Welcome to the very first Authors Unbound quarterly Host Newsletter! We'll use this space to keep you updated on what other outstanding hosts around the country are up to, provide valuable information on event management and organization, and feature authors who we highly recommend for your next author engagement.
Lake Forest Reads - Ragdale
Illinois Lake Forest Library Reference Manager Kate Buckardt was kind enough to chat with us about the 2018 Lake Forest Reads adoption, A Piece of the World, and the history of this fantastic Common Read program.
A|U: Tell us a little about yourself!
KB: I have been a librarian on the East Coast, West Coast and in the Mid-West. I enjoy Readers Advisory, answering reference questions and being surrounded by books.
A|U: Can you share a bit about Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale?
KB: This will be our sixth annual Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale, a one book/one community program that fosters a culture of reading and a sense of community in our city. Each year a title is selected from the works of writers affiliated with Ragdale, the artists’ residency which has supported authors and their creative process for over 35 years. Our program partners include: Ragdale, Lake Forest College and Friends of Lake Forest Library. Lake Forest Book Store is the official book store of Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale.
A|U: What are some program highlights over the years?
KB: Last year's author Ruth Ozeki hosted a guided meditation as part her appearance at the Lake Forest Book Store. Her title A Tale for the Time Being was our 2017 selection. Past titles have included: Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, Rebecca Makkai's The Hundred-Year House, Luis Alberto Urrea's Into the Beautiful North and Gail Tsukiyama's The Street of a Thousand Blossoms.
A|U: What drew the Lake Forest Reads committee to A Piece of the World, your 2018 selection?
KB: Our small committee of librarians, Ragdale Trustee's, a professor from Lake Forest College and interested library patrons read several titles from author's who have had a residency at Ragdale. We all are avid readers and have to balance the love for the title with themes that can be incorporated into a series of programs that will attract different ages and different interests. We all loved the story of Christina Olson and her relationship with Andrew Wyeth. So the book was well written, the story is compelling and the program possibilities are varied and exciting. And having the author come and speak with our community is the highlight of Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale.
A|U: What kind of programming and activities do you have in mind for this year's selection?
KB: This year in addition to a Conversation with the Author and Tea & Talk with the author we are planning: a Landscape Painting class, seafood sustainability and seafood tasting program, a movie on Christina Olson, a Maine travel program, a movie about the Wyeth family, book discussions, Mystery Book discussion set in Maine, a cook book book club featuring New England cooking, movies on artists and their muses and a seafood cooking class.
A|U: How will you get the word out about Christina's upcoming visit this fall?
KB: We have several program partners who send out emails to their customers. We use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, flyers, posters, read-alikes and displays as well as press releases to local media. We have large community signs that we have reserved and a dedicated website the has information on the program, the author, book discussion questions and registration for events. www.lakeforestreadsragdale.org
A|U: What words of wisdom can you offer other One Book coordinators around the country?
KB: Working with other community organizations and businesses has been very successful for us. We deliver copies of the title to various organizations (senior center, recreation department, our community center) and help them plan cordinating programs that we then help them advertise.
A|U: Is there one thing you wish you had known when you first began working on the Lake Forest Reads: Ragdale program?
KB: How wonderful it is to spend time with talented writers and to hear their stories and learn about what inspires them. Our patrons are so energized after these author visits, it is such a good feeling to bring these events to our community.
A|U: Read any good books lately?
KB: I just finished: Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and her daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill by J. Randy Taraborrelli. It was a fascinating look at their lives and their relationships. I am just starting Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. I loved The Cat's Table so I am looking forward to another great read. One of my favorite recent books is Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans. It's Oliver Twist meets Great Expectations, a lovely read.
Advertising Vs. Publicity
So, you've done the hard work of winnowing down a long list of possible titles, settled on the perfect book for your upcoming program, and scheduled the author for visit to your community. Congrats! However, in order to ensure a great turnout and ultimate success, your work is far from over.
Most library programmers, event coordinators and administrative staff aren't marketing experts, or have a clear picture of the key aspects of promoting an event for maximum effect. And why should they? Many of us are wearing so many hats and have a multitude of tasks in addition to event management, who has time?
For the busy host coordinator, we've put together a quick run down below of what you can do in anticipation of an upcoming author event. These tips will help see to it that your goals are met, you'll work toward building your program brand to earn loyal participants, and widen audience.
First - let's focus on the basics.
Contrary to what most people might think, advertising an event and generating good publicity are not one and the same! The two have the same ultimate goal, which is to get the word out. However, advertising is typically an impersonal effort, controlled by the host - you pay for a spot in the local newspaper, or post a flyer on a community bulletin board. Publicity, on the other hand, is the activity of providing information in order to spark interest in others, who then share that interest in their own social and community networks, strengthening an event's credibility considerably!
