It’s no surprise that plenty of librarians read novels, but what about those who write novels? Three librarians with novels published in 2014 gathered at ALA Vegas on Saturday afternoon to share their experiences as authors navigating the library world and vice versa. They were speaking in a panel aptly named “I’m a Librarian! NO! I’m an Author! NO! I’m a Librarian AND an Author!”
Will Thomas, a librarian with the Tulsa City-County Library System, was the veteran of the bunch, having already published six books in his Baker and Llewelyn mystery series. The most recent book, “Fatal Inquiry,” was published in May by Minotaur. Thomas told the audience that the library is his natural habitat. He loves the unique experience of getting to shelve your own book. But it’s the interaction with patrons that really puts him at an advantage to other authors. “I get feedback [from readers] right there on the frontlines,” he explained, “and that’s something the author in the ivory tower doesn’t get.”
Though Ashley Weaver, also a mystery writer, has yet to put her book on the shelf—her debut novel, "Murder at the Brightwell” (Minotaur) publishes in October—but she was just as excited to see her title recently cataloged on OPAC. Her book began garnering buzz last month at BEA as one of the selections for the Librarian Book Buzz panel. As a librarian, Weaver explained, your workplace has a built-in support system: “Everyone has been so excited. Some of my coworkers have given me feedback on various drafts of the manuscript. All of them have been supporters. Librarians are awesome promoters—they tell everybody!” According to Weaver, who has worked in library since she was 14, publishing a book is a dream come true: “Being a reader and librarian, authors were always superheroes to me.”
While Kat Spears is not technically a librarian, she definitely experiences the perks of the job. She currently works at the State Library of Virginia, organizing author appearances and other literary events. Her decision to work in a library was strategic, “As someone who wanted to be a published author, I wanted to see that side of the business and know it really well before I approached trying to get an agent or trying to get published.” Spears’s debut, “Sway,” a YA novel is being published in September by St. Martin’s.
When it came time for audience questions, one librarian confessed to secretly writing a novel in his spare time for the past 25 years. He said he recently completed the book and thought, now what—where does one even begin the publishing process? To which all three authors expressed the importance of having an agent.
When it comes to finding an agent, the key is somewhat of a specialty for librarians: research, research, research. Thomas suggested getting a hold of the book that contains a list of all literary agents, which will tell you what each agents wants in terms of genre and how they want it—whether it’s one chapter, the whole manuscript, or a purposal. “Give them exactly what they want,” Thomas advised, “or you will end up in the slush pile.” Weaver’s approach involved finding books similar to hers and looking up the agent: “That’s the nice thing about being a librarian—you don’t have to know the answer to everything. You just have to know how to find the answer to everything.”