Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Survey Results: YA Authors, Librarians, & Preferred Contact Methods

I was honored to be asked to present at the Southern California Library Cooperative's YA Workshop about connecting with YA authors through social media, interviewing, and podcasting. 

Before I talk about that, I want to give major kudos to Erica Cuyugan of Santa Monica Public Library and Ryan Gan of Orange Public Library, who did a fantastic job organizing the workshop. They kicked things off with an awesome author panel that included Jennifer BosworthAnn StamplerLissa PriceMeadow Griffin, and Cecil Castellucci

I loved hearing what these authors had to say about their writing processes, and was struck by how much they all expressed their love of libraries and willingness to partner with librarians to spread the joy of reading to kids and teens. Truly inspiring! 

The author panel was followed by librarian presentations, and to prepare for my portion of the workshop, I created a brief survey distributed via social media channels, asking YA authors a simple question: 

When a librarian wants to invite you to speak at their library, how do you prefer they first contact you? 

My survey was in no way scientific-- it was casual and anonymous, and I honestly can't be sure of who really answered. It was intended as a quick way to gather a snapshot of data. In any case, I received 32 responses, and the results were as follows: 

28 out of 32 authors who anonymously responded to the survey indicated that they prefer a direct email from librarians inquiring about potential library visits. 

Survey respondents were able to choose more than one option. The second most popular option, with 7 responses, was to email the author's publicist. It's worth noting that the majority of respondents who chose this option also indicated they would welcome a direct email. Only two respondents chose an email to their publicist as their sole preferred communication method.

The other communication methods generally accompanied the direct email option, indicating that many authors welcome contact through Twitter and Facebook, etc., but social media is probably not the most effective way to initiate the conversation. Only one respondent chose Twitter as their sole preferred communication method.

The breakdown of responses for communication methods beyond email look like this:

Facebook: 4
Twitter: 3
In person at a conference: 3
In person at a book signing: 2
Blog comment: 1

My personal theory is that librarians should create a presence on social media and interact with their favorite authors. Don't hesitate! Get to know publishers and publicists. Create those connections. When it comes to an in-depth conversation that's going to require some thought and planning, email is the best way to go-- but I believe your email is more likely to get noticed if the author or publicist already has a positive connection with you due to your social media presence.

In addition to asking the question about communication preferences in my survey for authors, I asked them to elaborate on their answers, and include any other information that would be useful for librarians to know regarding the coordination of author visits. These questions were optional, but many of the respondents took time to provide very thoughtful information. Here are the authors' anonymous comments:

  • Just ask. :)
  • Publicists are sometimes swamped and can't forward things along right now, blog comments can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, and twitter & FB are more for promotional things. Definitely email! :)
  • I would say have a topic in mind and some information on the logistics of the talk. Also include if the author's book will be on sale at the event.
  • I love hearing from librarians, and it's great when they're flexible about times and if they're very clear about the age of the audience. In Skyping, it's key to have kids prepared to ask questions, so I appreciate it when kids are ready!
  • Be up front about how much you can pay, if travel is included, and any specific reason you want me (as opposed to any other author)
  • Check the author's website to see if they have a preferred method of contact for booking a library visit. If not, go through the author's publicist or publisher. Never ask on social media or in person. However, if the publicist/publisher never responds to you, it is ok to follow up with the author directly via email. (Again, not on social media.)Please mention straight up whether you will pay for the author's appearance, and state how much. If you have a limited budget, say so, but don't expect the author to do the visit for free. Also, please don't try to guilt-trip the author into doing it for free or for less than they normally charge. It's work for the author; they deserve to be paid for their time.
  • I'm a picture book author with a YA coming out later this year. I've done several library events and most of my scheduled visits have been through direct contact with the librarian. For panel appearances or book fest library events, usually there has been an organizer sending out the initial request and further details.Any librarian can approach me by email, phone, BEA, ALA, festival appearances...anywhere and any time. I've never had a negative experience with a librarian.
  • Signage or a blurb in the local paper about an author's appearance can make them feel special. It's also nice to send a photo to the author taken during the event, if possible.
  • It's impossible to determine how many attendees will show for an event, but if the author travels more than a few hours and the turnout is extremely low, please do what you can to promote them to your fellow library branches--or at least offer a cup of coffee for their troubles.
  • To me, it doesn't really matter how the conversation starts, but I'd say in person or e-mail are much preferred. Things seem to get lost if they're posted on twitter, facebook or blogs.I think it's incredibly important to mention the major details up front. We understand that not all libraries are able to offer payment or defray costs, but it's important that the type of reimbursement and time commitment is clear from the get-go.
  • Emailing me directly is usually the best way to go. That way something doesn't get lost in translation or forgotten.  But a nudge or heads up on twitter it Facebook is helpful.Just be up front and truthful about exactly what is expected of the author.  Send a schedule of events so the author can make announcements on social media about where she's going to be. And don't worry too much about honorariums.  A lot of authors will work with you on that, even to the point of waiving their normal fee.  So just go for it. Be kind and courteous and give as much information as you can.
  • I would want to know the demographics of the audience--all young adults or a mixture of adults/young adults. I'd also want to know the librarian's desired outcome to the talk -- what would best benefit them/the library/their patrons?
  • I'll see email before I see anything else, especially if I'm in the middle of drafting a book, when I am usually more scarce on social media and less likely to be making appearances anywhere. So email is always the safest bet.Any approach is welcome! It is nice when any request for an appearance/speaking engagement comes with clear ideas of exactly what my role is--speaking, signing books, running a Q&A, handling a workshop--and how much time it is expected the appearance will take. Also information on how the library plans to promote the event is useful.
  • A comment on your blog, twitter or facebook may not be seen. Not every YA author has a publicist. A conversation at a book signing isn't ideal because the YA author is busy and may not remember you unless you provide a business card but again I don't think that's the right time to ask. Email is direct and if you've met at a conference or book signing you could say "Hey I met you at X" and then go from there.
  • It's hard for me to imagine a negative experience connected with being contacted by a librarian. I am always flattered to be contacted by librarians or teachers.
  • I typically just need to know whether or not travel/accommodation expenses will be covered or partially subsidized to help me decide whether I can participate. Number of expected attendees and how the event will be promoted would also be helpful.
  • Twitter and Facebook DMs and Mails both rarely get seen and almost never get answered. My email is very easy to find and accessible from my website. It's always also good to copy the publicist on the email, so that the publisher knows that the author is in demand. Few authors get big marketing bucks these days, and most of the travel/promotional items expenses come 100% out of the author's pocket. If the publicist sees that this author is in high demand, perhaps a few more marketing dollars might go his/her way.Local libraries are better, obviously, unless the library plans on including travel expenses and a modest appearance fee. The library should also make sure copies of the author's book are available for sale -- the Friends of the Library can usually get these from the publisher at a substantial discount. This is a business--the best appearances are beneficial to both the author and the library. Also, when possible, please ask if the author is available for Skype speaking engagaments -- these are becoming a lot more popular, and are great on both the library and the author's pocketbook.
  • Please let the author know up front if s/he is to be paid and how much. Our time is valuable. Don't act as if it's our duty or pleasure to speak for free.
  • If you can't figure out my publicist, email me through my website, but frame your question this way: "Could you refer me to your publicist?"And then talk about the format, if I'm expected to present something or just answer questions, if there is money involved, etc.
  • If we meet at a conference or book signing, I don't mind an initial conversation there, so long as it's followed up with email to me or my publicist.My one piece of advice is to be up front about the ability to cover costs, transportation, an honorarium, etc.  I won't necessarily turn down an invite without any funding available, but it's less awkward to know up front all the details.
  • Any communication you'd email directly to me would ultimately go to my publicist for scheduling, anyway. Provided I have time in my schedule, I'd be happy to visit your library. But reaching out to me directly (and you can always cc my publicist) would put your name/library more top of mind so that I can follow up with my publicist later.If you'd like me to speak at your library, let me know what you'd like me to speak about. Am I going to talk about the process of getting my book to print? Are there issues addressed in my book that you'd like me to talk about? Basically, what do you expect me to do? (That would also help me decide whether or not I would put your library at the top of my list of Places to Interact with Readers.
  • I love it when a librarian comes to me with specific ideas about the type of talk/presentation/workshop s/he thinks would work best for her patrons. Nothing is worse than boring the crowd! And presentations take significant time to prepare...even those that might be for a small group, take easily an hour or two away from writing time so its best when they can narrowly say...let's do a Halloween themed writing workshop or let's talk about writing first drafts or about how your books or writing process has evolved.


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