Library love

One of the things we were looking at with the Language of Bees tour has been how a series of library events would add to the mix. Author tours are generally organized by the Promotions department in the publishing house. Other forms of what might seem to be “promotion” to an outsider—such as ad campaigns and giveaways—are the concern of Marketing. And libraries are their own world entirely.

This means—and again, I speak generally—that if events at libraries are going to be worked into a book tour, it’s up to the author.

I’ve done any number of library events over the years, but the only such that I have done during a book tour have been in the Phoenix area, arranged by the Poisoned Pen bookstore (who also sells at those events.)

The prevailing attitude of publishers towards library events tends to be that they’re fine for building long-term relationships with readers, but a book tour is all about selling books.

So I thought I’d ask: How many of you came to be a reader of LRK’s books after meeting one in a library? How many of my books did you borrow before you went out and bought one?

Comments

  1. La Donna says:

    Hello, my name is La Donna and I’m a librarian. 😉 (a little 12-step disclosure) I first encountered Mary Russell when I cataloged Beekeeper’s Apprentice (as I recall it was the paperback?) for a client (school library). And then I went to my local public library and read my way through the series — up to The Game, I think. Then I demanded the entire series from the family for my birthday (some of them probably used and from Amazon sources) and have bought (from an independent bookseller) them new on my own since.

    Publishers tend to dismiss sales to libraries but I think that in this economy they need to remember that the libraries ARE a reliable source of revenue!!

  2. I was looking for something to read over av acation and asked our local librarian, who’d been a friend for years, if she knew anything good…and “The Beekeepers Apprentice” was what I was handed…so now I own all the books, some hardcover, some paperback and some as audiobooks…

    I think series books would be the best for a library event because if you like it you’ll want to collect the whole series…and for the effort, you aren’t selling just the current book, its all the ones that came before and all the one’s to come in the future… there will be more I’m assuming after the way you ended your most recent endevor 😉

  3. Laidee Marjorie says:

    How many of you came to be a reader of LRK’s books after meeting one in a library? How many of my books did you borrow before you went out and bought one?

    * * *

    I have had the opposite experience. When I found BEEK, I bought it (Bantam paperback) and then bought all the other ones in the series. I bought an additional copy of BEEK (Picador) that is the one I mail around to friends to get them reading the series. I also bought a third copy of BEEK with the original artwork cover on it, although it is a softcover, but that was a used copy so it doesn’t benefit its author.

    However, I now use the library for two reasons; first of all to borrow as many of the Mary Russell Recorded Books as I can (as they are very expensive to own), and to borrow books that are harder to find in my bookstore like “A Darker Place”. (I have no independent book store within an hour of where I live any more and the megastore doesn’t carry everything.) I will happily buy new hardcover releases for you and a couple of other favorite authors (Deborah Crombie, Laura Lippman). My purchased copy of LANG (bought at the Westport Library event) was the equivalent of three movie tickets. That’s a bargain as far as I am concerned. A movie keeps me entertained for two hours. A good book lasts me a week and stays with me for a long time. It’s a good investment.

    The thing about the library events is that I felt as though the people there were hard-core book lovers. They asked intelligent questions and I felt that while some of them may only borrow books, there were a lot that buy the books as well. After all, the library sold out of the copies they had there and probably could have doubled their sales without a problem.

    I also remember fondly the library event that you, Laurie, moderated during the Baltimore B’Con and I think that was a lovely way to reach out to the community there.

    –Marjorie

  4. I first read your books after checking them out from the library, one at a time as they were released, as a youth. Now I periodically check them out of the library again and own a few here and there as well 🙂 I love my local library (King County Library System in Washington) and would love to see more author events there!

  5. Margaret W. says:

    Because reading tires my old eyes, I like audiobooks for recreational reading. Several years ago I was browsing through the great old Recorded Books catalog, looking for new authors. The description of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice sounded interesting so I rented it. I was hooked halfway through the first cassette. I first rented, then bought all the Russells and Martinellis to date, then most of the stand alones. At the present time I own most of the books on cassette, CD and paper, mostly paperbacks, Picadors by preference. I have to replace a couple given to an adult granddaughter, who shares them with her 11 year old daughter.
    I do use the library to try out new authors and buy only those I love and will want to reread. The walls of my house are lined with bookcases. mostly already filled.

