20 percent). Take only cash or checks. Collect the money yourself. Bring along some small bills to make change, and handle transactions from the table, not from your purse or wallet.

If a person arrives with your book in hand, that’s okay. Sign it with a smile. It still represents a sale, and now it also represents enduring interest.

Send the library a thank-you note during the following week. State that you look forward to a similar presentation with another book someday down the road. This helps establish a network you can count on in the future.

Finally, keep brief notes. I have a card for each library. Somewhere on it, I have a notation like "80/24." That means 80 people showed up and bought 24 books. I’ll contact that library again for my next book. If the notation reads "7/2," I might not.


Summary of Helpful Hints
· Do your own scheduling by phone.
· Weeknights and Sundays work best.
· Try not to include libraries that may be too small.
· Favor those that have Friends of the Library or its equivalent.
· In advance, send a press kit and a complimentary copy of your book.
· Call a few days before to confirm.
· Bring your own supply of books.
· Arrange for a proper introduction.
· Allow for questions and answers.
· Send a thank-you note the following week.


After his first exposure to forensic medicine while serving in the U.S. Navy, Jerry Labriola practiced medicine in his Connecticut hometown for more than 30 years. An assistant professor at the University of Connecticut Medical School, he was formerly chief of staff at Waterbury (CT) Hospital. He is the author of four mystery novels as well as the co-author of the nonfiction book Famous Crimes Revisited.

Reprinted from Independent Book Publishers Association

How Human Are Your Characters?

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To make your characters interesting to your readers, you have to make them human. To make them human, you have to give them traits with which your readers can identify. But how do you fully flesh out your characters without over-writing and boring your readers to tears?


Begin by writing a detailed, one-sentence summary of your story. Then ask yourself to whom the action will happen and from whose perspective the story will mainly be told. That person will be your main character. Next, begin building your characters to suit your message and your storyline.

As a writer, you are a natural observer of people and activities around you, and probably have a file of details gathered from people-watching. Using these physical descriptions and behavioral traits, you should be able create characters that fit your storyline. Choose carefully, making sure that your characters fit the needs of your plot. Include what they like to eat and wear, how they laugh, how they feel about dogs and children and anything else that will make your readers connect with them.

As with human beings, your characters’ everyday actions and reactions should generally fit their personalities. It is all right, however (and will add spice to the plot!) to allow your characters occasionally to behave in unexpected ways.  Also remember to include moral strengths and weaknesses in the makeup of your characters. No human is ever all good or all bad, so your characters should not be, either. Also remember to vary your characters’ speech patterns and to describe their accents and the tonal qualities of their voices.

Having your plot thoroughly worked out is, of course, very important. But the characters you develop will make or break your storyline. If your readers don’t see your characters as human and cannot identify with them, the best plot in the world will not save your book!

Derry Sampey is the senior editor for CertaPublishing.com

How to Get Great Testimonials for Your Book

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Testimonials are among the most powerful yet inexpensive marketing tools around.

Good ones grab attention and encourage potential buyers to pick up the book. Great ones take possible buyers even deeper by making them say to themselves, Yes, this is the kind of book I’ve been looking for.


Think back to a time when you were book browsing. Didn’t those back-cover blurbs sway you just a bit? Didn’t reading a testimonial by a well-known author make you think, Well, if so-and-so liked it, then it must be good?

But your book testimonials won’t just sway readers. They can also influence book reviewers, bookstore owners, distributors, agents, foreign rights contacts, and columnists. With high stakes like these, you’ll want to spend significant time obtaining the most attention-getting testimonials for your book.

Stay focused. The best book testimonials I see stay focused on one central idea. Because book browsers are skimming, each testimonial should hammer home one specific aspect of the book. That way, the skimmer can absorb several different aspects of your book after only a quick read of its back cover. Keep each testimonial laser-like in its focus.

Any testimonial is good, but some of the more effective ones follow one or more of these six tried-and-true guidelines:

Quantify a benefit. If yours is a nonfiction title, see if you can get testimonials that quantify the rewards of reading your book. For example, someone recently e-mailed me with this testimonial for my book, The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses:

"After reading The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses, I followed your advice. After sending only two emails, I got 4 calls back immediately, have scheduled 2 meetings to discuss new business and set up a new speaking engagement. Your method really works."

Here’s one from another marketing book:

"These strategies will triple your income and double your time off."
When you use this style, readers know exactly how your book will improve their lives.

Make an emotional appeal. This style is more commonly used for fiction, but it can also work for nonfiction. Here, the testimonial works to paint a picture, at a visceral level, of the emotions a reader will experience while reading the book:

"An edge-of-the-seat tale."
"Harrowing thrills…"
"At once romantic, erotic, suspenseful–and completely unforgettable."

