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Storytime Success
by Melissa Mayntz

Most writers believe that to promote a book, they need a place that sells books. Libraries, however, are lucrative and largely untapped promotional venues for children's writers. Taking advantage of these opportunities is an easy and entertaining way to generate publicity for your book.

Public libraries have frequent storytime programs throughout the year, and school libraries are usually willing to have an author visit to promote reading in the classroom. When contacting the library, ask what dates are convenient. Librarians are responsible for many different programs and storytimes may only be scheduled for a few weeks at a time with significant breaks between sessions. Furthermore, daily storytimes often have more than one session, usually within an hour of one another. This gives you even more opportunity to promote your work!

When calling a library, pitch your guest idea as you would pitch a book idea to an editor—what book you'd like to read, what age level it's targeted for, and why it's appropriate. Include the dates and times that you'd be available, as well as other activities that would complement your book.

In order to approve your visit, the librarian will need to preview the book. If the librarian does not feel that your book is appropriate for the available storytimes, you may still be able to hold a public reading at the library, and she can assist you in arranging one.

Preparing for a storytime is different than a reading at a local bookstore. Storytimes typically last twenty to thirty minutes, with multiple activities to add variety and actively engage the children. The program may begin with an interactive song or rhyme and incorporate several different stories or a short video. If you have never been to a storytime, arrange to visit one a week or two before your appearance to judge the attention span of the children, the activities used, and the way you can best interact with everyone.

Stories are told with puppets and other props to give children something tangible to relate to. You can assemble materials to complement your book yourself, or ask if the children's department has resources available for your use. Most programs accommodate between twenty and thirty children – the younger the audience the smaller it will be—so be sure to have enough materials on hand for all the children to participate.

Ideally, the librarian will begin the presentation and introduce you as the author of the book. You can explain what an author is, and tell the children how you've brought some very special friends to life that you want to share with them. They will be eager to hear your story, knowing that you personally know everyone in it.

Unless you have booked the library's meeting or presentation room for a public reading, you most likely will not be permitted to sell your book at the event. Families who attend are expecting a story, not a sales pitch, but there is no reason that you cannot encourage sales simultaneously. The day of the event, display a poster with your book's cover and publication date, including the names and addresses of local bookstores where it can be purchased. Carry business cards with the title of the book, as well as other books you've published, to offer to parents who approach you after the presentation.

Children at a storytime may not be interested in business cards, but they will enjoy a small item to take away that helps promote your work. It might be a bookmark, sticker, or even a small craft that is printed with the book's title. Be sure, however, that any such item is appropriate to the age and reading level of the children participating in the program.

It is important to remember that you will be dealing primarily with children, even if their families attend the program too. Dress in cheerful, casual clothes with bright colors, and don't be afraid to ask the children questions that will ultimately introduce your book. Just like a bookstore presentation, children enjoy an active speaker who uses gestures, eye contact, and audience participation.

After the storytime, a thank you works wonders with children as well as adults. Thank the librarian for allowing you to visit and make new friends, and present them with a complimentary copy or two of your book. Doing so will insure that you are a favored author and you may be invited back to participate in more programs. If they choose to use your book in future storytimes, you've just gained even more promotion!

© Copyright 2008, Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz is a freelance writer and editor from Utah. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including About.com, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, ByLine Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, the Orlando Sentinel, LoveToKnow.com, and WritersWeekly. She has edited more than 20 fiction and non-fiction manuscripts for publishers and independent writers; for current project rates and additional details, visit www.MelissaMayntz.com.

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