  6. Jessica says:

    My story about how I came to love the books is a bit different. My parents are retired military. At my mom’s work there were some books to pass the time while on overnight cq (charge of quarters/security) duty. One of those books was “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”. Like many of your other readers I’ve been a Sherlock Holmes fan for a long time, so when I saw this book had Mr Holmes in it I was intrigued. My mom let me take it home and I’ve been hooked on the Russell series ever since. At first (when I didn’t have the cash to buy the books) I would borrow them from the library. Now I own all 9 of the books, some in hardcover and the rest in paperback, and have also listened to the audiobooks, which I borrow from the library. The character’s voices on the audiobooks are a bit different than how I imagine them to be, but they are enjoyable!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I was an utterly broke, itinerant grad student in library school when I met The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I never would have met her otherwise, because at the time I was living entirely off student loans and could rarely afford to buy my own books. Now I am a not-quite-so-broke, iinterant librarian. About three and a half years passed between my first reading of BEEK and then my first re-read of BEEK and first reading of all the subsequent titles. From my perspective, since I have very limited space in my apartment for owning books, I appreciate being able to get them from the library first–this way I don’t have to wait until I have space for the book to read it. We librarians also appreciate the job security created by the people who come in asking for your books…and author visits are huge programs as well.

  8. Barbara Ottley says:

    Yep – thats me. Found BEEK in the library, gradually read everything, introduced my daughter, she gradually bought everything – then moved out.
    NOW they have closed my library!
    This time I bought LANG hardcover delivered from the US, and will end up buying the rest, I am sure.

  9. I got the entire series out of the library over and over – probably at least 10 times. Finally this Christmas my mother and I bought each other the whole series. It’s so nice to have them all at hand!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I check The Beekeeper’s Apprentice out of the library after reading about it in Cicada Magazine. As soon as I finished the book, I immediately bought a copy of A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and then later bought a copy of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice because I knew I would want to read it over and over again.

    All other books I have checked out of the library.

    I would have bought a copy of The Language of Bees at the event at Baltimore’s Southeast Anchor Library Branch, but I had to work late and did not get to the library in time (it’s not exactly easy to get to without a car). As it is, I will have to wait until the library sends me a copy.

  11. Pat Floyd says:

    My house has over 1,000 books, and I’ve probably given at least that many away. I also love art, so I keep some wall space for paintings. At this point I try to read all fiction from the library first. The same was true with the first of Laurie’s books. After 3 or 4 books I knew I had to own them all in paperback. Now I’m gradually replacing them with hardback. The same pattern holds true for many other writers, But Laurie is the only one for whom I want hardbacks.

  12. When I first came across the Russell books, I was a library addict, going in every week (until I started working there, then it became every day) to get more books. On the new paperbacks shelf, I found “O Jerusalem”, liked the summary, and picked it up. A random find.

    I read the first five before buying, mostly because the library was a handier place to get them, there being no local bookstore. Now I have a mixed bag of paperbacks and hardcovers, grabbing the newest from the bookstore as soon as they arrive.

    It would be wonderful if more authors came to libraries. There’s so much emphasis on bookstores, but libraries are also important to the book industry.

  13. When I was in high school, my school librarian gave me a copy of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, saying, “I know you will love it.” She was right. I read it and bought my own copy, and I have bought copies of every book since then.

    Now that I am a school librarian myself (at a middle school), I am planning to buy copies of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice for my own school, so I can continue to pass on the love of Mary Russell.

  14. Another librarian here – I found your books through a library, and I’ve encouraged at least 3 or 4 new readers here. (I’m in a school library, with about 500 high school aged students and 70 faculty, so that’s a surprisingly high percentage, actually.)

  15. I was introduced to Ms. King’s books through a friend who’s a librarian who also loves Holmes. Between our local college’s library and our public library, I was able to read all the Russell and Martinelli books. I recently bought LANG and after I had read it, gave it to the public library to thank them for introducing me to such an awesome series. They were excited to be gifted a book in a well-used series!