Author events are ALWAYS better served by excellent publicity, rather than spending lots of money on expensive advertising. So what's the magic formula for good publicity? Companies and celebrities pay thousands of dollars in search of that answer! But don't worry, we've come up with a few proven strategies to help get you started.
1) Announcement: once your event is confirmed.
As soon as the ink has dried on your event engagement contract, it's time to plan your public announcement! This can be as simple as a press release, or as extravagant as public unveiling event.
- Update your event web page (or create one if needed!) to include all event info, including registration, book info and resources (be sure to share links to for book borrowing and purchase), related programming activities and author profile.
- Create a social media presence by putting together a Facebook event page that links to your organization's main page. Include event registration information with a good url or email link to the person managing attendance.
- Come up with a hashtag for your event, and begin using it on all Facebook/Twitter/Instagram activity relating to your event.
- Collaborate with your AU agent to solicit a personal message from the author to post on your event web page and social media. Some hosts have used short video clips, memes or a brief note to generate enthusiasm.
2) Marketing & Media: No less than 120 days out from the event date.
Most periodicals and media outlets need as long as 4 months to put together quality features for community publications. Be sure to give them plenty of time to collaborate with you on advance interviews, event spotlights, etc.
- Identify local media: regional newspapers and magazines, radio stations, local television and morning programs, etc. Marketing staff for these outlets is usually readily available on the web.
- Prepare and send a press release to local media outlets: indicate in your communication that you're happy to chat with journalists about the event, arrange advance interviews with the author, and provide good images/logos to help them build content.
- Identify possible community partners, and ask them to share your event info. This could include local schools, non-profit organizations, senior centers, arts initiatives and entertainment venues. Sending a press release with a brief personal note works wonders.
- Set up a Book Club Kit for local groups, including discussion questions, bookplates, and Book Club party ideas.
- Coordinate with local bookstores and ask them to create displays and/or post marketing materials about your selected book/event.
3) Engage and Invite Attendees: No less than 60 days out from the event date.
Try these methods for actively connecting with people in your community who might be interested, and be creative! Related programming and activities are a great way to get people excited.
- Set up a image-heavy display in your library, school or organization that invites people to participate. Consider arranging a raffle for a free book, reception tickets, or a door prize for early registrants.
- Design and distribute promotional materials. Posters, bookmarks and postcards work well, and your AU agent will be happy to help provide templates and/or collaborate on design specifics.
- Identify a predominant theme in your selected title, and invite participants to share personal stories and anecdotes related to the theme for public display.
- Arrange for film screenings related to your theme, or host a recipe contest for any specific food that appears in the book. Does your book include a protagonist who loves to draw? Set up a basic drawing workshop with a local artist! Does your book highlight a historical era? Set up a "read-alike" display to feature similar books on your topic or time period! Share images of your activities on social media. Think of how you can create related activities around the theme of your selected book that are fun, unique, and provide a story local bloggers and media outlets want to write about.
- Personally invite local authors and writers groups who have their own built-in audiences - ask them to actively participate in your event, and share your promotional materials with their fan/member base.
4) Final Preparation: No less than 30 days out from the event date.
- Create an event ad to display on your main website's home page in the month preceding your event.
- Invite local media to attend your event, and offer to provide high res images for any possible advance media or post-event features.
- Arrange to have a photographer present to take high res images - even a good iPhone and a dedicated person capturing a few moments work great!
- Set up a "count down" display wherever your attendees might traffic.
- Send out a reminder to your patrons/participants by email.
- Ask the author to share your event details on their social media networks, to generate interest with local fans of their work.
- Prepare email signup sheets and feedback forms for participants to fill out at the event.
Remember - AU is here to help at any point along the way! We're happy to provide tailored suggestions for generating publicity based on your event specific and goals. Facilitating a successful event is an investment of time and energy, but when they are done right, hosts will build their program brand, earn the loyalty of return participants, and most importantly, generate important conversations.
Do you have ideas or success stories about event promotion you'd like to share with hosts around the country? We'd love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
#1 NYT Bestselling and award-winning author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World (in addition to 5 other wonderful novels), Christina is a One Book Visiting Author veteran! With over 100 Common Read adoptions to date, Christina has received rave reviews from hosts around the country, including library Common Read programs, First Year Experience All Campus Reads, Signature Author Series and Keynote Events.
She's got a HUGE fan base nationwide, and with a YA version of Orphan Train out, it's the perfect One Book selection. She's one of A|U's favorite authors to suggest, in large part due to her amazing ability to connect with readers in person. Christina includes a wealth of historical images in her multi-media presentation, which always draw attendees in with the amazing true stories behind her gorgeous novels.