Create an association. Connecting the author–or the book–to another person or work helps conjure up positive associations in a reader’s mind, like these:

"Bob Bly is to direct marketing as Mozart is to music."
"Alistair Cooke interprets America better than any foreign correspondent since Tocqueville."

Use a common phrase. How about incorporating a phrase that’s already part of popular culture? For example:

"Fasten your seatbelt . . . a stimulating, fast-paced novel brimming with action and high drama."

Give the reader a leg up. Any time you can show that your book gives the reader an edge, you have a powerful tool. Here’s an example from a book on how to hold a successful meeting:

"Every producer should read this before their clients do . . .”

Cite a credible source. Years ago I worked in marketing for a consumer goods company, and we featured a testimonial from a clergyman. Talk about a credible source! In fact, so many people phoned him directly to get his opinion on our product that we finally had to pull his testimonial. Seek out the cream of the crop in your industry for testimonials, including well-known authors or opinion molders.

Find the right people. Before I self-published The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses, I was fortunate enough to get 10 great testimonials. How? I asked for them.

The truth is, if you want attention-grabbing testimonials, you’ll have to ask for some–usually from strangers. But I found that most of the people I approached were extremely helpful because I had chosen them carefully, and they were already interested in my subject (only one in 20 declined to participate).

To start, go to the library and take note of who has written testimonials for books in your area. Next, visit Amazon.com for similar books and see who has posted reviews. Then generate a "hit list" from these two sources.

Finding addresses for these hit-list people involves a bit more work, but if you Google a person’s name and search around, you’ll eventually wind up with an address (either snail or e-mail) you can use for your approach.

Remember . . . testimonials are a workhorse tool for your book-marketing effort. Use them liberally to create awareness, establish credibility, and generate word-of-mouth for your book.

Jay B. Lipe is the CEO of Emerge Marketing, a small-business marketing firm celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses is his first book.

Reprinted from Independent Book Publishers Association

Guidelines for Book-Length Manuscripts

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Stylebooks help you write clearly and correctly.


Whether you are writing a non-fiction or a fiction book, there are guidelines you must follow, both in creating your text and formatting your manuscript. Help is available in the form of stylebooks that give writers such information as when to capitalize certain words, how to cite sources in text, where to use italics, and so forth.
If you have written and sold newspaper or magazine articles, you are no doubt familiar with the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, the mainstay of reporters everywhere. Although AP style is acceptable for book-length publications, the Chicago Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago Press was recently updated for users who also work with electronic publications. 
As does the AP stylebook, the 956-page Chicago manual covers subject matter from word usage to parts of speech; from quoting without permission to how to read an editor's proof marks on your hard copy; and from punctuation to common terminology. Both books are well designed for quick and easy reference and certainly worth purchasing.

In addition to following the style and usage advice found in these books, you will be required by a publisher to set up your manuscript in a certain way, called "formatting" in the trade. Formatting requirements for CertaPublishing.com can be found at CertaPublishing.com, and must be followed by anyone who intends to submit a book-length manuscript.

Following style and formatting guidelines will quickly become second nature to new writers. And, if you have any questions regarding either one, we always have someone available to answer them for you. 

Derry Sampey is the senior editor for CertaPublishing.com

Give Books Away

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In book promotion, time is of the essence.

Your book has a date on it, and few people in the book trade are interested in an "old" book. Or, as media coach Joel Roberts puts it, "There are only two phases in the promotion of your book: The first 90 days and everything else."


One easy and inexpensive way to promote a book is to give it away–to opinion makers. You want the people who influence others to tell their colleagues about your book. Word-of-mouth is more valuable than an ad in a magazine–and a great deal less expensive. 

A book sent to an opinion maker costs $1 or $2 to print, less than $1.50 to ship, and maybe 30 cents for the shipping bag. Space advertising in a magazine may cost $500 to more than $30,000. That ad would have to bring in a lot of orders to pay off. Experience says it won’t.

Harvey Mackay sent free copies of his new book Pushing the Envelope, All the Way to the Top to each of the 3,800 members of the National Speakers Association because these opinion makers address millions of people annually. Imagine thousands of speakers telling millions of listeners about how their friend Harvey Mackay sent them a great new book.

Those books in your garage are already paid for. Your mission is to let people know they’re available. E-mail your friends, relatives, and associates. Send out review copies to category magazines and be generous with your opinion maker copies.


Plant your books and you will grow much fruit.


Dan Poynter is the author of The Self-Publishing Manual and a past Vice-President of IBPA.

Reprinted from Independent Book Publishers Association

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