    I’ve also bought all the Russel books from our local B&N (Sorry, we don’t have any independents in town) in softcover (well, Locked Rooms is hardcover). I also have A Darker Place that looked interesting, but I haven’t read it yet.

  16. Christine Ashley says:

    We met on the bus from the car rental to the airport in Phoenix. I am the “traditionally built” woman who sat next to you and showed you my Playaway from our library in Fremont, Nebraska.

    I had a life similar to yours as my father was a traveling salesman. Libraries were my only stable “home”, which is why I still love the smell of old books.

    I discovered you by accident in our library, and I have purchased almost all your books, which now reside in my own library. I wanted to tell you this, but I didn’t want to gush or call attention to our conversation, especially as you had told me how weary you were from your book tour.

    Thank you for writing your books and sharing yourself with us readers.

    My only regret is that I didn’t ask if my friend could take a picture of us with his cell phone camera. My stomach was too full of butterflies!

    What a nice Mother’s Day present for me!! Thank you for a very pleasant 12 minute conversation (the bus driver had announced the travel time to the airport).

  17. Laraine says:

    I first found your books (and SJ Rozan’s) in the Santa Monica library. I read everything that was available at the time, from our library, which led me to be committed to purchasing future titles from you (and SJ) as they arrive, since my fellow-writer’s awareness says authors gotta make a living or they can’t afford to write . . . . I’m all for library events, but I haven’t a clue whether they lead to more sales or not. I’m thinking they would, especially if the library would allow the latest title to be brought in for sale. SM Library does a great job of hosting author events . . . .

  18. Mary Clemens says:

    Hi Laurie –

    I’ve worked in a Library for 15 years. When Beekeepers Apprentice came out one of my co-workers read it and told a number of us about it. I promptly checked it out and fell in love with Russell and Holmes. I now own all of the Russell books (in hardcover) as well as at least three of your standalones. I had the opportunity to hear you speak at a book signing at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL a number of years ago. (Any chance you’ll be returning there in the future?) I can guarantee you that had I been introduced to your books via a library program, I would have been equally enthused and would have bought just as many of your books. Library events and book sales do not have to be mutually exclusive. I am enjoying Language of the Bees immensely.

  19. Barbara O (above) — closed your library! a nearly mortal blow! my condolences.

    My dad was in the Navy and we moved a lot. I cannot remember a time when I did not use libraries and love them. I had people tell me about Laurie’s books and, frankly, I dismissed them as I had never found a Holmes pastiche I could abide. Indeed, I picked up The Moor in a library and took it with me on a trip; after about 20 pages I was absolutely hooked on Russell & Holmes. (had been hooked on Holmes since age 12). I think I read Beekeeper’s Apprentice as well from the library before I hit Vroman’s and called up Jan at Crossroads Books and began buying.
    I don’t really see a conflict of interest between libraries & book sales. I do buy a lot of books as well, especially the hardbacks of writers I admire. I now give books to libraries and enter them (the libraries) in contests. I think libraries rank up there next to police and fire protection — brain protection! best //Meredith

  20. I first found BEEK on the shelves at my local indie bookshop – it was listed in their list of Top 100 Mysteries and had a brightly colored bookmark sticking out to let me know. BUT, I’ve first found many other authors’ works at my library, ones which I later purchased (DL Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Dick Francis, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, Lisa Lutz, Nevada Barr, Robert Crais, etc, etc, etc.)
    And if LRK wanted to stop in Milwaukee and do a book event, I *would* come, and I *would* buy.

  21. indigoenigma says:

    I’m the student aide for my school library. Last year, as I was assisting with inventory, I noticed that we had none of your books. I immediately (after consulting with the librarian) placed them on the purchasing list and I’m proud to say that we were able to buy the first five Russell books this year. I was extremely proud when I catalogued and shelved them. But what made me prouder yet was recommending them to several students who read them and came back begging for the next one because they loved them so much. So, in my opinion, libraries definitely work for attracting readers who do buy books.

  22. Yes, that’s me – I met the books in the library first, then bought them. I’m a Holmesian from way back and always have an eye out for anything new – saw Beekeeper’s Apprentice in the new book section, grabbed it, and was hooked. My kids tell me we have more books in our house than in their elementary school library, so I don’t have room for books that aren’t real “keepers.” So I do tend to read fiction in the library first, and buy books I know I will want to read over and over. Laurie’s books totally fall into that category.

    And I think more authors visiting libraries would be wonderful. Libraries and bookstores don’t have to be mutually exclusive, you know. It seems to me that most real booklovers who buy books also spend lots of time in libraries.

  23. I first found BEEK in my high school library. I had just finished reading some mysteries by Caleb Carr and was on a bit of a historical fiction/mystery kick. As I was searching the card catalog, I came across BEEK. I thought the summary sounded interesting so I checked it out. I was hooked from the start. I love it and wanted to read the next (MREG) but my library only had BEEK and JUST. My librarian helped me get the rest through inter-library loan. But we still could not get MREG through loan. Luck me my AP European History teacher found out I loved the series and let me borrow her copy. I read it in one day. It was after I had read the whole series did I buy my own copies. I also tried to encourage my high school librarian to buy the books we did not have but there was money concerns.
    I also want to say, as I was reading the series, I loved it so much I had to share the story with others esp. when they asked what I was reading and they had never heard of it before! I got one of my good friends addicted too. It’s great to have someone to discuss the books with! 🙂
    ~Staci

  24. I grew up using my local library in rural Cornwall, also daringly ordering paperbacks of the Hardy Boys from a small bookshop in my town. Then 5 years Saturday work in a bookshop hooked me, and buying far, far too many books every year is my luxury! I can remember finding With Child in a bookshop in 1998 – loved it, tracked down the previous titles, and the rest is history.:)

  25. Mary Lou says:

    I came across BEEK in the “Browsing Paperback” section of my library, checked it out and was delighted to find such a talented writer AND using one of my all time favorite characters-Holmes. I checked out the next several books, and then slowly bought the series from my Independent Bookseller in hardback via special order as funds allowed. Now the folks at the bookstore just confirm that I’ll be requiring the new one and put it aside for me! I also recommended the series to my shut-in mother-in-law, and she buys them in paperback.

    Anymore, I use the library to evaluate books before I buy, so YES I think the publishers should look to libraries as a marketing strategy. And besides, in these financial times, if they donated a copy or two during an author’s book tour it would be a great public relations event, and, I’m convinced, result in increased sales.

  26. A friend mentioned your name so on the next trip to the library, I got Beekeeper. They had all the books, but, dang, other people had them checked out!

    I have now bought all the books, and read the series three times. Some books create an atmosphere that makes me think, “Today I want to hang out with Holmes and Mary today.”

    Such books I need to OWN. These days, with the economy so down, I will not BUY book until I have read it…from the library.

  27. My best friend gifted me Beekeeper’s sometime around 2002. Since then I’ve collected (bought or been given) the rest of the series. I check the books out of the library when I’ve got my version on loan or when I’m taking my time reading and want a copy in the house and one in the car.

  28. My library is the place I meet most books. I might flirt with a few from a bookstore now and again, but the library is my rendezvous point with good friends. Mostly it has to do with my budget – I don’t buy books unless I’ve read them and find it worthwhile to reread them.

    On recommendation of a friend, I borrowed BEEK from my local library, and the rest followed soon after (although I first “read” MREG through audiobook, since that was the only copy immediately available at the time). Given that I’ve gone through the series at least twice through at my library, the Russell books are definitely worth the re-read and I hope to eventually own a whole set one day.

  29. My mother is the director of a small public library, and she is responsible for introducing me, my father, my friends, and many other readers to Holmes & Russell!

  30. Bill Mosteller says:

    Just the reverse. I read Monstrous at my girlfriend’s house then returned home and took Beekeeper out of the library. I’ve read all the Martinellis from libraries, and own most of the Kanon in hardback.

  31. I found all the Russell books through the library, but they’re double-readers (a book that can be enjoyed more than once) so I bought them one by one as I could. And when the new one came out, I was first in line!

  32. Ann Milton says:

    Yep, I met you in a library. Unfortunately for the survey though, I continue to meet you there—but it’s only because I’m on social security and stopped collecting books. I do think it’s beneficial to have signing events in libraries. There’s an exposure there that you don’t get in a bookstore. That’s especially true here in midwestern Nebraska where the bookstores are few but even the smallest town has a library.

    I love your books and I’m always the first on the waiting list for your new ones!

  33. First book I read of yours was Beekeeper’s Apprentice from the new books shelves in the library. I think it took another one or two of yours until I started buying. Of course, finances had a part in the borrowing/buying decision. Since Justice Hall, they have been hardcovers – one of the few authors who make the hardcover team.

  34. Mary Achor says:

    A library-holic, I was grousing through the stacks, trying to find something interesting in mysteries. Spotted Beekeeper’s Apprentice and thought it a superlative title. Checked it out, and I was hooked. I have bought everything, and a second one for O Jerusalem because Russell Dog ate it, and now the current one is being held together with scotch tape and hope. Time for a new one soon. I just returned from appearing at a middle school career day (as a writer) and when a young woman told me she wanted to write mysteries and funny things, I told her all about Mary Russell. The teacher wrote down all the information and handed it to her. It’s lovely to be able to pass it down to another generation! Thanks to the library for starting it all.

  35. Janet B says:

    Beekeeper’s Apprentice was recommended by a book group friend. I checked it out of the library, and before I got to the end, I’d ordered all the rest then available in the series. Started hardcovers with Justice Hall. Likewise the Martinellis – library loan on the first volume, then bought the series. When I realized there were stand-alones, too… well, I just trusted you on those and bought them sight unseen, and you’ve never let me down. Thanks!

  36. CreeksideKnitter says:

    After checking out my library’s recorded ‘The Beekeeper’s Apprentice’ in 2005, I purchased the next five books online; since then have pre-ordered each new hardcover to arrive the first day it is available. I also buy used copies of BEEK to spread around to others who’ll enjoy them.

    However, for most authors and books, I let the library be my purchasing agent.

  37. Since finishing uni, we’ve lived in a few places. The local libraries were a source of free entertainment, company and enlightenment. I used to say that we had to move when I’d read most of the available books (these were small town libraries!) We moved to our current location 13 yrs ago. The library then was small (they had to store books under an adjacent building) dim (very poor lighting) and appeared very downtrodden. During one of my Saturday morning forays, I picked up a book which was displayed on the end of a shelf (in true library fashion, filling up gaps in the alphabet). The name of the book had caught my eye, something to do with Regime of Women. I couldn’t see the artwork on the cover till after I was out in the daylight- this particular cover had a recognisably Sherlock Holmes shadow, which, if I had noticed when I picked up the book, would have probably led me to put it down again- quickly. (yes, I admit, I am shallow & do judge a book by it’s cover)
    Since borrowing that first (to me) LRK, I found a couple of Kate Martinelli books to borrow, and as income has permitted I have gone on to purchase locally and import when necessary (am in Australia) virtually all other of the Russell & Martinelli books, + a few of the stand alones (no matter what the cover)
    I still borrow from our local library (which has been replaced with a new large, airy, well lit & well used building) and I give thanks for past circumstances which led me to LRK.
    The book sellers would agree.

  38. Kitty Macey says:

    Wow! I too found my first copy of BeeKeeper’s apprentice at the local library here in Oswego. Since then, I not only bought all the paper backs that Laurie wrote and when I got the hard bound ones, I gave a few of the paperbacks to the library. What a great place to meet an author!

  39. Another disclosure – I am a librarian – but I started reading the Mary Russell books as a Sherlockian. Not at all sure I was going to buy into this concept, I deliberately went to the library for BEEK. I was good with it, but still got library copies for the first few. Then decided i was going to have to buy them all to read again when I retire and as part of my SH collection. I now have them on pre-order, as soon as they come out. There are no independent booksellers in my area – western MN and eastern ND are full of non-readers and the closest is about 2 hrs. I also insist that my college library buy copies (and I am building up the whole SH and MR collection because I like it and have done window displays to promote them. My READ poster picture has me holding a SH scrapbook.) BTW – all the bee keeping in these and other SH stories has me interested in bees and how they are disappearing. So, I am buying books in those areas as well, for me and the library. It leads me to more buying, one way or the other. I would love to have authors come to our area, but they can’t even find Fargo, much less anything else in ND. At least, Fargo doesn’t let us know in time if anyone is coming so we can hang onto their promotion. But I do think that authors in libraries do sell books, then for autographs and later as people gather more into their libraries.

  40. TheMadLibrarian says:

    I first encountered A LETTER OF MARY on the new book shelf as I was putting the books out on display, grabbed it and read it over lunch, and was hooked. About halfway through it, I went back to the stacks and grabbed the rest of the series that we had in at the time, then ordered everything else through inter library loan. I an also sneakily pleased with myself for having introduced our youth services reading group (mostly 12-16 year olds) to BEEK; they wanted something a little lighter after a heavy bill of classic fare. After devouring BEEK, at least 3 of the members are reading the rest of the series!

  41. Katherine says:

    I first found The Beekeeper’s Apprentice on the shelves of my middle school library. I misread the title–I thought it said The “Bookeeper’s” Apprentice. By the time I realized my mistake, I was hooked.

  42. My friends in middle school were hooked on the Russell series, so I got BEEK out from the library, shortly thereafter followed by the next two or three and at least one Martinelli and one of the stand alones. The first one I bought was on a band trip to Victoria, BC for the Victoria day parade there, and I got To Play the Fool at a second hand bookshop there. Since then, I’ve bought all the books as they’ve come out from the local idependant bookstore down the hill from me (Third Place Books), and some of them twice.

    I believe books are investments: I will only buy them if I am certain I will read them over and over (and over and over). Libraries are an excellent way to screen potential books. Once I know I like an author, however, I will go out of my way to buy books to support him or her.

  43. The whole problem is the publishers can’t measure the effect of sales from a library appearance like you can at a book store appearance … and being intangible,there’s no hard data to justify the expense… but, we know different 🙂

  44. Wow, how interesting to read everyone’s library stories!

    I actually “found” BEEK on a recommendation. A friend who reads much more avidly than I do, in general, raved about it, so I went off to my university library to look for it because I was a poor college student. Oddly, BEEK was being kept in the special holds section with a limited checkout time…which usually meant that a professor had chosen that book for a class, although I never did find out if that was the case for BEEK (or maybe it was just that popular!). How awesome would it have been to take a comp lit or English class with BEEK as the course material! Anyway, gobbled up BEEK and then everything else they had at the library, then started purchasing the entire LRK body of work a little bit at a time when I decided I liked them enough to reread.

    Now I end up buying multiple copies each year. One for me, one for my mom, one for my aunt….

  45. doretta says:

    As a committed recreational reader suffering the usual chronic frustration at reading faster than my favorite authors can write–even collectively–I was browsing the mystery shelves at the Central Library in Portland, Oregon a number of years ago when I came across three of your novels.

    I took them home without much in the way of expectations and was astounded to realize I had found a new (to me) author who had immediately jumped to my list of favorite must-reads.

    I’ve since bought at least one copy of all your printed books, multiple copies of quite a few of them, many in hardcover. Now I’m addicted to reading via the Kindle reader on my iPod Touch. I pre-ordered “The Language of Bees”, started reading it at about one minute after midnight and then purchased all the Russell books availale for the Kindle and reread them too.

  46. I’ve seen you at the Phoenix Public Library twice, and you’ve been exquisitely polite to me both times. I bought books both times too. I don’t get to Scottsdale much, so the Poisoned Pen is out of my orbit, but I go to the library a lot.

    I found Russell on a friend’s bookshelf first, and since I was a graduate student at the time, I went from there to the library, and then to the second-hand bookstore before ever purchasing a new copy of any of the books. The first one I bought new was _The Art of Detection_. I think I have new copies of the entire series somewhere in the house now, and I’ve bought some as gifts as well.

  47. The response is a little late, but I first discovered BEEK as a fifteen-year-old myself–it was on the endcap of a shelf at my local library in King County, WA as a recommended read by the staff. Of course, I was hooked, also checked out a Monstrous Regiment of Women, and then realized that a Letter of Mary had just been released. Since then I’ve bought the rest (plus a number of non-Russell books too) as I have little self control when it comes to these books!

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